The Italian Food, Wine, & Travel (#ItalianFWT) group is taking a deep dive into the grape variety Aglianico (alli-yawn-nico) this month. I had never tasted Aglianico before, but in my pursuit to learn more about Italian wines, I signed up for the deep dive discovery. I researched, tasted a few different bottles of Aglianico, and paired the wines with an Italian cheese board and braised lamb. Here is what I learned ~
Aglianico is a high-quality grape variety grown in Southern Italy specifically in the Campania and Basilicata regions. Map Aglianico, is considered to be one of the top three wine varieties in Italy along with Nebbiolo, from Piedmont, in the north; Sangiovese, from Tuscany in central Italy.
So what does Aglianico taste like? Here are a few descriptions I found from the experts –
“thick, chewy, black or dark cherry fruit…lively personality….sometimes massive tannins…balanced with sharp acidity…” – Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier
“from humble to…rich and structured…from light to weighty and still retain spicy, earth flavors inherent in the grape.” – Shelley Lindgren, Wine Director/Co-Owner at A16, SPQR & A16 Rockridge Restaurants
“the grape’s best wines are deep in color with full chocolate and plum aromas, fined-grained tannins and marked acidity on the palate.” – Jancis Robinson, Wine Critic, Journalist, & Wine Writer
“…rustic, earth-driven wines…” – Madeline Puckett “The Wine Folly”
My Tasting Notes
2012 Donnachiara Taurasi DOCG
100% Aglianico | 13.5% abv | $35 Total Wines
Taurasi DOCG located in the Campania region in the Avellino province.
Soil type: clay
Harvest: first half of November
Aging: 12 months in 225lt French oak barrique followed by 24 months in the bottle
Ruby in color with grippy tannins that mellow after 30 minutes in the glass, medium bodied and acidity. Notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, and earthy aromas.
2010 Tenuta del Portale Aglianico del Vulture Riserva
100% Aglianico | 13% abv | $20 Total Wines
Aglianico del Vulture located in the Basilicata region.
Soil type: medium mixture volcanic
Harvest: last half of October
Aging: at least 24 months in Slavonian oak barrels, according to regulations for the reserve, five years of aging, including two years in cask before marketing.
Ruby in color with a hint of garnet around the edge. Medium bodied, tannins, and acidity. Notes of black cherry, dried fig, and graphite.
Italian Cheese Board
Braised Lamb with Tomatoes, Rosemary, & Cinnamon served over Gnocchi
Tasting the wines on their own and then pairing them with each of the Italian cheeses above, was the perfect tasting introduction to the Aglianico wines. The Taleggio was an outstanding pairing for both wines, the creaminess in the cheese was the perfect counterpoint to the wine’s tannins and highlighted the fruity notes in the wines. The Pecorino Toscano played to the savory and earthy notes in the wines and also proved a nice pairing for both wines. The Paradiso Reserve reminded me of a younger aged Gouda, tangy and savory with crystallization throughout the cheese. The Paradiso did not work with the Donnachiara Taurasi, resulting in a wine that was neutralized of flavors. However, the caramel notes in the Paradiso complemented the more aged Aglianico del Vulture Riserva.
The braised lamb with tomatoes, rosemary, and cinnamon paired with both Aglianico wines left me smiling with pure pleasure and comfort. The richness of the wine and lamb were in perfect harmony. The hours of braising developed flavors to match the complexity of the wines and balanced the wine tannins and acidity. Braised lamb is the perfect comfort dish to pair with Aglianico, when the weather turns cool, in the middle of winter, or when winter just wouldn’t give way to spring. Get cozy, slow the pace of life down, and savor a glass of Aglianico paired with an Italian cheese board and braised lamb.
A rustic flavorful dish to pair with a glass of Aglianico wine.
- 3-1/2 to 4 lbs. boneless lamb shoulder
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed in juice
- 1 17.5 oz package Potato Gnocchi
- chopped fresh parsley - optional for serving
- grated pecorino cheese - optional for serving
Cut the lamb shoulder into 4-8 oz. size pieces. Season with Kosher salt. Place in large bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 275 F
In a large Dutch Oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until softened. Add the wine and rosemary, increase heat to high and boil for about 8 minutes or until almost all the wine has evaporated.
Add the tomatoes and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat.
Add the lamb pieces distributing them evenly in the Dutch Oven and spoon the sauce over the meat. Cover the pot and bake in the preheat oven for about 3-1/2 hours or until meat is tender and shreds easily.
Remove the pot from the oven and let lamb cool in the braising sauce. Once cool, transfer lamb pieces to a cutting board and shred the meat into large pieces. Remove and discard any fat or connective tissue. Skim the fat from the sauce and remove the rosemary sprigs. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
Serve over gnocchi. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley, and grated pecorino cheese.
Learn more about Aglianico from my fellow Italian Food, Wine, & Travel bloggers and their blog posts listed below. And join our conversation on Twitter Saturday, March 3rd at 11:00am ET following the hashtag #ItalianFWT. Cheers!
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Curling up with a Good Book, a Comforting Bowl of Pasta and a Wonderful Glass of Aglianico
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares “Aglianico: A Southern Italian Gem”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Memories and Flavors of Campania + Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico Rubrato 2014″
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Aglianico from the Old World and New: Campania vs. Paso Robles“
- Nicole from Somms Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Vigneti del Vulture Aglianico del Vulture with Braised Oxtails“
- Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy shares “The Sacred Vines of the Basilicata with D’Angelo Aglianico”
- Jill from L’Occasion shares “Aglianico Connections in the Napa Valley“
- Susannah from Avvinare shares “Aglianico from Irpinia”
- My post at Food Wine Click! is “Aglianico Battle between Campania and Basilicata”