The first question I normally get is "what is the Irpinia Aglianico grape like?" Everyone’s looking for a leveling point from a wine they know. Is it like a big Napa Cab? Is it like the Bordeauxs or Burgundies of France? Or maybe more similar to Tuscany's Chianti Classico or or a Barolo or Barbaresco from the Nebbiolo grapes of Piemonte (Piedmont)?
Here's the thing - if you like any of these wines above, you're going to love wines made from the Irpinia Aglianico grape.
The Irpinia Aglianico characteristics This is by no means an “easy grape” to make drinkable wines from. It’s a grape defined by huge tannins, big acidity, and strong flavors. When well crafted into the region’s stunning wines, Irpinia Aglianico has beautiful notes of red forest berries, dark amarena cherries, and depending on where your grapes were grown and how long it’s been awaiting your opening the bottle, maybe you’ll have some nice notes of tobacco too. It can be velvety and smooth, yet this wine retains the strong body and structure of the grape letting you know from first sip, this is no wimp of a wine.
Why don't I know this wine? I certainly had never heard of Irpinia Aglianico or Taurasi before the first time I set foot in Irpinia. But when I was introduced to this indigenous red wine grape, and I took that first sip of the wines, I felt the pitter patter of my heart doing a dance in response to the big bold flavors in my mouth and I knew I was in love. This was the red wine I’d been waiting for my whole life.
What makes Irpinia Aglianico different than other Aglianicos? One of the main differentiators is the higher mountain altitudes of the Irpinia region, and the warm summer days and cool nights of Irpinia lead to a longer grape maturation on the vines, adding complexity and depth to the finished wines. The colder Irpinia evenings, with wind whipping through the hillsides after the sun goes down give the region’s wines an edge over the warmer areas that also produce Aglianico wine within Campania’s borders like Pompei, Paestum, Caserta, or Naples.
A little more history The history of these Irpinia Aglianico wines goes back to ancient times when the Greek and Roman Empires were at their pinnacle. You can read how the Greeks brought the Aglianico grape to Southern Italy thousands of years ago where it was served as the wine of gods and men alike. During this time and beyond, the superiority of Campania Aglianicos have been widely celebrated. The volcanic clay soils of the Campania region, home to Mount Vesuvius, provided perfect growing conditions for the Aglianico vines from the coast of Naples all the way to the mountains of Irpinia.
When should I drink these wines? The aging times can range from a year to 30+, it really just depends on how the wines have been made. Irpinia Aglianicos can easily age 10+ years, and a Taurasi should be good for 20+ years without a hiccup. It all comes down to how much self restraint you can exhibit before you break down to drink what you know is going to be a delicious glass of red wine.
What should I eat with these wines? These are great on their own, or with your favorite Italian cheese (aged a bit), salumis, grilled steak or a grilled portobello. These wines will cut through fat like a warm knife in butter, so they're great for holiday meals as well.
Want to know more?
Send me a message and I'd love to chat with you about which Irpinia Aglianicos might become your new favorite wine. Or call our partners at Schneider's of Capitol Hill (202-543-9300). They're standing by to help you with all your wine needs. Just give them a call and let them know you want Irpinia wines!