Once upon a time, in 2009, I started to write a column for an online website called Alta Cucina. I wrote about Italian indigenous grape varieties because I was amazed at how many there are and their link to individual terroirs and the stories behind them. Fast forward 11 years and I am on the letter “N” on my blog but have gone back to the letter “A” with a 30 day nightly challenge to myself on Instagram Live. I still don’t really know how to turn off the camera so I have had a few not great moments when I can’t turn it off but that said, it’s a great platform to reboot this series.
I started on Friday, May 1 and will do 30 days of grape varieties and then take stock of how it’s going. If you want to follow along, I am at @vignetocomms on Instagram.
Tonight’s discussion will be about Aglianicone Nero which is pictured above. This red grape variety is said to hail from Campania and to be related although not identical to Aglianico. It is not considered to be a noble grape variety the way Aglianico is. It is used in blends rather than monovarietal wines and has been linked to Ciliegiolo. There is neither a consensus on it’s relationship to Aglianico or to Ciliegiolo but there is a lot of talk about it. It is listed in a D.O.C. from the Salerno province in Campania, Castel San Lorenzo D.O.C. It is also part of many I.G.T. wines from Campania. The grape grows in Campania, Basilicata, and Puglia.
There isn’t that much Aglianicone growing today but it has been listed since 1971 as an official grape variety. It matures before Aglianico which is a late October ripener and is very vigorous in terms of its growth.
Last night’s grape variety that I spoke about was Aglianico. Aglianico generally is grown in Campania and Basilicata although you find it in Molise and Puglia as well.
Aglianico, we know is often called the “Barolo of the South” although I think it is really quite a different wine with more acidity and sexier, smoky notes. The ones from Irpinia are from vineyards at elevation because Irpinia is in the foothills of the Appennine Mountains. Irpinia has a continental climate rather than a Mediterranean one. There is considerable thermal excursion and this allows the grapes to reach phenolic ripeness. The soils are a mix of volcanic ash, sand, clay and limestone with fossil materials and generally good drainage.
There was so much to say about Aglianico last night I am not sure my few minutes live gave it enough weight but I have written about it numerous times on this blog.
The first night I did a live spot was on three grape varieties, Abbuoto, Abrusco and Abrustine.
Abbuoto is a red grape which grows near the town of Frosinone in the Lazio region. In ancient times, this grape made a wine which was called Caecubum. A version of this wine is still made today by famed producer Villa Matilde. I tried a number of the wines at Villa Matilde but did not have the good fortune to try this one.
Back to grape varieties, Abrusco is also a red grape. It is said to be of Tuscan origin. Some think it may be related to Colorino while others suggest that it is related to the family of Lambrusco grapes. This grape is largely used as a coloring agent. In the past it was blended with other grapes but today, as part of an effort to restore ancient Tuscan varietals, at least two wineries are working with it. The first, Le Tre Stelle, has made a 100% Abrusco called Agino in memory of their father and Luigi Veronelli. This agriturismo has a very interesting marketing idea, adotta un vitigno or adopt a grape variety. I like it.
San Felice has Abrusco on its property as well as Abrustine, a third indigenous varietal that I had never heard. This last one I have not found made into a monovarietal wine yet I did find a variety called Abrostine that was made into two wines, one called Sempremai Sorte by Podere Santa Felicita and the other by a group called Tuscan Soul. When I can get back to Tuscany, I am going to try these wines.