Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Aglianico, a dark-skinned top-quality southern Italian grape variety for long thought to be of Greek origin (the name itself was said to be a corruption of the word Ellenico, the Italian word for Hellenic) although dna profiling has failed to find a relationship with any known Greek variety. It retained the name Ellenico or Ellenica until the end of the 15th century, when it took its current name of Aglianico. First planted around the Greek colony of Cumae, close to present day Avellino (home of taurasi), it is today cultivated in the mountainous centre of Italy’s south, in particular in the provinces of Avellino and Benevento in campania, and in the provinces of Potenza and Matera in basilicata. Scattered traces of this early-budding vine variety can also be found in calabria, in puglia, molise, and on the island of Procida near Naples. Italy’s total plantings were 9,910 ha/24,488 acres in 2010. The vine can ripen so late even this far south that grapes may be picked in November. Attempts to pick it earlier, or to increase yields, invariably lead to a failure to tame its rather ferocious tannins. The grape’s best wines are deep in colour with full chocolate and plum aromas, fine-grained tannins, and marked acidity on the palate. Aglianico seems to prefer soils of volcanic origin and achieves its finest results in the two docs of Taurasi in Campania and aglianico del vulture in Basilicata where elevations are lower and the wines rather softer and earlier-maturing. Its nobility is so obvious that it is now grown in both Australia and California.