Wine industry of Italy is largely based upon two things – high quality yields and ancient tradition of winemaking. Italian traditions of making wine go back several millennia.
Wines were made in plentiful during the Roman times, whereby, the tradition of winemaking itself was to a very large extent, propagated by Romans themselves as the empire expanded to cover the whole of Western Europe.
During the time of reaching its peak, the tradition of winemaking had already made a permanent foothold on the soil of Europe, and its influence was so vast that even distant countries that witnessed only brief Roman rule like the Crimean Peninsula and Azerbaijan, got introduced to a number of ancient grape varieties that are still cultivated and fermented today.
One of the best legacies of those times is probably the Muscat family of grapes that are considered the most ancient of all grape varieties produced commercially.
One such variety that is both ancient and Italian is the Aglianicone. Grown in very limited quantities around the south and southeast corners of Campania and Basilicata regions of Italy, the grape is acclaimed for its rich aromas and dry, alcoholic flavours of nuts and lots of dark fruits.
Mostly used as a local varietal grape variety, Aglianicone has in recent times, gained a considerable attention from winemakers aboard.
Origins of Aglianicone
Aglianicone is an ancient variety of distinct genealogy and characteristics. It was well known during the Roman times and has been in cultivation in Campania and Basilicata ever since Rome became a full fledged republic.
There are, however, no specific records in Latin or from the Middle Ages that describe the grape in great detail.
Since the grape is related to such varieties that were once brought by the Greeks during the brief conflict of them with Rome, it is well established that the grape is originally Greek, that is no longer cultivated there and is now fully grown in only these two Italian provinces.
Relationships with other grapes
Aglianicone has in all its timeline, earned several synonyms and names that are also names of proper grape varieties. For example, the synonym, Aglianico is its synonyms as also a grape variety that is also grown in the Campania region as well as regions that grow Aglianicone. It was also once thought to be the identical grape to Cilliegiolo.
These claims have however, been debunked by modern DNA analyses, that have proved Aglianico to be a different grape variety, and that was once thought to be a clonal mutation, is altogether a separate variety although the analysis also pointed out to a close genetic relationship between the two.
It was also thought to be identical to Cilliegiolo, as pointed out before; however, DNA analyses have also debunked that claim.
Viticulture and characteristics
Aglianicone is primarily produced in the MontefortoCilento zone. Being a hilly region and home to the historical volcanic mountain – Mt. Vesuvius, the Aglianicone grape grows the best at a high altitude of around 1300 feet above sea level, with a somewhat cooler climate but not too cool to develop frost and undesirable effects on the grape.
Aglianicone is a very high yielding grape, but produces ‘low quality’ fruit that is best used as a blending component, although several winemakers have also used it to produce varietals.
It has mild acidity content of 6.3 Gr/Lt and has literally zero sugar. At 13% alcohol level is mild, which gives it a nice characteristic to be used as a blending agent with all its nutty flavours and aromas of fruits and spices, typical of a red grape variety.
On the nose, Aglianicone exhibits aromas of chestnuts and nuts, with flavours of dark fruits, berries and cherries on the palate, strong in content and taste due to absence of sugars.
It is relatively dry and full bodied, with a great finish, which is both rich and complex. Despite having such desirable qualities, Aglianicone, because of its relatively lower quality of traits as compared to some of the best Italian varieties, is grown in very limited amounts and has not been recognised to be produced in a DOC. It is thus fully used as a domestic grape.
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