Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
I recently received, what I consider, an exceptional bottle of Aglianico wine.
It’s been a long time since I had tasted a wine made from Aglianico grapes; the last time I did, was during a press trip to Campania where I was fortunate enough to visit a winery that creates both Falanghina and Aglianico bottlings. Aglianico is an indigenous red grape planted mostly in Irpinia, with a very long history; almost as long as the history of Falanghina, which is considered to be the great white grape used to make the famous Roman Falernian wine.
The wine I received was the Donna Chiara Campania Aglianico IGT-IGP. It is fermented in stainless steel tanks for 15 days and matured on the skins for 10 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place in oak barriques. It is full bodied, elegant and fragrant with black cherry, plums and blackberries on the nose and hints of spice and musk. Soft and fine tannins and a plum and strawberry tasting long palate make this wine a good pairing for char-grilled filet mignon or lamb chops. I enjoyed this bottle very much. I would normally try for a Sangiovese-based wine with my heavier meat dishes, but this fitted the bill without having to be long cellared, as a Sangiovese would need. This wine is ready to drink now and might even improve with a couple more years in cellar. I rate it at 94/100 points.
Another bottle I recently received that I took with me to Osteria Morini in Bernardsville, New Jersey, where we had an exceptional meal, was Arcanum, a Super Tuscan from Tenuta di Arceno. Even though the winery is in the southern end of the Chianti Classico denomination near Siena, their signature wine, Arcanum, a Bordeaux-styled red blend, has no Sangiovese grape juice in it. It is actually made from 73% Cabernet Franc and 17% Merlot with the balance being Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is elegant and vibrant, with well-developed tannins and good acidity. The nose is dominated by black cherry and ripe plums with notes of white pepper and mint. There are also, very evident, floral notes of honeysuckle and eucalyptus, that reminded me of some top Chilean Carménère wines. The finish is long and slightly herbal with hints of oregano and cigar box. This bottling is enjoyable now, but would probably improve with judicious cellaring.
I decided to try the 2013 bottle of Arcanum with classic Italian dishes created by chef de cuisine Chris DiGiandomenico at the Osteria. I’m very happy to report that the Arcanum worked beautifully with chef Chris’s cooking and I would very highly recommend it with well made Italian food. I rate it also at 94/100 points, when paired this way and could reach 96 points after being cellared for a few more years.
A final bottle that I really enjoyed is “Hey French, you could have made this but you didn’t” a rule-breaking super-white Soave from the Veneto, of Vigneti & Cantine Pasqua. It is an IGT wine blend from the Veronese side of Mount Calvarina, in the easternmost part of the Soave designation. A blend of the best 4 vintages of the last decade (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) selected as the maximum expression of the vineyards. The “Hey French, First Edition” 60% Garganega must is rounded out by Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc; the blending gives this wine structure, freshness and fragrance with intense floral notes and good minerality. Aging takes place in second-use wood for about 6 months. The nose has numerous fragrant notes ranging from tropical fruit and blooming flowers to chamomile, hazelnut and citrus. I rate it at 91/100 points.
To your health!
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