This week we have something for the aspiring members of the Century Wine Club, wine lovers who love to try wines from different grape varieties — hopefully 100 different ones!
Try a new wine this week!
The Aglianico grape may be new to many wine lovers today, but its recorded history actually goes back much farther than that of most varieties.
Providing evidence that today’s generation of wine fans aren’t the first to love big red wines, Aglianico (pronounced ah-LYAH-nee-koh) was written about by the ancient Romans. And they got it from the Phoenicians via Greece.
It showed up in southern Italy around 600 B.C., planted on the slopes of Monte Vulturino in the Basilicata region. It’s still grown there today, and in fact has long been considered by many (myself included) to be Italy’s best red wine grape variety south of Tuscany.
The first Aglianico vineyard in the U.S. was established in 1988 by Dave Caparone and his son Marc, near Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast. Their winery was one of the earliest in the region, and today remains the longest continually-owned Paso Robles winery.
Dave Caparone established his estate vineyard after much research. A longtime fan of other Italian grapes, such as Nebbiolo (used in northern Italy’s Barolo) and Sangiovese (the great grape of Tuscany), he finally selected a spot seven miles northwest of the city of Paso Robles. The site was originally selected for Zinfandel, long before Paso became famous for it, and the warm days and cool nights (with an average difference of 50 degrees), turned out to be good for the Italian varietals, too.
Caparone Winery’s Aglianico is still made the way Dave and Marc Caparone have always made it — by growing the right grape in a climate where it thrives, then making wine with minimal handling and manipulation. They make big red wines, unfined, unfiltered and without too much oak, expressing the flavor of the grapes. Their Aglianico is very deep in color, full-bodied without being overly extracted, with dark-fruit flavors enhanced by a subtle dustiness. Its balance of fruit, oak, tannin and acid makes it a great accompaniment to hearty dishes and hearty wine lovers. I appreciate their practice of holding their wines back for an extra year of aging.
Retail price $18-$20.
The currently available vintage of Caparone Aglianico is 2004. The vineyard is in Paso Robles’ hilly west side.