The Volcano Wine
by: Vino Joe
Italy may be best known for Sangiovese, the base grape of some of the country’s
greatest wines, such as Chianti and Brunello. Rivaling Sangiovese is Nebbiolo,
the fruit producing Barolo and Barbaresco. A third, lesser-known (at least,
outside of Italy) yet just as supreme grape is Aglianico (ah-lee-AHN-eh-koe).
Grown primarily in the southern part of Italy, Aglianico is an important grape
in the Campania region, where it is the main ingredient in Taurasi. You may have
never heard of Taurasi, but it is well worth picking up if you come across it.
Aglianico also grows in the south-adjoining region of Basilicata, producing
world-class wines called Aglianico del Vulture (don’t say it like the bird; it’s
properly pronounced as vull-TORE-ay).
Why go through all the bother of hunting down these hard-to-find,
impossible-to-say, unusual wines? Three reasons: first, the quality is just as
good (maybe better than) as Italy’s best wines; second, many examples are enjoyable
to drink right now (as opposed to sticking the wine in a cellar for 10 years);
and third, you can find affordable bottles. Personally, I like the affordable
part, especially when I’m staring at a shelf full of Barolos and Barbarescos
that START at 80 bucks or more.
In fact, some outstanding Aglianicos can be had for about half that price. But
before you plunk down a pair of twenties, you can taste an introductory example
for less than 10 bucks: Ars Poetica “Vulcano.”
Named for the extinct volcano (Mt. Vulture) that overlooks the vineyards,
Vulcano is a medium-bodied red wine displaying ripe fruit and surprising
complexity. Deep, full aromas erupt (pun intended) from the glass at first
sniff: black fruits, licorice, tobacco, tar and earth. You’ll taste similar
flavors along with juicy black raspberry and black cherry. A rush of ripe fruit
tannins and medium acidity balance out the fruit before the wine finishes.
Though only about eight dollars, I’ll take this over a 50-dollar Super Tuscan
any day, and spend the savings on two big T-bones to go with it. Match it with
steak, blackened dishes, ripe cheeses and grilled meats.
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