Two warm red Italian Wines for the month of january


Wine for January - Under $20

D’Angelo, Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2010 (about $16)

Aglianico is one of Italy’s oldest grape varieties. Believed to have been introduced by the ancient Greeks in the 8th century BC, Aglianico quickly found a home and took root in the Basilicata and Campania regions and, to a lesser extent, Puglia in southern Italy.

Aglianico shares many similarities with the renowned Nebbiolo variety of the Piedmont region. Both are dark-colored, late-ripening varieties with marked acidic and tannic properties and produce firm, structured wines with complex aromas and flavors that require many years ageing before they are ready to drink. These similarities have earned the otherwise unassuming Aglianico wines the sobriquet “the Barolo of the South.”

But one area in which they part ways is in price. Because Aglianico wines are generally less well known and don’t share Barolo’s mantle of distinction, they are considerably less expensive, generally selling for about half the price of Barolos.

The D’Angelo winery is a historic family estate located in the town of Rionero, high on the slopes of Monte Vulture in the northwestern sector of the Basilicata region. While now extinct, Monte Vulture’s ancient volcanic lava flows produced a rich and fertile soil that, along with the area’s high altitude and sunny climate, is the perfect habitat for growing wine grapes. Aglianico from this area produces dry, well-structured and flavorful red wines. Even though Aglianico del Vulture has recently been granted DOCG status, it is still not particularly well known to most Americans.

But the D’Angelo estate is working hard to raise the international profile of Aglianico del Vulture wines. The winery has some of the 2012 Aglianico del Vulture from D'Angelo Wineryoldest and most desirable vineyards on the extinct volcano and produces several highly-acclaimed single-vineyard versions of Aglianico.

The simply-labeled “Aglianico del Vulture” is the estate’s entry-level Aglianico. It is made entirely with Aglianico grapes harvested from several of the estate’s cru vineyards. The wine is aged for 20 months in traditional large oak barrels (called botti) and then spends some additional months resting in the bottle prior to release for sale. With complex aromas, mouth-filling black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors, zesty acidity and a firm tannic backbone, it exhibits many of the characteristics of a well-made and more expensive Aglianico wine.  

What’s not to like about it? It is a delicious, ready-to-drink 100 percent Aglianico wine. It is very modestly priced so you can buy it by the case and serve it frequently and proudly at any dinner featuring grilled red meats, lamb, pasta dishes with red sauce or aged cheeses. It’s the wine of choice to accompany a beef and pork pasta dish called Orecchiette alla Potentina, which is the traditional Sunday dinner dish served in Potenza, Basilicata’s regional capital.

Wine for January – over $20

Occhipinti, “SP68” Terre Siciliane IGT 2012 (about $28)

Arianna Occhipinti (awk kee pin’ tee) is a young, thirty-something winemaker that has within a very short period of time achieved the equivalent of rock-star status in Italy’s vibrant wine scene. Arianna founded Azienda Occhipinti in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria area of southeastern Sicily, Sicily’s only DOCG district, in the early 2000’s.

While she grows Nero d’Avola and Frappato as well as a few white varietals, it is the red varieties, especially Frappato, on which she has built her reputation. Indigenous to the Vittoria area, the Frappato variety is cherry-red in color and produces an aromatic, fruity and low-tannin wine with good acidity reminiscent of a traditionally-made Dolcetto wine. It is in many respects the antithesis of the heavy, ripe and muscular wines historically associated with Sicily.

Arianna is in the vanguard of the large and growing natural winemaking movement in Sicily and tirelessly promotes the benefits of organic and natural wines. In many respects, she has become the public face of Sicily’s burgeoning natural wine movement. She shuns the use of any chemical supplements in the vineyard and attempts to minimize as much as possible any intervention or manipulation of the wines during the winemaking process.

Occhipint’s “SP68” is named after the road (Strada Provinciale 68) that passes in front of the Occhipinti winery. The wine is a blend of 60 percent Frappato and 40 percent Nero d’Avola. Consistent with her natural winemaking proclivities, only natural yeasts and no temperature controls are utilized in the fermentation process. The wine is then aged in stainless steel tanks for six months and one month in the bottle. It is bottled unfiltered.

It is a congenial combination of grape varieties. The Nero d’Avola adds tannin and body to the blend that complements and rounds out the aromas, acidity and red cherry fruit flavors provided by the the Frappato . The result is a lively and delicious wine with prominent red cherry and floral aromas that transition to hearty and complex dark fruit flavors with invigorating acidity and scattered hints of kitchen spices. It is an aromatic, flavorful, serious wine that emphasizes elegance over power. While produced in a modern and natural fashion, the wine’s unpolished, earthy accent invokes the energy and verve of its Sicilian heritage.

Occhipinti’s SP68 is a wonderful food wine. The wine can accompany vegetable, couscous, risotto and rich fish dishes but the wine’s invigorating acidity and light tannins can also handle more hearty fare such as flavorful pork, veal and chicken dishes. Try it with veal rolls stuffed with sage and ham (involtini di vitello, salvia e prosciutto).


©Richard Marcis
December 18, 2013

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