Great super-Tuscan and Aglianico wines for fall weather

Wine for october 2011 - Under $25

Tenuta Le Querce, “Il Viola” Aglianico del Vulture 2006 (about $20)

Aglianico del Vulture (ahl yahn’ ee coh del vul too’ reh) wine is the shining star in the Basilicata region’s wine firmament – and the region’s only DOC. The production area for this wine is in the foothills of Monte Vulture, an extinct volcanic mountain in northwestern Basilicata where ancient lava flows have produced a rich, fertile soil, which, along with the high altitude and sunny climate, is the perfect habitat for growing grapes. It is a dry, well-structured and flavorful red wine from an unassuming, secluded area of Italy that is not particularly well known to most Americans.

The Aglianico grape after which the wine is named is one of Italy’s oldest grape varieties. It is generally believed to have been brought to Italy by the ancient Greeks in the 8th century BC. Today, the Aglianico grape is liberally distributed throughout the Basilicata region as well as in Campania to the west and, to a lesser extent, in Puglia to the east. While the Turasi district in Campania has a well-deserved reputation for producing some excellent Aglianico wines, the Monte Vulture district with its rich volcanic soil is generally believed to have the best potential for producing quality Aglianico wines.

It’s always a pleasure to see Aglianico del Vulture wines on restaurant wine lists. They are rich and intense with earthy flavors and velvety textures. They are generally well structured with tart and tangy acidity, which makes them pair comfortably with a wide variety of pasta, vegetable and meat dishes.

Il Viola wineThe Tenuta Le Querce (teh noo’ tah lae kwert sha) winery is located in the Barile district of Basilicata, in the foothills of Monte Vulture. The Tenuta Le Querce estate has approximately 175 acres under vine, almost all of which is allocated to growing Aglianico. In addition to its entry-level Il Viola bottling, the estate produces two serious and expensive Aglianico del Vulture bottlings. A new and modern cellar, modern equipment and superb winemaking skills all combine to make this a winery worth watching – and drinking.

The 2006 Il Viola Aglianico del Vulture is a great introduction to Aglianico for those new to the variety. It displays all the characteristics of well-made Aglianico wines, including lots of fruit flavors, zesty acidity and tannins. It has a complex array of delicious black fruit, leather and spice flavors. While Aglianico wines are often referred to as “the Barolos of the south” because of their structure, tannins and ageing potential, don’t expect the elegance and gravitas of Nebbiolo wines from northern Italy. Rather, its considerable depth and concentration has a rustic edge, which only serves to enhance its appeal. It’s a delicious Aglianico del Vulture from a reliable producer at a wallet-friendly price.

Wine for october 2011 – $25 and over

Rocca delle Macie, “Roccato” Toscana IGT 2003 (about $52)

The Rocca delle Macie winery was established in 1973 by Italo Zingarelli, a retired professional boxer and famous Italian movie producer. It became one of the more unlikely and successful wineries in Tuscany and is today one of Tuscany’s largest wine producers.  In a region dominated by small, family-run wineries, the Rocca delle Macie winery is distinctive in that it has more than 500 acres under vine spread across six estates in the Chianti Classico and Morellino di Scansano zones in Tuscany.

However, size has not been achieved at the expense of quality. Their quality-oriented approach to winemaking involves careful pruning, low yields, hand harvesting of grapes, modern winemaking equipment, an expansive ageing cellar and judicious use of oak barriques for ageing.

Although the winery is comprised of six different estates throughout Tuscany, the original estate, Le Macie, in Castellina in Chianti in the heart of the Chianti Classico Rocca delle Macie Roccato wine bottlezone, remains the center of the winery’s operations. Here, 105 acres of prime land are allocated to growing Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.

The Rocca delle Macie Roccato is a super-Tuscan that was introduced in 1988 and is only produced in the best vintages. It's a 50-50 blend of hand harvested Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Le Macie estate vineyards. The wines are vinified separately in oak barriques, the Sangiovese for 12 months and the Cabernet Sauvignon for 15 months. The wines are then blended and aged for another three months in oak barrels and then spend an additional year in the bottle prior to release for sale.

The 2005 Roccato from Rocca delle Macie is a beautiful, deep garnet red color with intense, refined and persistent black currant and plum aromas. It has a medium-to-full body with a mouthful of dark fruit flavors and soft tannins. There’s a lot going on in the glass but it never loses its sense of style and subtlety.

It’s a seriously delicious super-Tuscan at what passes for a reasonable price in today’s market. It’s one you should get to know.

For reviews of other super-Tuscan wines, see top super-tuscan wines

Note – prices indicated are averages of generally available retail prices and will vary from store to store. While in stock at time of writing, stores may sell out of the selections so availability is not guaranteed.  It is best to call to check on price and availability before making the trip.

©Richard Marcis
October 9, 2011

To view other wines of the month selections see Monthly Wine Reviews


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