Vulture Comes To Collisioni
When heading back to Collisioni this year, the number one question on my mind was if I would have a chance to conduct a focused tasting of Aglianico del Vulture. To the average consumer, this may not seem like the tasting that I would be looking forward to the most as I packed my bags for a stay in Barolo, but it was. Why? Because in my opinion, this is a region and a variety that is on the rise in Italy. One that deserves its day in the sun, but through the sins (or let’s just call it lazy winemaking and overproduction) of the past, it had its momentum slowed over the last ten years.
Aglianico del Vulture is a DOC in Basilicata, a region of Southern Italy which borders Campania, and it is one of the few regions that has a coast on two sides of the boot. It is also well known for Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano, that gives its name to Aglianico del Vulture.
This is a wine that’s poised for greatness
First and foremost because of the variety, Aglianico, which is renowned for its use in creating Taurasi in Campania. Add to that the diverse volcanic soils throughout its five delimited growing zones, Maschito, Ripacandida, Barile, Ginestra, and Rionero. The climate of each of these is moderated by influences from two seas, a large range of altitudes and degrees of elevation–it all adds up to having the ingredients to make a great wine.
I recall my early inquiries into Italian wine, and the writers of the time commenting on the potential of the Vulture–unfortunately, that potential was never realized. In some cases this was due to the lack of a champion, a producer that consumers and collectors could relate to, who would show them what was possible beyond the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, the region had its big names, such as Paternoster and their consistently high-scoring Don Anselmo. However, there was no face or name behind the brand that was out in the world and speaking to collectors. This may seem petty compared to the quality of what is in the bottle, but without a face behind the brand, it was just another Italian wine that most consumers didn’t understand.
Today, the producers in Aglianico del Vulture are determined to change that. Much of this is the result of the new generation that is taking on more responsibility in the wineries, or taking over completely. The simple fact that these producers have put so much energy into a large showing of wines and personally attending Collisioni is a huge point in their corner. They have attended the event with ears and minds open to change, taking in all of the criticism and compliments that our board of wine writers, somms and professionals were eager to give.
(Seen left: Michele Laluce may be the champion that Aglianico del Vulture has been waiting for.)
So what was the consensus?
We spent the better part of a day tasting Aglianico and talking through the wines, and I can say with certainty that the bar has been raised yet again. Last year I found a mixed bag of some excellent, others inspired (but not quite there yet), and a few downright poor examples of Aglianico del Vulture–but this year, there was a marked change.
First there is a new emphasis on place, which I’d like to see displayed more on each label, instead of the fantasy names that many producers choose to use. When you hear that a wine is made from grapes sourced from a vineyard in the crater of a volcano, it adds a story and urges you to search for the terroir in the glass. To think that a producer would choose not to market this information is beyond my comprehension–this is the kind of information that we wine lovers thrive on.
Next is the cleaning up of the wineries, and a smaller dependence on old, old… old barrels that needed to be retired many years ago. There’s no question that most tasters preferred large, neutral barrels, but when that barrel is leaking and dirty–you end up with a dirty wine. Last year, I found a number of wines that suffered from this. This year, only one wine showed signs of old barrels.
Lastly, it’s the goal to establish Aglianico del Vulture as a competitor against Barolo, Brunello and Taurasi as one of Italy’s great wines of longevity. The truth is that the timing couldn’t be better, as we watch the prices of Barolo and Brunello soar–and Taurasi seems comfortable to rest on past laurels. If Aglianico del Vulture can refine and elevate its reputation in time–it may just end up as the new “Barolo of The South”.
In the end, the producers of Aglianico del Vulture wanted to know about how they can begin to be profitable in the face of all of this change, and that will be the most difficult part. We were all asked to give them a dollar range that we each believed their wines could be worth, assuming they continued to move in the right direction. In nearly every case, these wines are currently undervalued. But first, Aglianico del Vulture needs to prove to consumers they they are worth the tariff.
The day will come (possibly sooner than you think) that these wines will sell for twice, if not three times their current cost. My advice is to stock up now, because this is not only a region on the rise, it’s an organization of producers who are determined to prove themselves to the world.
All of my tasting notes are below, both good and bad. As for my recommendations for those looking to take advantage of this region on the rise, look to Cantina del Notaio La Firma, Donato D’Angelo and Laluce to lead the way. It’s an exciting time to be following Aglianico del Vulture.
On to the tasting notes
2012 Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture La Firma – The nose was dark and layered, showing black cherry, plum, sweet violet tones, clove, dried orange, and dusty black earth. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by notes of plums and spice, lifting minerality and fine saturating tannin. The finish was firm and drying yet extremely long on violet-inflected black fruit. This is a wine to bury in the cellar. (93 points) M
2008 Azienda Agricola Michele Laluce Aglianico del Vulture Le Drude – The nose showed crushed black fruits, savory spices, dried flowers, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures with stunning, vibrant acidity, dark red and black fruits, wild herbs, and savory spices. Tannin mounted throughout the experience, yet it’s already quite enjoyable, showing mature earth and charred meat tones. The finish was long, showing savory herbs, dried meats and spice. (93 points)
2012 Donato d’Angelo Aglianico del Vulture – The nose showed incredible depth with mineral-laced cherry, violet floral tones, dried orange peel and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by fine tannin and balancing acidity, as dark red fruits began to saturate the senses and hints of spice and inner violet notes formed. It finished long on tart cherry and fine tannin, yet it maintained freshness and lift. In five to ten years, this should be just entering a long and lovely drinking window. (93 points) M
2011 Colli Cerentino Aglianico del Vulture Masqito – The nose was beautiful yet dark, showing spiced cherry, plum, dried orange, and crushed violets. On the palate, I found tart black fruits, inner floral and herbal tones, with energizing acidity matched by fine tannin. It finished intensely structured on dark fruits, undergrowth and hints of ash. This needs time, but I’m already loving it. (92 points)
2012 Azienda Agricola Michele Laluce Aglianico del Vulture Zimberno – The nose was dark and earthy, showing mineral-tinged black fruits, volcanic ash, spicy herbs, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures counterbalancing tart black fruits and savory herbs. The ash and minerals from the bouquet seemed to translate perfectly onto the palate, adding a saline quality to the experience. It finished long with clenching tannin and tart black fruits. (92 points)
2005 Tenuta le Querce Aglianico del Vulture Vigna della Corona – The nose showed mature notes of undergrowth, crushed cherry, plum, dried flowers and dark earth. On the palate, I found soft textures, plum and crushed cherry, savory minerality and sous bois. On the finish, I found unbelievably youthful tannin with bitter black fruits and spice. (91 points)
2013 Terra Dei Re Aglianico del Vulture Nocte – The nose was dark and spicy with violet inflections, showing intense black cherry, cinnamon, anise, hints of undergrowth and ash. On the palate, I found soft textures with blackberry and plum fruit, savory spice, saturating fine tannin and balancing acidity. It finished structured yet with good energy and lingering spices. (91 points)
2012 Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture Carato Venusio – The nose showed depths of crushed black cherry, with notes of cedar, sweet herbs and minerals. On the palate, It displayed energizing acidity with silky textures, ripe cherry, sweet spices and herbs. Medium-tannin lingered on the palate, along with black cherry and undergrowth. (91 points)
2012 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi – The nose was lifted, showing violets, blackberry, tart plum and minerals. On the palate, I found lean textures with peppery black fruits and a combination of zesty acids and saturating tannin. It finished long and structured with concentrated tart black fruits coating the senses. (90 points)
2015 Paternoster Aglianico del Vulture Synthesi – The nose showed bright mineral-tinged black cherry, rich ginger spice, hints of violet florals and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found tart red fruits and lean tannin on a medium-to-light bodied frame. It finished tart, yet still quite fresh with lingering tannin and hints of blackberry fruit. This is a fresh style for Vulture, yet with a beautiful purity of fruit. (90 points)
2011 Tenuta I Gelsi Aglianico del Vulture – The nose was intense with dark red and black fruits, both savory and sweet spices, and hints of minty herbs. On the palate, I found soft textures with a savory and almost-saline personality, showing tart cherry, plum and saturating minerality. Its firm tannin came on late, drying the fruit throughout the finish and leaving an impression of youthful austerity–bury some in the cellar for at least five to ten years. (90 points)
2012 Tenuta I Gelsi Aglianico del Vulture – The nose showed intense dark red fruits, anise, dried violets, moist ash and pepper. On the palate, I found silky textures on a medium-bodied frame offset by tart black and red berry fruits, spice and leather. It finished structured with saturating tannin, tart dark red fruits and black earth tones. (89 points)
2013 Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture Il Repertorio – The nose showed intense crushed raspberry with notes of clove, anise, and spice. On the palate, I found medium-bodied textures with intense dark fruit, giving way to wild herbs and peppery spice. It finished medium in length with fine tannin and savory spices lingering on. (89 points)
2013 Cantine Strapellum Aglianico del Vulture Piano Regio – The nose was holding back, yet with coaxing, it revealed dark red fruit, violets, clove, wild herbs and crushed stone. On the palate, I found lean textures with tart red and black fruits, dark soil tones and spice. It finished long with saturating tannin violet inflections and lingering tart red berry fruit. (89 points)
2008 Colli Cerentino Aglianico del Vulture Masqito – The nose was dark and brooding, showing savory charred meats, black earth, cherry, herbs, and crushed stone minerality. On the palate, It was unexpectedly youthful and complex, displaying tart cherry, saline-minerality, and spice. The finish was long with saturating gruff tannin that dried the fruit despite the wine’s age, making me wonder if the fruit can hold up to them over time. (88 points)
2011 Cantine Strapellum Aglianico del Vulture Nibbio Grigio – The nose was fresh and floral with light blackberry, minerals and spice. On the palate, I found soft textures with a mix of red and black fruit, yet this lacked persistence, as fine tannin saturated the senses. It finished structured yet still fresh with medium length. (88 points)
2015 Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture Verbo – The nose was perfumed with spicy red florals and notes of crushed raspberry, orange peel, and crushed stone. On the palate, I found vibrant red fruit with juicy acidity and hints of spice. It finished with zesty red berries and a coating of fine tannin. This may be simple, but it’s undeniably enjoyable today. (87 points)
2013 Terra Dei Re Aglianico del Vulture Vultur – The nose showed crushed violets, black fruits, ash, fall leaves, and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found lean textures with herbal black fruits and saturating tannin. It finished on drying tannin and tart red fruits. (87 points)
2011 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi Vigneto Serpara – The nose was brooding and dark with notes of plum, undergrowth, ash, chalk dust, and sweet violets. On the palate, I found silky textures with concentrated ripe black fruits, peppery herbs and spice. Hints of pepper lingered along with earthy undergrowth and bitter herbs. I can’t help but feel like part of its profile is the result of old (unclean?) barrels. (86 points)
Links, Resources and Credits
Article, Tasting Notes and Photos by: Eric Guido
Aglianico del Vulture Consorzio: Website
The Official Website of Collisioni Progetto Vino & Food
Explore the Aglianico selection at: Morrell Wine
Learn More About Aglianico
Aglianico is one of Italy’s oldest known grape varieties, with a history dating back to Roman times. There is no doubt amongst Italian winemakers, that it is one of Italy’s top three grape varieties, in the company of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. The variety thrives on high altitude slopes of volcanic origins and can make wines that range from easy drinking, to austere and built for long-term maturation. Aglianico is a thick-skinned, late ripening grape that is one of the last to be picked throughout Italy, with harvests often taking place in November. However, this variety is built for the long growing season, and delivers exceptional results when subjected to a mix of hot days and cold nights. The ability to harvest late and obtain optimal ripeness also balances Aglianico’s naturally high levels and tannin and acidity.