AH-LEE-AHNI-KO; now say it fast. Cultivated in the high-altitude soils of Southern Italy for the past 2,000 years, aglianico’s thick skins create incredible (often overbearing) tannins, but combined with its naturally high acidity and deep, savoury fruit, it can produce structured, age-worthy wines. We blind-tasted 27 from Italy and Australia, finding wines of exceptional quality – so good, in fact, we've included notes on all of them here, starting with our top 12, in no particular order.
2012 Mastroberardino Radici Riserva Taurasi, Campania, A$110
Mastroberardino is one of the world’s benchmark aglianico producers. This is a joyful wine with a fragrance of dried tea leaves, purple flowers and black cherry. Finely etched acid and tannins frame a tense palate of dark fruits and iodine with graphite-like minerality.
2018 Antonio Caggiano Tauri Irpinia Aglianico, Campania, A$44
Irpinia Aglianico DOC is Campania’s wider appellation for the grape and offers exceptional value. This is a vibrant wine with flowing red fruits, sandpapery tannins and plenty of character – best knocked back with antipasti.
2017 Musto Carmelitano Serra del Prete Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, A$50
Winemaker Elisabetta Musto Carmelitano looks to the half century-old vines on her Serra del Prete vineyard for this pure expression. It smells of cherry, lavender, dried herbs and tobacco – it’s like stepping into an Italian grocer. Savoury, energetic and full of life.
2017 Benito Ferrara Vigna Quattro Confini Irpinia Aglianico, Campania, A$48
The Ferrara family vineyard in Sao Paolo sits at around 500m altitude in the Naples hinterland. Medium- to full-bodied, this wine shows blood orange flavours and dark berry fruit with immense power and length.
2015 Cantine Madonna delle Grazie Liscone Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, A$37
Giuseppe Latorraca is a proud custodian ofsome of Mount Vulture’s (pronounced ‘vool-to-ray’) most prized aglianico; ‘Liscone’ is from a block of 30-year-old vines. It’s all red fruits with supporting orange rind, pepper and five spice notes. A beautiful, elegant wine.
2019 Izway Wines Angelo Aglianico, Barossa Valley, A$40
This is unapologetically Barossan: black fruits and more black fruits, with liquorice
and violets thrown in for good measure. But its spicy, savoury core, fresh acidity and mouth-coating tannins tie it together in a charming ‘Aussie-Italian’ kind of way.
NV Feudi di San Gregorio Trigaio Vino Rosso, Campania, A$29
The young vine expression of aglianico from one of Southern Italy’s most prominent producers, this offers immediate appeal: black fruits, bramble and cola aromas; leather and dark cherry flavours; and suede-like tannins.
2018 After Five Wine Co Aglianico, Barossa Valley, A$35
More proof of aglianico’s suitability to the Barossa, this time from Craig Stansborough and Mark Slade. This hangs neatly in the balance between heady aromatics, bold,
black fruit, and classic, rustic tannins.
2016 Fighting Gully Road Aglianico, Alpine Valleys, A$48
From Beechworth-based Mark Walpole comes this brooding, cellar-worthy wine. It has a real ‘salt of the earth’ feel, in that it smells and tastes like it was made from the most pure, pristine fruit. Its deep minerality and fruit purity are slowly engulfed by fine-grained but huge (huge!) tannins. Needs time – or steak.
2015 Re Manfredi Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, A$39
The term ‘personality’ is often thrown around with wine; here’s one that has it in spades. Aromas of black fruits and coffee, graphite and a whiff of blood. It’s a serious wine, with equally serious tannins, but a real curio.
2018 Sutton Grange Aglianico, Bendigo, A$60
This fresh, modern expression from winemaker Melanie Chester is Australian by nature with its big core of dark fruit, but the herbal notes and bitter, orange peel-like tannins give it a distinctive Italian feel. It’s quite stunning.
2018 Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato Irpinia Aglianico, Campania, A$39
Charcuterie and cherry with a dusting of bitter dark chocolate and dried herbs. An opulent, pure, unoaked wine – delicious now or later.
2017 Elena Fucci Titolo Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, A$104
Elena Fucci had a sudden change of heart after putting her family’s six-hectare Mount Vulture vineyard on the market; almost two decades later, she is one of Italy’s most exciting new wave winemakers and worth keeping an eye on. This is a serious and delicious aglianico, with aromas of earth and plum; black tea and sweet, fresh tarragon. These are repeated on the palate, framed by fleshy, puckering tannins and fine acidity. One for the cellar – it will live forever.
2012 Feudi di San Gregorio Piano di Montevergine Taurasi, Campania, A$115
Dark cherries and orange peel with leather and a nice oxidative note – just to remind you where this wine is from. Dried thyme and oregano. This wine has superb mouthfeel. It’s medium- to full-bodied with classic, leathery tannins and a thread of fine acidity. It’ll shine with the right food.
2014 Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi, Campania, A$78
Woody spice, vanilla and ripe black fruits. The palate is really defined by sweet, ripe black fruits underpinned by bitter tannins and some herbal orange undertones.
2018 From Sunday Kinetic Aglianico, Adelaide Hills, A$30
From Sunday is an exciting small-batch, experimental project by viticulturist Sam Bowman and a couple of winemaker mates. This has real 'smashable' appeal. Fleshy, sweet aromas of red and black berries. The fruit has a sense of purity to it, with sweet and sour flavours, peppery notes, suede-like tannins and mouth-watering acidity.
2018 Hither & Yon Aglianico, McLaren Vale, A$35
A lively, savoury and characterful expression of aglianico from SA's first carbon neutral-certified winery. Dark berries and liquorice framed by mouth-coating tannins.
2015 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi, Campania, A$85
This is pretty and perfumed with aromas of violet, plums and sweet blackberry. The fruit weight is dense and slowly enveloped by sheets of suede-like tannin. A big wine that'll live forever. Great balance and length.
2017 Mastroberardino Redimore Irpinia Aglianico, Campania, A$40
Fresh and relatively light on its feet, with dark cherry aromas, black tea and purple floral notes. It's only just medium-bodied, with Italian herbs, plum skin tannins and lively acidity. A great introduction to aglianico from Campania.
2016 Musto Carmelitano Maschitano Rosso Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, A$29
A young vine bottling from Musto Carmelitano's family vineyards, all stainless steel fermented for purity of expression. This really shows how dense aglianico can be; it's full-bodied but not over-extracted with fresh, sweet black fruit, a mineral, graphite character and spice offset by bitter, almost citrus peel-like tannins. An intriguing wine with loads of personality.
2017 Ognostro Rosso, Campania, A$85
Marco Tinessa's winemaking was influenced by cult Etna producer Frank Cornelissen of Susucaru fame – the pair forged a strong friendship before Tinessa stepped out on his own, initially making wine in a Milan garage with Cornelissen's assistance. This is a remarkable 'lo-fi' expression of aglianico from the Taurasi area, fermented in concrete. It's pure and very Italianate, with dried herb and black cherry aromas. Medium-bodied and fleshy up front with a dark chocolate, balsamic character. The tannins sneak up on you like a dust storm, totally engulfing but not out of place or balance. Needs time.
2019 Pepper Tree Limited Release Aglianico, Wrattonbully, A$35
All the deep, dark, brooding black fruits – with a few jelly babies, liquorice straps and star anise thrown in. There’s blackcurrant confectionary here and a medicinal eucalyptus note, with lots of amaro-like bitterness and finely etched tannins. A distinctive, full-bodied wine with charm and personality.
2017 Pipoli Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, A$17
A serious contender for best value aglianico available in Australia. It has a distinctive undergrowth character – dried leaves, damp earth, some sweet-ish brambly notes. Interestingly, it behaves a bit like Chianti, albeit with more depth: herbal and blackberry flavours with long, puckery tannins. Great fruit weight. Feels good to drink.
2020 Ricca Terra Aglianico, Riverland, A$28
Viticulturist Ashley Ratcliff is one of Australia's active proponents of climate-appropriate, alternative grape varieties – not to mention showcasing the quality potential of the Riverland region. This is a fresh and vibrant wine with red and black fruit perfume. Easy to drink, fruit sweetness balanced by a savoury iodine note. Great balance and nice, fine tannins. Delicious drinking.
2019 Ricca Terra Aglianico, Riverland, A$28
The 2019 vintage of the above wine shows denser, black fruit characters – plum, black jubes, damp earth and sour cherries. It's fleshy with chewy, food-friendly tannins.
2019 S.C. Pannell Aglianico, McLaren Vale, A$40
From 2015 GT WINE Winemaker of the Year Steve Pannell. Concentrated aromas of dark cherry, cola and dried herbs. The palate has a cool and even flow, some grenache-like medicinal notes and a mineral ferrous/iron character. The balance of fruit and tannin is impeccable. Deep sense of place.
2019 Spinifex Aglianico, Adelaide Hills (A$30)
From Caj Amadio's vineyard in the northern Adelaide Hills, this showcases the capability of aglianico at altitude, much like its home country. It's tightly wound with fresh, structured tannins; dense liquorice and blood plum flavours. A great expression.