Archive for the ‘Puglia’ Category

My book-writing days are probably behind me, but if I were to write a new wine book, I know what I’d call it – Native Uprising – and it would focus on the ascent of indigenous Italian grape varieties. Italian winemaking has made fantastic progress in the past 50 years (yes, my memory goes back that far, more’s the pity), and, while that progress may have been turbocharged by the phenomenon of the so-called supertuscans and the brief prominence of “international” (meaning grown in France and California and Australia) grape varieties, the real motor that has propelled it all along has been the native grapes of the many Italian wine regions.



It’s probably a clear indication of the deeply ingrained chauvinism of the wine world that we continue to speak of “indigenous” or “native” Italian grapes, with often enough an implication of quaintness and lesser standing and quality, while no one – myself included – ever speaks of Cabernet and Merlot and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, or even Syrah or Sauvignon, as indigenous French grapes – which, of course, they are. The fact that Nebbiolo and Sangiovese – not to mention Barbera – are now grown around the world hasn’t made them “international” varieties: they remain humble, indigenous – to Italy – grapes.



So a good part of my reason for once again taking pen (keyboard?) in hand would be counter that notion of inferiority. It shouldn’t be too difficult. The strides that Piemontese and Tuscan winemakers in particular have made, and especially their success in drawing publicity, have certainly raised the visibility and the status of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese for any wine drinker who has gotten beyond an introductory level of wine knowledge. Other noble Italian red wines lag that level of recognition, but Aglianico and Amarone (not a grape variety, I know, but bear with me) are not far behind.

White wines may be a little trickier, because so many of the fine whites of northern Italy are vinified from “international” varieties that have been cultivated in Friuli and Alto Adige for almost two centuries. (Which raises the interesting question, how long must a variety be grown in an area before it becomes native? And where did the ancestors of those “indigenous” French varieties originate?) The excellence of many other Italian white varieties is only beginning to be discerned. The process is slow because so many of them are in the south, which for many wine lovers, and even for many Italians, is terra incognita.

Which brings me to what would be the second purpose of the book I’ll probably never write: to call attention to the cornucopia of interesting-to-distinguished varieties awaiting their moment in the south of Italy. In a rather haphazard way, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past two or three years in southern Italy, and every visit has been a revelation. Maybe a learning experience is a better way to put it: not only have I been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wines, but I have each time encountered grape varieties previously unknown to me. Even more important, these varieties have not been simply quaint survivors of another age, but grapes with real wine-making interest and potential.



For example, let’s consider Puglia, which I’ve written about recently both here and in Decanter. Almost everybody knows about Primitivo, the cousin of Zinfandel. There are some excellent ones, but in my opinion Primitivo is far less interesting than either Negroamaro or Uva di Troia, or even Susumaniello. These are red grapes of distinctive character, and in the hands of careful producers they are already capable of making long-lived, high-quality wines. With more clonal research and more attention from more producers, their future is wide open.

z-bombino bianco

Bombino bianco

Puglia shows less impressively with white grapes, but even there some bright spots appear: Bombino Bianco, Verdeca, and local clones of Greco have promise. And of course, throughout the rest of the south, white grapes shine: In Campania, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino lead the way, but those two varieties do quite well on volcanic soils all through the south. (The Soave zone in the Veneto is the northernmost of Italy’s volcanic regions, and its prized Garganega, which makes Soave Classico, is probably a descendant of, if not the same as, Greco.)

Nerello mascalese

Nerello mascalese

And in Sicily, the hyper-volcanic slopes of Etna already yield world-class wines, whites from the native Carricante and reds from Nerello mascalese, which also forms a major portion of what is probably Sicily’s most distinguished red wine, Palari, from the nearby Faro DOC.

That’s far from the whole story even for the south: The white Falanghina is fine and getting better all the time, and the red Piedirosso, a long-time blending companion of Aglianico, is undergoing a significant revival. Even the once lightly regarded Coda di Volpe is rewarding serious attention from winemakers.



Nor is the north of Italy exempt from this growing wave of attention to each region’s viticultural heritage. In Piedmont, Rucché and Timorasso – red and white respectively – lead the contingent of reviving varieties, with the whites Favorita and Nascetta getting more attention every year.



.In Tuscany, Merlot is losing ground to Colorino and Mammolo as the blending grapes of choice in Chianti, with several experimental bottlings of monovarietal wines – especially of Colorino – already available.



In the Veneto, the once-scorned local clone of Trebbiano is achieving real importance in the Soave zone. And Friuli is a minestrone of local varieties, especially of red grapes: Schiopettino, Tazzelenghe, and Pignolo, to name only the currently most important. This is by no means exhaustive: there are many, many more potentially noble varieties out there.

So there is definitely a book to be written, and a lot of fascinating – and delicious – research to be done. I’m not feeling overly ambitious these days – grey winter weather always has that effect on me – but maybe I’ll do it yet.

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I’m not normally a fan of rosé wines. I’ve been underwhelmed by some of the most famous names of rosédom – too flabby, too sweet, too characterless. But two weeks in Puglia earlier this summer changed my mind about rosato, which as the Pugliesi make it is a whole different kettle of fish – which, not coincidentally, rosato beautifully accompanies.

Puglia is in vinous terms something of a paradox: A hot, semi-arid land with miles and miles of coastline on two seas, the Adriatic and the Ionic, it should be white-wine heaven. Its heart is nevertheless in red wines, which it produces in splendid abundance and variety. (I have an article about this aspect of Puglia coming out in Decanter.)

While Puglia does make white wines, they are few in number and variety compared to the sea of reds it produces. The heat and flatness of much of Puglia militates against any large white wine production.

The hilly area around Castel del Monte, one of the northernmost and highest zones, accounts for the great bulk of the region’s white wines, probably the best known of which is Locorotondo, vinified from Verdeca – like many of Puglia’s wine grapes, an indigenous and highly localized variety.

But with all that great stretch of seacoast, Puglia has always needed something lighter than the region’s reds to enjoy with fish and to drink on the beach. It long ago found its answer with rosato, which local growers produce in great quantity – and often very high quality – from several native red grape varieties. Everything from the relatively well-known Primitivo (passable) to the utterly unknown Bombino nero (excellent) is used. For my palate, rosatos vinified from Negroamaro stand among the world’s most pleasing rosé wines – light-bodied, fresh and refreshing, with the sweet/sour berry taste that is characteristic of the Negroamaro grape. They have charm, plus a little character – or, to put it another way, they have the lightness of a white wine and the richness of a red – and that puts them miles ahead of the bulk of the world’s rosés.

Another peculiarity of Puglia winemaking is that many of its grapes are grown as alborelli – literally, little trees: free-standing vines, unwired and untrellised. Most places (except some older California Zinfandel vineyards) regard alborello as a very old-fashioned system, but it has the advantage in sunbaked places like Puglia of letting each vine shade its own grapes, all day long. And it has the disadvantage of requiring hand labor for every vineyard operation, thus making it too costly to be considered in most places, whatever its virtues.

The Puglia Best Wine Consortium estimates that some 60-70 percent of Italian rosato comes from Puglia and Abruzzo. I found it impossible to get any firm figures about what percent of Puglia’s red grapes go into rosato, but I suspect it’s quite substantial. The regional market alone for such wines is quite large, and once the rest of the world notices how good Puglian rosato is – especially the Negroamaro – Puglia may find itself asked to slake an enormous thirst.

Here are some of the rosati – and their producers – that most impressed me during my torrid two weeks among Puglia’s vineyards and olive groves.

Apollonio. A 20-hectare family firm since 1870. 2010 Diciotto Fanali: a rosato from Negroamaro: fresh and intriguing, with the gentleness of a white and the spine of a red.

Castello Monaci. A large estate that separately vinifies different vineyards of, primarily, Negroamaro and Primitivo. 2011 Kreos: a lovely, racy rosato from Negroamaro.

Colle Petrito. 80 hectares of vines in a high, hilly part of Castel del Monte, growing many varieties, including whites. Most interesting: Ferula, a 2011 rosato from Bombino Nero (wild strawberries and mineral: delicious).

Fatalone. Fifth-generation, family-owned, certified organic estate in Gioia del Colle, where Primitivo is a specialty. 2009 Primitivo Rosato: one of the few successful aperitif versions of this grape, with beautiful acidity. Very fine.

Li Veli. A project of the Tuscan Alberto Falvo, of Vino Nobile and Vin Santo fame, this estate works almost exclusively with indigenous Pugliese varieties, head-trained, hand-tended, and planted in “septcunxes.” Its 2011 IGT Salento Rosato is entirely from Negroamaro and combines the richness of that variety with an almost-white-wine delicacy.

Tarantini. a family estate, with 12 hectares in vines, all indigenous varieties, and never in barriques. Especially nice 2011 Petrigama Rosato from 100% Bombino Nero.

Tenute Rubino. One of the most dynamic, forward-looking producers in the region. 2011 Saturnino (IGT Salento Rosato): vinified from Negroamaro, and one of the most characteristic and enjoyable of the class.

Vallone. A large, top-quality producer, with some wines from the Brindisi area but most from the Salento zone. 2011 Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Rosato (80% Negroamaro/20% Montepulciano): strawberry nose and palate, very refreshing.

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Burton Anderson has started a blog. If you are below a certain age threshold, that announcement may not make you sit up and take notice, but for seriously ancient winos like myself, that news is electric. For those who love Italian wines, Burt Anderson is the maestro, the pioneer, the guy who got there first and first pulled it all together so that it made sense to the rest of us. His book Vino was the eye-opener, and is still an enjoyable and useful read, after 30 years. Everyone who has written about Italian wine since owes Burton an enormous debt, whether they know it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not. And very few who have written about Italian wine since have done so with the style, thoroughness, and total honesty that Burt brought to the task. And now he is bringing the same qualities to a blog.

As his title indicates, this blog is about more than wine: he is turning out some his best writing yet on a whole range of subjects, Italian, cultural, and topical. In my not-especially-humble opinion, the blogosphere needs more good writing like Burt’s and more of his kind of directness.

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And now, as Monty Python would say, for something completely different. Every now and again I taste anew a wine I thought I was familiar with or a wine I’ve never encountered before. I’ve rounded up a few of those “Aha!” experiences to share with you.

Villa Matilde Falanghina 2006.  I drank this five-year-old in late November 2011, with smoked sturgeon toasts and shrimps creole. Falanghina is a grape and a wine I love, but I usually drink it in its second or third year. So I was nervous about the age: I seemed to have lost sight of the bottle and forgotten that I had it. Although the nose seemed fine – maybe a little sherry hint, but nothing off-putting – the color when poured terrified me. It was not just gold, but orangey gold, more than a little strange. The flavor, however, was just perfect: definitely Falanghina, but past its initial freshness and into dried-fruit sensations – apricot, Diane says; some dried fig too, I thought, but minus the sugar. It worked beautifully with both dishes, and drank just fine by itself as well. Who knew the grape took any age at all? Much less that it took it so gracefully? Yet one more proof that well-made Italian white wines can last.

Li Veli Verdeca 2010. A white from an endangered grape in Puglia. Lovely stuff: medium to full body, earthy, with mushroomy notes: a real food wine – vaguely Burgundian in its bulk on the palate, but emphatically Italian in its flavors and minerality. Made by the Falvo brothers, who achieved fame for many years at Avignonesi in the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano zone. In 1999 they acquired an old vineyard property in one of the most historic wine areas of Puglia, the Val d’Itria. They have sold their interest in Avignonesi and moved themselves to Puglia, where, among other things, they began the Askos project, an attempt to revive some of the most ancient varieties of the zone. On the basis of this wine, I’d say they seem to be about to do great things. We drank this Verdeca with a Basque hake with green sauce (predominantly garlic-flavored) which it took perfectly in stride.

Chave Celeste St. Joseph blanc 2007.  Enjoyed with a good lunch at brasserie Artisanal, this was not only a reminder of how good the white wines of the Rhône can be, but also a revelation of just how skilled a winemaker is the house of Chave. I think of Chave, first of all – and up until this point perhaps exclusively – as a red wine producer. The house is most famous – and rightly so – for its Hermitage, which is one of the greatest red wines of the Rhône. Some consider it the supreme rendition of that appellation, a wine of great depth and age-worthiness. This four-year-old white gave every indication of the same kind of age-worthiness – it was still fresh and vital – along with amazing nuance. It showed the kind of slate-and-wet-stones-with-dry-apricot that some connoisseurs associate primarily with Condrieu, which it more and more reminded me of with every sip. And at a small fraction of the cost! I should be surprised like this every day.

Formentini Pinot Grigio 2010. I used to know this wine as another one of the faceless “cocktail-style” Pinot grigios that Italy has been pouring out for decades now. Well, there have been big changes at Formentini, and this is no longer an airhead Pinot grigio to gulp at the bar. Now vinified from high-altitude plantings of low yield, and gingerly handled in the cellar, it has become a very interesting, medium-bodied wine to serve with dinner. Sure, you can still drink it enjoyably as an aperitif – but it now has complexity and character enough to be far more enjoyable with a good roast chicken or a delicate veal scallop. It’s a nice reminder of what Pinot grigio is capable of when some care is taken with it.

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And one after-dinner drink:

Clear Creek Grappa. Color me flabbergasted. An American grappa that tastes like the real thing! Who knew? It fooled me completely: I thought I had been handed a rather fine Italian distillate. This Oregon distillery uses local fruits and distills them in a very traditional manner to make a whole range of grappas and eaux de vie. On the basis of the single example of its work I’ve so far tasted, I have a lot of pleasant exploration ahead of me.

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Down Under but Coming Up

When it comes to Australian wine, I am far down the learning curve. To use a totally inappropriate (therefore irresistible) metaphor, Australian wine has never been my cup of tea. Years ago, when Australian bottles started appearing in significant numbers on the US market, I dutifully tried them. Most of them then were Shiraz or Shiraz blends, and Syrah is a grape I usually get along well with. But by and large, I didn’t like what I tasted: far too much fruit for me, too-high – and too-evident – alcohol, and too-often-grating tannins. All that fruit, however, seemed to please a lot of people, and Australian wines quickly won a permanent place for themselves in the market and the glass.

As far as I’m concerned, if I wanted to taste a lot of fruit I’d drink fruit juice and save myself a bundle of money. Or if I wanted fruit flavors with an alcoholic kick, I’d drink vodka and fruit juice and still save plenty of cash. I choose wine for a whole different set of tastes and pleasures, and I decided a decade ago that I wasn’t getting them from Australian wine – so I just turned my back on it.

Jim Gosper

Recently, however, some people whose palates I respect have been telling me that Australian wine has evolved, that what the Australians are sending us now is very different from what it had been, and that I ought to look again. So when Jim Gosper, the Director of Wine Australia for North America, presented the Wine Media Guild with a broad, geographically organized tasting of Australian wines with a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, I faced up to my ignorance, freshened my palate, and tasted attentively – and was pleasantly surprised.

Not overwhelmed, mind you, but definitely more pleased than I expected to be. And certainly instructed, especially in how wrong I have been in my tendency to think of Australian wine as a single entity. If I took nothing else away from the event, I gained a valuable new awareness of just how vast Australia is and how diverse its many wine regions are. Regional names like Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria induce an image of a Britain-sized, tight little island – but Australia has a land mass greater than the US or Europe. Even if its wine zones are clustered not too far from its coasts, in the island-continent’s southeast and southwest corners, there are still more than 60 of them, with climates ranging from near-desert to sub-alpine.

I wasn’t always able to detect the subtleties of regional differences, because there does seem to be an Australian accent – an emphasis still on fruit-forwardness – that for me often obscured any goût de terroir (unless that is the Australian goût de terroir? I don’t know). But I can say with certainty that of the 30-plus wines presented, those of three regions really stood out for me: Margaret River, in Western Australia; Clare Valley, in South Australia; and McLaren Vale, also in South Australia. Barossa valley, in South Australia as well, was not too far behind.

The Cabernets were as follows:

  • From Margaret River: 2007 Streicker “Ironstone Block Old Vines” and 2005 Vasse Felix “Heytesbury”
  • From Clare Valley: 2006 Wakefield Estate (excellent value at $18 srp), 2005 Kilikanoon “Block’s Road,” and 2004 Wakefield Estate “St. Andrews”
  • From McLaren Vale: 2007 Mitolo Serpico, 2007 Kangarilla Road, 2006 Nashwauk, 2006 d’Arenberg “Coppermine,” and 2005 d’Arenberg “Galvo Garage”
  • From Barossa Valley: 2007 Kaesler

My favorites were probably the two d’Arenbergs, for their complexity. But what I liked about all the above wines was the quality of their fruit. That was the flavor that led on the palate, but it didn’t travel alone: It was part of a more restrained packet of intertwined flavors – which is really one of the keys to what I’m looking for in wine.

Beginning to See the Light

Vino 2010 occupied big chunks of the Waldorf Astoria and the Hilton here in New York during the first week in February. Designed primarily for wine professionals, the event was far too big for one tongue to taste it all. More than 500 producers showed their wares at two huge tastings, in addition to what was poured at numerous seminars and dinners.

Patti Jackson

I was involved with the wines of Puglia, presenting a small selection of them one evening at a delicious and authentically Pugliese dinner prepared in the Waldorf’s kitchens by Patti Jackson, the talented chef of Restaurant I Trulli, the New York outpost of all things Pugliese. My good friend – back where I grew up we would have said goombah – Charles Scicolone presented more Pugliese wines at a seminar the following morning.

Puglia is a region just finding its direction in the contemporary wine market. Vines have grown there and wines made there ever since Greek colonists arrived about 1000-900 BC. But there has never been a wine culture in Puglia: It was drunk every day, with food and as food, but very few people ever gave it any thought. A few pioneers actually bottled wine, and even made age-worthy wines – Rivera in the north of the region, Taurino, de Castris, Candido, Vallone in the south – but most Pugliese wine was consumed locally as vino sfuso – what we would call jug wine – or was sold as bulk wine far further north, much of it disappearing into the wilderness of France.

Only recently, with the influx of outside investment – notably Antinori, but also Campanians and Americans – has Puglia and the world started to pay attention to Pugliese wines. The potential is there: good soils, fine native grapes, especially the reds Uva di Troia, a specialty of the north, and Primitivo and Negroamaro, the leading varieties of the south. Negroamaro seems particularly to have the potential for greatness: an intriguing, distinctive flavor, natural complexity, and fine aging ability. But, as always in a newly growing wine area, the learning curve is steep – finding the right clone, the right sites, the right growing and harvest conditions.

These all take time, and producers in a hurry for international attention or Tre Bicchieri or high Wine Spectator scores are always drawn to new barriques, with their instant veneer of sophistication and vanilla. This is a new technology for the zone, and as always, it was first used with far too heavy a hand. So we are now in the Pepsi-Cola-tasting phase of a lot of Puglian wines. Hopefully they will outgrow it soon – and happily, Negroamaro particularly seems to shrug oak off.

So look for unoaked Primitivo, or old reliable wines like Rivera’s Il Falcone, or the Negroamaros or Salice Salentinos (usually 80-90% Negroamaro blended with 10-20% Malvasia nera) from old-line producers like Taurino or de Castris or excellent co-ops like Sampietrana. And check on the new kids from time to time to see how they’re coming along; some are very fast learners.

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The far south of Italy is a treasury of native grape varieties, especially noble reds. Puglia offers Primitivo, now famous as a kissing cousin of Zinfandel, as well as the still relatively unknown Negroamaro. Basilicata presents the long-aging, structured Aglianico del Vulture, a very close relative of the grape that makes the deservedly much-honored Taurasi of Campania.

As guests of the American importer Frederick Wildman and the Italian company GIV (Gruppo Italiano Vini) earlier this month, five American journalists and sommeliers made a trip as much in time as in space, from the baroque urbanity of Lecce in Puglia to the rural beauty of the countryside outside Venosa in Basilicata. Both places are time-stopped: Lecce is a jewel of 17th-century architecture, and Basilicata possesses an archetypal rural landscape. It is still referred to by its residents as Lucania, its name since pre-Roman times. That’s what the Roman poet Horace, who was born there, called it, and if Lucania was good enough for Horace, it’s good enough for me. I suspect the rolling, vineyard-dotted landscape of its high, volcanic plateau still looks much as it did to his eyes, and I’m certain that the roads are no better – maybe worse – than they were under imperial Roman rule.

Basilicata: autumnal vineyards in the foreground; evergreen olives behind (Photos courtesy of Odila Galer-Noel)

But I’m getting ahead of myself: Puglia first.

An easy drive out of Lecce on the road to Taranto lies the sprawling Castello Monaci estate, approximately 375 acres of vineyards and ancient olive trees. It’s a real castle, and a big one. It started life as a monastery – hence “Castle of the Monks” – became a serious castle, and is now reincarnating itself as a glamorous agriturismo and event space. Its line of basic wines, however, is anything but upscale in price, even though all offer a very respectable level of quality. If you’re looking for value wines, wines that are as easy on your wallet as they are on your palate, Castello Monaci gives you a whole spectrum of choices, all priced at a very comfortable $13.

  • Simera (Salento IGT) is a nice blend of Chardonnay and the native Verdeca – good fruit, a little heavy on Chardonnay-tropical-fruit flavors (this is a warm, sunny land) but soft and pleasing and a fine companion to fish and spicy antipasti. All the Castello Monaci wines in fact showed as very food-friendly, so you can take that as a given.
  • Kreos (Salento IGT) blends mostly Negroamaro with a bit of Malvasia nera to make a surprisingly successful dry and elegant rosé. I hadn’t expected such delicacy from grapes that are normally power hitters.
  • Maru (Salento IGT) highlights Negroamaro (100%) in its dark guise – black cherry and tobacco in the aroma and the mouth, with good structure. The 2008 tasted very young – drinkable, but sure to improve with a little age.
  • Liante (Salice Salentino DOC) mixes 80% Negroamaro with 20% Malvasia nera to make a slightly fuller and rounder wine than the Maru, one that will take to stronger foods with equanimity.
  • Pilùna (Salento IGT) is all Primitivo, with a very Zinfandel-like brambly nose, juicy blackberry/mulberry fruit, and a slight, enjoyable prickle in the mouth – straightforward, good, and fun.

Over in Basilicata – not very far as the crow flies but a few hours as the road curves – the Re Manfredi estate is presided over by the affable and accomplished Nunzio Capurso, who was for years managing director of Melini, GIV’s Chianti giant, as well as directly responsible for its top Tuscan wine, the splendid Chianti Classico Riserva Selvanella. Now, in addition to winemaking at Re Manfredi, he is still president of the Chianti Consorzio and vice president of the Chianti Classico Consorzio – so this is a significant, experienced Northern winemaker who is now indulging his deep passion for Aglianico, a wine he refers to as “the Barolo of the south.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. Aglianico – the vine dispersed northward by Roman legions – may well be the ancestor of both Nebbiolo and Syrah, though the evidence is far from complete. I’ve loved Aglianico for years, both in its Campanian versions (Taurasi, Falerno rosso) and as Aglianico del Vulture. In both guises, I believe it’s one of the greatest of the noble red grapes, capable of wines of the amazing depth, complexity, and longevity – so for me it was a delight to find a northern winemaker whose work I deeply respect so excited by Aglianico.

Nunzio Capurso at the ready

We were visiting on November 13, and the harvest had finished only a few days before – “Here we have always the latest harvest in Italy, because of our very cool nights,” Capurso said. That very long growing season, with its great day-to-night temperature shifts, is what lets the Aglianico grape reach its richest, most aromatic maturity. Capurso had prepared half a dozen wines to demonstrate that.

  • Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2005, from 20- to 30-year-old vines. A stemmy and earthy nose; on the palate, good dark fruit with abundant soft tannins, and a long, tobacco finish. Very good but very young: You can drink it now, but it will be even better in three or four years. “In a minimum of ten years, this wine will be at its best,” Capurso says.
  • Aglianico del Vulture DOC Serpara 2001. Serpara originates from a small, high vineyard of older vines, always hand-harvested and vinified and aged separately. Although still evolving, the 2001 is already quite complex, its dry plum fruit marked with significant minerality – very, very fine. This will easily be a 20-year wine.
  • Serpara 2003: showing more fruit in the nose and the palate, also more tannin and less acid. More forward and readier than 2001.
  • Serpara 2004: excellent dark fruit and tobacco flavors – a lovely, complex vintage. This one can evolve and improve for another decade and easily last a decade beyond that.
  • Serpara 2005: tobacco/mineral/blackberry nose; good soft fruit, a trifle closed; nice acid/tannin balance. Still fine, though not as complex as ’04, and easier to drink now.
  • Serpara 2006: In the aroma, tobacco first, then black fruit. On the palate, dark, berry-ish fruit, soft and round; well balanced and gentle but still big – another wine to cellar.

Cellaring is the key to Aglianico. It’s a grape that really reflects harvest differences and that needs time to bring all its components into balance – not a wine for the casual quaffer, but one for the serious wine drinker who prizes excellence and has the patience to wait for it. For their quality, these wines are also bargains – $39 for the basic Aglianico, $42 for the single-vineyard Serpara.

These are what I think of as true collectable wines – not for investment (much as I revere Aglianico, I doubt it will ever attract the big-money boys: thank whatever gods may be!) but for the kind of appreciation that only your palate can collect. Put some bottles of ’01 or ’04 or ’06 Serpara away and forget you have them for ten years: then open one with dinner and congratulate yourself on how shrewd you are and what a great investment you made.

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