Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Aglianico from Molise

Behind this black and iridescent pink exterior is a wine that is quite extraordinary. It has quite a following, too, among merchants, bloggers, and readers. This may have to do with the wine's consistency--vintage to vintage people seem to find it rich and delicious. It certainly doesn't have to do with the Aglianico grapes that go into it, since Aglianico is pretty obscure here in the US. And the Molise region where the wines are grown is relatively untraveled, too, by American wine drinkers.

Maybe this wine is so popular because the unfamiliarity of the grapes and the region make it an unqualified steal when it comes to the price. I bought mine from Garagiste as a future some months back for $11.95. Now it's on the market for between $11 and $17. The 2004 Di Majo Norante Aglianico was a beautiful medium-dark garnet in color, although if you pour yourself a full glass expect it to look plummy purple. There were aromas of cherry and earth when the bottle was first opened, and the taste was a bit astringent and drying when I took the first sip and left an aftertaste like strong black tea. One of the readers here, Pat, suggested that I decant the wine first, and folks on CellarTracker seemed to agree, so I decanted it for a little over an hour and the wine had strikingly different aromas and flavors. Where before there had been cherry and earth, I now smelled blackberries, tea, and a whiff of roses. The flavors, too, had changed and now reminded me of blackberry tending towards blueberry--which is to say it tasted like huckleberries to me. There were also tea and sassafras notes, and a little minty lift in the aftertaste. This was a wine that was complex, easy to drink, and a great value--so I think it represented excellent QPR.

Aglianico is made for drinking with spicy Italian food, so think pepperoni pizza, sausage tossed with your favorite pasta, or something that uses a bit of chili pepper for heat. We had it with a slightly adapted version of Rachael Ray's gnocchi and chicken meatballs that uses lots of basil and fennel seeds, as well as some red pepper flakes, and the moderate spiciness of the food stood in interesting opposition to the clean huckleberry fruit and the herbal and tea notes in the wine. If you love spaghetti and meatballs but are trying to cut back on red meat, you will love these chicken meatballs every bit as much as the beefy originals.

Because this wine changed so much from opening to first sips, and because it was so affordable, I would be tempted to buy a case or half-case of this wine and drink it regularly over the next few years to watch it develop and change. It's lovely now, but I suspect it will continue to improve. I would buy this by the case and drink over the next 4 years. Thanks to Pat, the reader who recommended this wine to me, for suggesting I decant it. This wine is a great value--I highly recommend you try it, too.


Joe said...

Hi Debs - Nice choice! Since the Contado I have tasted some pretty special (and pricey) Aglianicos, so I nearly forgot that you can get Aglianico at a good price. Sadly, I have only one bottle of the 2003 left...I think you should buy a case and not taste it over the next few months, but over the next few years. PS - I like the gnocchi and chicken meatball suggestion, but I was suddenly thinking of Osso wait, that's Nebbiolo...

Dr. Debs said...

Joe, I agree this one will last for several more years, and probably just get more interesting over time. A great bargain!