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“Along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, it (Aglianico) is generally believed to be one of Italy’s three best wine grapes, but in my opinion, it is far more: At the very least, it’s one of the world’s dozen or so best wine grapes” – Ian d’Agata.
When it comes to grape Aglianico, most people head straight to Taurasi in Campania. These wines have the ability to show off the grape’s potential. But there is another appellation tucked away in rural Basilicata dedicated to Aglianico.
Aglianico del Vulture is one of only four DOCs in Basilicata, a mountainous region in Italy’s deep south. The vineyards hug the slopes of Mount Vulture, an extinct volcano. Unlike Taurasi, the Aglianico del Vulture DOC requires the wine to be 100% Aglianico.
Unfortunately, I don’t have as deep of an experience with Aglianico del Vulture as Taurasi, so I jumped at the chance to taste the latest vintages from Donato D’Angelo. This family-run estate produces 120,000 bottles per year from 20 hectares of vineyards.
Like many wines in the Aglianico del Vulture DOC, these bottles represent excellent value for money. The ‘Calice’ Aglianico del Vulture, made from younger vines, was particularly impressive to me. If you’re looking for a case-buy that drinks well with food and ages well in the medium-term, it’s time to check out this slice of Basilicata.
- Donato D’Angelo, Aglianico del Vulture 2017
This is 100% Aglianico aged in oak for 18 months. This vintage won the prestigious Tri Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso. This really stays true to the variety. Notes of smoke, plum, stewed cherry, meat, and Mediterranean brush. It smells as if it would be a big, jammy Southern Italian red but the palate surprises you with the fresh acidity. It makes the fruit feel lighter. The high acidity is coupled by the big tannins, very Nebbiolo-esque. Well-made examples of this grape start to blossom with time in the bottle and this should be no exception. Score: 90+/100
- Donato, D’Angelo, ‘Calice’ Aglianico del Vulture 2017
This is 100% Aglianico made from the estate’s younger vines. It’s aged in cask for 18 months. Designed to be and an early drinker. This is markedly more red fruit and less dense than the older sibling, Aglianico del Vulture. Notes of sour cherry, smoke, sweet cedar, and car seat leather that’s been well worn. This might not be as age-worthy as its older brother but I really like it. The fruit shines through on the palate. It’s medium-bodied with big-time tannins. At this price, it might be wise to stock up on a few cases. You have to like tannins to like this wine. Score: 90/100
- Donato D’Angelo, Balconara 2016
This is a blend of Aglianico and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in wood for 15 months. Smoked meat and leather jump out right away in the glass. Dark cherry, cassis, and tobacco also stand out on the nose. On the palate, it’s more of a savory red than a fruity one. The palate is full of tough, chewy tannins that beg for meat. There’s plenty of acidity here too. At this price, this is a wine that has some stuffing to age. It would be interesting to revisit this in five-ten years. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I really enjoy it. A smoky, savory, tannic red. Score: 87/100
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Thanks to Donato D’Angelo for the tasting samples. The opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.