While the name may make it sound as though the Aglianico del Vulture wine is attempting to draw from a pretty strange animalistic source, nothing could be further from the truth. This isn’t a wine that attempts to replicate the essence of a bird that feeds on scraps, whatever that may look like. Instead, the “vulture” moniker actually comes from the region that the wine is made in.
Do you want to know more about this strangely names Italian wine? We’re going to take a closer look at what it has to offer in this article, in addition to taking a look at the region that it calls home.
The Wine and the Region
So, what do you need to know about this oddly-named Italian wine?
Let’s start with the basics. It’s a red wine, though it obviously isn’t one of the more well-known varieties out there. In fact, we’re willing to bet that the name Aglianico del Vulture is not the first one anybody’s lips when they’re talking about red wines that have come out of Italy.
The wine is made using the Aglianico grape variety, which is native to Italy’s Vulture region. Combine, the grape and the region give the wine its rather unique name.
The region itself is found in Potenza, towards the north-western part of the province. However, Potenza is a southern region, which means warm temperatures. This creates an ideal growing climate for the grape.
The wine also carries DOC certification, having earned the designation back in 1971. This actually makes it one of the earliest wines to carry the DOC label. Furthermore, some examples of the wine can also carry the DOCG label, which has existed since 2010 in the case of this wine. In these cases, producers attach the Superiore label to the wine.
Despite is comparative lack of fame, the wine is considered one of the finest to come out of Southern Italy. Moreover, many Italian wine lovers are drawn to the wine because it shares more than a few similarities with the king of wines – Barolo. Aglianico del Vulture has a similar taste and producers also make use of similar production methods when making it.
There are also other examples of wine made using the Aglianico grape that aren’t Aglianico del Vulture DOC wines. These include the likes of the Aglianico dolce, which is a dessert wine that emphasizes the grape’s sweetness over all else.
A good Aglianico del Vulture wine will have a ruby red colouring and features a slightly savoury taste that hides a lot of depth. The wines generally have an alcohol volume of around 13%, though some examples are slightly lower in volume.
Like many other Italian red wines, it combines wonderfully with many meats. It’s particularly tasty when served alongside roasted beef, as well as being a great wine to combine with wild game.
The History of the Grape
According to scholars, it’s likely that the Aglianico found its way to Italy thanks to the Ancient Greeks. During this time, the grape was known as the Hellenica, though it exhibited many of the qualities that it is known for in the present day.
As time went on, the grape took on even more names. The Ancient Romans called it the Ellenico, which you’ll notice is a strange mix of the previous and the modern name. They also used it as the grape of choice for improving a wine called Falerno. Those who’ve studied ancient Roman wine will recognise this as the wine of choice for poets of the era.
It was not until the 15thcentury that the grape gained the name Aglianico. This can as a result of the Argons taking power in the region.
The Vulture region in which the wine is produced actually encompasses several small territories and communities. These include the likes of Barile, Lavello, and Melfi. The grape is also grown in Ginestra, Rionero, and Banzi.
Several other communities fall within the region and all can produce Aglianico grapes that are suitable for use in the DOC varieties of the wine.
What’s most interesting about the Vulture region is the long-extinct volcano that gives it the name. Monte Vulture hasn’t erupted for many years. However, the volcano and the land that surrounds it provides the perfect soil for the growing of the Aglianico. As is the case with many volcanic regions in Italy, the Aglianico seems to take in a certain mineral quality from the soil. This is likely thanks to the high mineral density of volcanic soil, which tends to exceed that of regular types of soil.
All told, there are about 5,000 hectares of land dedicated to the growing of the grape. This means a fairly limited production run, which ensures quality in most cases.
Who Should Try It?
It seems like a bit of a cop out to claim that anybody who enjoys Italian red wine will also enjoy the Aglianico del Vulture. However, that really is the case here. The wine makes for an excellent introduction thanks to its savoury taste. But it also has enough depth to keep more experienced wine drinkers interested.
The wine’s similarities to Barolo also make it an excellent alternative choice for people who have a fondness for that sort of wine. You could think of the Aglianico del Vulture as a slightly more mineral-heavy version of Barolo, though the wine has enough unique characteristics to set it apart from its more famous cousin.
The Final Word
The Aglianico del Vulture is perhaps one of the unsung heroes of the Italian wine industry. Though the grape has existed and been in fairly heavy use for thousands of years, it’s not a household name anywhere outside of its local territory.
We believe that this needs to change. The Aglianico del Vulture is a wonderful example of Italian red wine and should find its way to the top of your list if you’re looking to explore beyond the tried and tested Italian reds.