The Italian Volcanic Red Wine Called ‘The Barolo of the South’

Italian vineyard with volcano in background
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The late-ripening Aglianico grape is undoubtedly one of Italy’s great red varieties alongside Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Often called “Barolo of the South,” this moniker only scratches the surface yet speaks to the variety’s ability to express finesse and pedigree from a multitude of unique vineyard sites.

Some of the most exciting bottlings come from the Vulture region in Basilicata, where vines are planted on the volcanic soils of the dormant Monte Vulture volcano. Depending on vineyard location up and down slope of mountain, the resulting wines can generally be delicate and earthy (closer to the top) or plush and velvety (further down the slope), with those from vineyard sites in between the two offering the best of both worlds. However, all display the hallmark crushed stone minerality typically found in wines from volcanic soils.

Aglianico often shows best with a bit of age, yet many examples on the market today show immediate accessibility, with potential to hold well in the cellar.

Here are 12 recently reviewed bottles to seek out.

The Volcanic Wines of Italy

Re Manfredi 2013 Serpara (Aglianico del Vulture Superiore); $53, 94 points. Rich aromas of truffle, violet, plum and cherry are dense on the nose of this red that spent 12 months in half new and half used oak. There’s immense polish and verve to the palate, with silken, seductive tannins wrapping around all the luscious berry fruit. Yet with all that, there’s still ample lift from fresh acidity, making this a well-balanced, plush red. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. —Alexander Peartree

Elena Fucci 2018 Titolo (Aglianico del Vulture); $58, 93 points. Plush aromas of violet, juniper, cherry and bramble berry burst on the nose. Medium in weight, there’s a driven, ample feel to the juicy red cherry and blackberry flavors, with bits of tar and pressed rose arising on the midpalate. Yet, throughout the whole experience, bouncy berry fruit and zesty crushed mineral tones remain constant. There’s structure and poise to this wine that makes it enjoyable to drink now, but it will also hold well through 2028. Enotec Imports, Inc. —A.P.

Grifalco 2015 Daginestra (Aglianico del Vulture Superiore); $32, 93 points. Sourced from a vineyard over sixty years old in the village of Ginestra, this red offers a perfumed nose of cinnamon, clove and brandy-dipped cherries. There’s polish and poise to the medium-bodied palate, as the juicy mix of berries melds with a zesty crushed mineral core. That mineral note brings immense lift and length to it all. Velvety tannins give it an approachable vibe in the near term, but this should hold well through 2030. Soilair Selection. Editors’ Choice. —A.P.

Paternoster 2016 Don Anselmo (Aglianico del Vulture); $70, 93 points. Enveloping aromas of cherry coulis, pomegranate molasses, anise seed and blood orange carry over to the rich yet deftly balanced palate. There’s intense energy to the coiled red-berry flavors, with a mineral zip propelling it along while polished tannins firmly wrap it all up. Drink now–2030. Vintus LLC. —A.P.

Vigneti del Vulture 2016 Piano del Cerro (Aglianico del Vulture); $34, 92 points. Rich aromas of bacon fat, toasted anise and dark cocoa powder ride on the dense dark-berry fruit on the nose. It’s full and creamy on the palate, with concentrated black-cherry and blueberry flavors wrapped in warm, toasty spices. There’s immense lift from the driving acidity and a delightful polish from suave tannins. Drink now–2028. Empson USA Ltd. —A.P.

Basilisco 2017 Teodosio (Aglianico del Vulture); $22, 91 points. An aroma of brandy-soaked blueberries mixes with violet and truffle on the rich nose. It’s rather full in feel on the palate, with polished, rounded tannins propping up rich dark-fruit flavors. Pulsing acidity and a stony core add to the energetic vibe, making this a wine to enjoy with some age on it. Drink from 2022–2030. Vias Imports. — A.P.

Cantine del Notaio 2013 La Firma (Aglianico del Vulture); $59, 91 points. Aromas of cinnamon, anise and rooibos meld with the wild-cherry and raspberry core in this red. The medium-bodied palate is soft in flavors of baked raspberry and cherry, accented by gentle warm spices. There’s good balance to it all, with polished tannins and fresh acidity lending support, but it should be enjoyed in the near term. Vinifera Imports. —A.P.

Musto Carmelitano 2015 Serra del Prete (Aglianico del Vulture); $24, 91 points. Aromas of wild forest berries meld with alpine herbs, violets and nori in this savory red. Aged in stainless steel and cement, it’s all about the fruit on the palate. Soft red-berry flavors build on the entry and evolve into bright, popping, juicy fruit tones. Well-honed tannins sidle it all, with a zesty crushed stone element lifting it up. This is a beautiful Aglianico that has nothing to hide. Polaner Selections. —A.P.

Regio Cantina 2017 Donpà (Aglianico del Vulture); $30, 91 points. Perfumed aromas of violet, tilled earth and blood orange meet a rich red-cherry core on the nose. There’s polish and poise on the palate, with a zesty mineral tone pushing along. Smoothed tannins are enveloped in the fruit, making this accessible in the near term. Drink now through 2028. 8 Vini, Inc. —A.P.

D’Angelo 2017 Aglianico del Vulture; $20, 90 points. Well concentrated aromas of black raspberry, pomegranate, violet and freshly turned earth carry the nose of this rustic red. It’s light in profile, with zesty berry flavors wrapped in mildly gritty tannins. There’s charm to be had among the delightful mix of juicy fruit and earthy tones. Enjoy at the dinner table alongside lamb or venison. Cantiniere Imports & Distributing, Inc. —A.P.

We Recommend:

Macarico 2018 Aglianico del Vulture; $30, 90 points. Bright, bouncy aromas of wild cherry and blueberry meld with a mentholated edge on the nose. The palate is driven by juicy acidity, with tannins taking the back seat. There’s good grip, energy and length, but ultimately this can be enjoyed in the near term. Drink now through 2025. Skurnik Wines, Inc. —A.P.

Cantina di Venosa 2018 Balì (Aglianico del Vulture); $14, 89 points. There’s good concentration to the aromas of bramble berry, wild cherry, violet and hibiscus on the nose, offering an enticing mix of fruit and earth elements. The medium-bodied palate is juicy in tart cherry and blackberry flavors, with pretty floral accents on the sides. The tannins are resolved yet supportive while bright acidity and a tangy mineral note push everything along. Bacchanal Wine Imports. Best Buy. —A.P.

Published on April 14, 2021
Topics: Wine and Ratings