By Rick Riozza

When it comes to one’s favorite red Italian wine, we of course hear about Tuscany’s great Sangiovese based wines such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano.  Or, the other fan favorite is of course Nebbiolo with its stately and bold Barolo and Barbaresco.  Certainly, for me, these wines have been on the top of my vino list forever.

But now it’s time to speak of another red Italian that just knocks my socks off.  This one is from the south of Italy, east of Napoli: Aglianico.  If the Italian language is not in your wheelhouse, you may not be pronouncing the wine confidently to your friends just yet. But we’re in a new day and age where no one is afraid to try saying French or Italian wine names.

For you red wine enthusiasts—especially Italian red wine lovers, let’s get this pronunciation down right out-of-the-gate so one can talk about & request this wine at the market and restaurants.  It’s actually quite easy to say: Aglianicoah-LYAH-nee-koh (Some publications will have it “allee-an-nico”—but no one in Italy says it that way.)


Okay—so much for the lesson; time to describe the wine: the general profile you’ll find black cherries, blackberries, black currants, black pepper, coffee, dark chocolate, earth, herbs, honey, leather, minerals, plums, roses, smoke, spices, tar, and tobacco.  Young Aglianico wines are known for strikingly savory flavors of leather, white pepper, black fruits, and cured meat that when aged, develop soft dusty aromas of dried figs and sun-tanned leather.  For those of us who are fans of rustic, earth-driven wines, the Aglianico grape is a star.

And yeah—here’s the news: this isn’t your grandfather’s Merlot. This wine grips you in a good rough & tumble way.  New California vino lovers who first sample the wine often think the bottle is off.  But as one can see right above, there are so many flavors, tones, nuances, and aromas going on—what would you expect at first whiff & quaff.

Those who desire a bold red wine which weaves complexities with some wonderful fruit, find their camp here.  Below, we discuss three Feudi di San Gregorio’s Aglianico that showcase the variety the grape, area, and what this wine producer has to offer:

The classic Rubrato expresses the freshness and vitality of the grape, plus gives an easy introduction to Southern Italian reds. Taurasi embodies the complexity, power, and aging potential of Aglianico, with longer time spent in the bottle and in the barrel. And the iconic Piano di Montevergine, single vineyard and only produced in the best vintages, shows Aglianico at its prime best and the richness and depth the grape can give.

2020 Feudi Rubrato Irpinia Aglianico DOC [Roo-BRAH-toe] ($20) Rubrato translates to “Brilliant Ruby”, a nod to the rich, ruby color of the wine – the color of Aglianco at harvest time.  With flavors of floral, licorice, blackberry, and balsalmic, the wine is smooth and balanced, appealing to wine connoisseurs and novices alike as it expresses the Aglianico in its youth easy tannins and more fruit.

For a comparison, one can say it drinks like a Cru Beaujolais: mature floral, crunchy ripe fruits, medium-bodied and refreshing acidity. Drinkable and an amazing value, it’s a great introduction to the Southern Italian red.

2017 Feudi Di San Gregorio Taurasi DOCG ($50) Feudi di San Gregorio was established in 1986 in Sorbo Serpico, a tiny village in Campania’s Irpinia region, near Mount Vesuvius.  Feudi di San Gregorio taps into the potential of Campania’s finest vineyards in Taurasi DOCG.

This highly acclaimed winery encourages us to rediscover the identity of Taurasi comes from 15–20-year-old vines that are grown between 1,000 – 1,600 ft above sea level with southern and southwestern exposures. The soil is deep and originally from ash and fallen pumice, and the surface and deep layers of silty sand.

At Taurasi, Aglianico finds its ideal territory – uncontaminated, volcanic and impenetrable – giving life to a full-bodied wine with soft tannins for the fine wine drinker.  An excellent wine for drinking with the finest roasted red meats and poultry, such as duck.

Brilliant ruby red with garnet reflections, its aroma is Fragrant scents of maraschino cherry, cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla and anise.  Elegant and refined, with red and black berries, against a background of clay-like minerals and a touch of leather. A citrus note adds freshness both on the nose and palate. Full-bodied with firm, fruit-coated tannins that remain vivid rather than chewy. Long, fresh finish.

2016 Feudi Di San Gregorio Piano di Montevergine Taurasi Riserva ($60)

Coming from Feudi di San Gregorio’s very first planted vineyard, Piano di Montevergine is a wine that embodies elegance. This is the reason for which it was chosen to make a reserve wine.  It’s their best representation of the Aglianico grape’s potential and is only vinified in outstanding years.

The 35–50-year-old vines sit on a high plateau at about 1,300 feet above sea level with a southwestern exposure in the area of Taurasi, and the conditions give rise to grapes that once transformed into wine, have very delicate tannins. The deep, sandy, volcanic soil gives an incredible grape.

“Offering a dark and savory underpinning of cured tobacco, fresh earth, leather and iron notes, this focused red is also fresh and vibrant, with ripe, crushed black raspberry and mulberry fruit, plus hints of red licorice, espresso crema, graphite and milled pepper…” Wine Spectator

“Plum sauce, pencil lead, clove, balsamic spice, mint, rosemary, stone dust, rose petals and more… Every time it’s tipped in the glass, it seems to reveal further depths. This wine is simply stunning, with a silky texture of tart wild berries, citrus and brilliant acidity. Energetic but still youthfully tense and structured is a classic.” Vinous

Perfect with game, strong aged cheeses, roast and grilled lamb.  Saluti!w