Red Wines from Southern Italy
We've tasted relatively little wine from Apuglia, located in the heel of the Italian "boot," and none in the last several years, so we were most interested in seeing what these, from the family owned and operated Agricole Vallone, had to offer.
1997 Vallone Salice Salentino, $9.99, 12.5% alc.: I was anxious to see how this ruby dark garnet compared with fond memories of some of Taurino’s older versions of Salice Salentino, which we stopped buying about 5 years back, due to a decline in quality. (In fairness, they may have rebounded, but 2 or 3 consecutive mediocre vintages lost our attention.) It shows spicy dried sweet and sour cherries, tar and dark chocolate flavors and aromas, with noticeable tannins and zippy acidity. It has none of the raisiny qualities that Taurino’s version did back when, and it fades just a little somewhere between the mid-palate and finish. Nevertheless, a good $10 red.
1997 Vallone "Vigna Flaminio" Brindisi Rosso Riserva, 70% Negroamaro, 20% Montepulciano, 10% Malvasia Nera, $9.99, 12.5% alc.: Another ruby dark garnet, the grapes for this were crushed and steeped for about 70 hours, and gently pressed at a controlled temperature. It then went through complete malolactic fermentation, aged in oak casks for 8 months and was fined without the use of any animal products. It’s a spicy wine, but not nearly as spicy as the Salice, with subtle sweet oak complimenting the black raspberry and licorice flavors and aromas, with just a hint of dried sour cherries lurking in the background. It is considerably bigger in body than the Salentino; it’s not too tannic, but it has plenty of acidity and a nice finish. Kim commented that these don’t taste particularly Italian, and while she may have had a point, this one is still enjoyable, especially for the price. I’d buy it again.
Vallone Wines Imported by William Grant
& Sons, Inc., Edison, NJ
Baby’s 1st Aglianicos
I’d only read about the Aglianico varietal in passing, undoubtedly on the WCWN Italian Forum, but until recently, never tasted the stuff. From the mountainous Basilicata region just west of Apuglia, known for having some of the lowest case amounts in all of Italy, D’Angelo, considered one of the top producers, also prides itself on its low yields. They must be doing something right, because we liked all 3 of their wines that we tried.
1997 D’Angelo Aglianico del Vulture, $13.99, 13% alc.: With yields of 45 hectoliters per hectare, the grapes for this smoky garnet saw an average of 8 days of maceration, followed by malolactic fermentation; it’s just showing a hint of brick, with a not-quite-raisiny earth, smoke, black cherry, licorice and dark chocolate bouquet that is generally reflected in the very dry flavors. A certain "woody" quality probably reflects the 20 months this spent in large oak barrels, and it has good tannins and acidity, and some bitterness on the finish that’s not unpleasant. A subtle perfume emerges on the nose as it opens, and it really smoothes out on the palate, with a big briary thing coming out more and more. A very nice wine, and a bargain at this price.
1995 D’Angelo "Vigna Caselle" Aglianico del Vulture Riserva, $18.99, 13% alc.: A ruby dark garnet with little if any brick, this is all about the earth, smoke, licorice, underbrush and some bitter chocolate characteristics that dominate the black cherry underneath, in both flavor and aroma. It’s very smooth on the palate, with silky tannins, good acidity and a somewhat bitter finish; once again, a subtle perfume comes out with air. A smoother, more refined version of the previous selection, one that the stat sheet says will age for 15 years; I’d certainly like to try it in another 5-10. An excellent Old World dry red wine, made from yields of 45 hectoliters per hectare from 30 year old vines, with an average of 15 days of maceration followed by malolactic fermentation and 18-24 months in large oak barrels.
1997 D’Angelo Canneto IGT Basilicata, $23.49, 13% alc.: Also from 30 year old vineyards, this slightly rusty dark garnet was produced from yields of only 35 hectoliters per hectare, with a traditional 10 days of maceration in small containers called "fermentini," followed by malolactic fermentation, 18 months in 225 liter barriques, and then 8 months in bottle. It features smoky black cherry flavors and aromas, laced with cedar, leather, licorice and a certain herbaceous aspect. The tannins aren’t obtrusive, there’s good acidity and a nice finish here, with a nice sense of maturity, even though this is nowhere near its peak. There’s some oak showing, not necessarily new, but it’s in balance with the other elements of the wine. It’s not as spicy "Italiano" as the other D’Angelos, but it’s not necessarily "International," either. A very tasty wine, and well worth the money; delicious now, and better in 3-5 years (again, the stat sheet says it has the potential to go 15 years).
D’Angelo Wines Imported by William Grant & Sons, Inc., Edison, NJ
Copyright © 2002 George Heritier