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Great Wine: Tenuta del Portale Aglianico


Lots of folks in the wine industry are placing bets on what may be the next breakout star of wine. The 21st century has been good for distributors wanting to expand their books beyond Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. In the mid-2000s we had the breakout of Pinot Noir thanks to Sideways, as well as the rise of Argentinean Malbec around the same time, thanks to the wine’s low price point in relation to enjoyability (even if quality was questionable). More recently, we’ve seen a huge uptrend in Prosecco and Moscato in tandem with the popularity of the mixology culture and the EDM club craze. And, c’mon, the current exuberance for Rosé is unbelievable. And look out, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is taking off like a rocket to Mars. 

So, what’s next? Depends on who you poll. There’s a big push for Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Somms are nuts for Chinon from the Loire Valley of France, and others say that Cabernet Franc from America is due. Wines from Israel finally made the cover of Wine Spectator. There’s many of us hoping that everyone will catch on to the resurgence of wines, red and white, from Australia. But if you’re into making the wild bet, you know, the 75-1 odds outlier that sometimes actually pays out, I’ve got my money on Aglianico. 

First of all, Aglianico [/ah-lee-ah-nee-ko/] sounds kinda cool. Second of all, it’s Italian—everyone’s into Italian. And, considering the spotty quality of Chianti of late, who wears the crown for widely made, affordable Italian red wine is vulnerable to being usurped. As Exhibit One, I present TENUTA DEL PORTALE Aglianico del Vulture. The 2012 bottling, at 15 bucks, and given enough time to breathe (decant for one hour) is packed with flavor and power. Dry and structured, with plenty of stony minerality, it’s loaded with character. Something about the wine stays with you—like a character actor who sticks in the memory after the show’s over . . . Steve Buscemi, Paul Giamatti, Stanley Tucci. This Aglianico is a volcanic mix of dark cherry, violets, white pepper and tar notes. You want this with that plate of antipasto salad and Mediterranean olives steeped in extra-virgin olive oil. 

Aglianico comes in many forms and styles. There’s more expensive bottlings that might convince you the grape is as noble as Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s mid-priced bottlings that are racy and voluptuous. And in the much-desired under-$20 category, right now, I’ll take a flyer on an affordable Aglianico over a cheap Chianti any day of the week. Give it a try. Aglianico is ready for a breakout role on everyone’s table.  –J.M.


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January 15, 2017


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