Discover Aglianico: an ancient grape thriving in the Barossa

Discover Aglianico: an ancient grape thriving in the Barossa

Have you experienced our award-winning Aglianico?

Whether you’re keen to expand your wine repertoire with a new and exotic varietal, or you’ve stumbled across a bottle of Aglianico and are downright curious, here is a handy guide about this stunning food wine and why you need to add it to your 2019 tasting list!

While Aglianico had ancient beginnings in Greece and then Italy more than 1,000 years ago, it is a variety that thrives in dry climates with generous amounts of sunshine.

This is exactly why it’s found its way to Purple Hands Wines in the beautiful Southern Barossa Valley in South Australia, and has become an award-winning member of our premium, boutique range.

Known as one of Italy’s best kept secrets, we planted the rustic, full-bodied variety in our Southern Barossa vineyard in 2011 amidst great anticipation, and our first vintage was bottled in 2015.

The origins of Aglianico

Pronounced Ah-Lee-An-Iko, the Aglianico varietal originated in Greece but today over 98% of the world’s plantings are noe in southern Italy, namely Basilicata and Campania. In actual fact, Aglianico has been grown in Campania for thousands of years and even graced tables during the Roman empire.

The grape was called Ellenico (the Italian word for ‘Greek’) until the 15th century, when it acquired its current name of Aglianico.

It is also sometimes referred to as the “Barolo of the South”, meaning it is Southern Italy’s premium grape variety.

Before phylloxera, Aglianico was one of the most widely planted varieties throughout the South of Italy. After phylloxera, the grape survived in small quantities in more or less isolated areas, principally around Rionero del Vulture in Basilicata, and also around Avellino, Benevento, Caserta and Salerno in Campania.

As we mentioned earlier, it is a grape that thrives in dry, sunny climates, which is exactly why other areas to plant Aglianico in more recent times have included California and Texas, as well as the Barossa Valley and other Australia wine regions, where just 1% of the world’s plantings exist.

Aglianico tasting notes: complex, full-bodied and intense

Wines produced from Aglianico tend to be full-bodied with firm tannins (derived from their thick skins) and high acidity, endowing them with good aging potential.

This fits beautifully with our mission here at Purple Hands Wines – to make balanced wines that can be consumed young, but also become interesting and enjoyable as they age.

After Five Wine Co.’s Aglianico is characterised by a pretty floral perfume of rose petals and Turkish delight, with lovely raspberry, blackcurrant and earthy style flavours with a “lick of liquorice” on the back end of the palate. 

As it ages, the fruit becomes more pronounced and the tannins more balanced with the rest of the wine. The trademark colouring of the wine is a deep garnet which lightens over time.

Even when grown in warmer climates, Aglianico is capable of retaining high levels of acidity, which adds to the length and persistence of flavour on the palate.

The grape has a tendency to ripen late, with harvests as late as the end of April or even early May in our Barossa Valley vineyards. If the grape is picked too early, or with excessive yields, the grape can be aggressively tannic and have ‘green’ flavours so it is important to fully ripen the grapes.

Aglianico vines generally produce a high yield of bunches, so each year we have to conduct bunch thinning where we cut and drop bunches to ensure vine balance this allowing optimal ripeness for the remaining bunches.

Perfect food pairing with Aglianico

Because of the high acidity and soft silky tannins, Aglianico begs for rich meats with high fat content to absorb the astringency. Think thick cuts of steak or luscious lamb dishes. Or, in keeping with its Italian heritage, a rich Lasagne Bolognese is just perfect!

If you’re a vegetarian, hone in on flavours such as black bean sauce, soy sauce, tempeh or dishes that welcome roasted mushrooms or lentils.

You can also enjoy it with a carefully selected cheese platter – it welcomes pairing with Pecorino, Asiago, Grana Padano, Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Provolone.

After Five Wine Co AglianicoA last note: now it’s time to taste!

For those intrigued by alternate varieties, and pursue wines that are quite different, yet excite your nose and liven your palate, Aglianico is the variety you should try.

“Along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, [Aglianico] is generally believed to be on of Italy’s three best wine grapes, but in my opinion it is far more…” – Ian D’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy

This quote sums up exactly why we were excited to bring Aglianico to the Barossa Valley and introduce more Australian wine lovers to this premium Italian variety.

It is also why we encourage you to sample our award-winning Barossa Valley Aglianico and enjoy a modern Australian take on this ancient drop. 

Have you tried Aglianico? We’d love to know your thoughts on this premium and striking red.


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