Had an interesting tasting lunch today. Ben Smith from Bibendum invited me to join him, Vittorio Zoppi (export director of Bisceglia, http://www.agricolabisceglia.com/) and Marco Sabellico (editor at large with Gambero Rosso, http://www.gamberorosso.it/, pictured below) for an informal meal at a Greek restaurant in Primrose Hill, washed down with some Aglianico.
Marco was over to present a masterclass on Aglianico, a grape that is pretty much unknown outside Italy, with the help of the wines from Bisceglia, a go-ahead producer who specializes in the variety. In Italy, Aglianico has a fantastic reputation as the Nebbiolo of the South, although most of it is consumed locally in the southern province of Basilicata, where it comes from. Interestingly, Bascilicata is the only province with a left wing local government, and Vittorio added that it was 'almost free' of the influence of the mafia.
Bisceglia see their role as putting Aglianico back on the map, and based on the tasting I think they might just do it. But what would be really great is if they could gang together with perhaps half a dozen like-minded producers of Aglianico and present a united front. Maybe they could do a press tasting in London, telling the story of this interesting grape variety.
The wines had a modern sheen, with nice purity of fruit, but at their core was an authentic-tasting spine of spicy, slightly earthy tannic structure. It would be unfair to call them rustic, because they are not, but I do like the dense, savoury, spicy character this grape seems to possess. My favourite was the Bisceglia Gudarra Aglianico del Vulture 2005, but it was given a good run for its money by the traditional, ageworthy Riserva 2001. The wines are available in the UK from Bibendum (http://www.bibendum-wine.co.uk/).