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  Wine Tasting Issue 137, February 2015   
Contrasts of Aglianico and MerlotContrasts of Aglianico and Merlot Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 136, January 2015 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 138, March 2015

Contrasts of Aglianico and Merlot

The red grape making Campania and Basilicata great - Aglianico - compared to the most celebrated red variety of France: Merlot.

 This month we are going to compare two grapes very different one from each other and not only according to a geographic point of view. Aglianico and Merlot are in fact the two varieties we are about to compare, with the main goal of revealing the remarkable differences in order to understand their respective characteristics. The first grape is famous for having made great the enology of Campania and Basilicata, considered by many as the Nebbiolo of South Italy, it makes wines of remarkable character, most of the times dividing wine lovers. The second grape is famous all over the world and it is virtually found in every wine country, among the many varieties that from France have conquered our planet. In its home land - Bordeaux - Merlot has proved its remarkable versatility alone as well as blended to other varieties, a characteristic it proved in other countries as well, including Italy and Aglianico. Its spreading is such that it is hard to find in the world a red berried variety which was not blended to Merlot in wine making.


 

 Expressing totally different characters, even opposed, the two varieties have very little in common, except for red color, of course. Aglianico is a variety dividing wine lovers: some love it for its particular and robust character, others do not like it both for this reason and for the fact they consider it to be somewhat “rustic”. Merlot has a successful past of protagonist and is considered a miracle variety: it has been frequently used in order to “improve” wines having pretty particular characteristics and it literally charmed many wine lovers because of its famous roundness. This characteristic has also been the reason which caused - in recent times - a sort of change in trends, by many considered too strong and, as such, blamed for having standardized the taste of wine in which Merlot was used. On this regard, Aglianico was no exception and it has been blended to Merlot and, despite this did not happen that much, the meeting with the French red gave pretty interesting results.

 The main areas of Aglianico undeniably are Campania and Basilicata: here the famous red berried variety of South Italy reaches its best expressions and it is widely common. A good spreading is also found in Apulia and Molise, it is then found, in marginal measure, also in other regions of Central and South Italy. The most famous wines produced with Aglianico certainly are Taurasi - in province of Avellino, Campania - and Aglianico del Vulture, produced in the area having the same name of Basilicata. The region in which are found the most varied expressions of Aglianico is Campania, in particular in the areas of Benevento, Avellino and Salerno. Thanks to the expression of Vulture, Aglianico has proved to have an excellent wine making versatility, capable of making white wines - by removing skins from the must before vinification - sparkling, rose, red and even sweet wines.

 It is believed Aglianico was introduced to Italy by ancient Greeks in the seventh century BC, here it became known with the name ellenico, and then became, in fifteenth century - because of the Aragonese dominion in those lands and of Spanish language - Aglianico. It probably is the linguistic adaptation of “ellenico” in Spanish language, in particular how they pronounce the double “l”. A robust grape, having a good crispness, Aglianico makes wines of remarkable body and a pretty strong character, a condition which is usually mitigated by alcohol, aging in wood and time. The most common and produced style is of course the dry red, a style which allowed Aglianico to prove all of its strength and character. According to a wine making and sensorial point of view, Aglianico has also proved to have a very good enological versatility, from the use of inert containers to wood barrels.

 Originating from lands so far away from those of Aglianico, Merlot is one of the most famous and successful varieties of the wine scene. It traveled from France and conquered the vineyards all over the world, Merlot - together with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc - makes the so called Bordeaux blend, once including Petit Verdot and Malbec as well. Known everywhere in the world for its round and smooth character, Merlot has got the appreciation of wine lovers as well as the disregard of others, because of its characteristic of standardizing the taste of certain wines. This charge is in part true and - it must be said - it is the result of the abuse some made of this variety, despite this famous grape from Bordeaux is capable of making wines of extraordinary greatness and class. Its characteristic roundness however made it popular all over the world, used in wines easily meeting the taste of countless consumers.


The color of a wine made from
Aglianico grape: moderate transparency and intense ruby red.
The color of a wine made from Aglianico grape: moderate transparency and intense ruby red.

 Merlot has been capable of proving its greatness also in territories distant from its homeland, however it is Bordeaux to represent the main wine model for this variety. The evident roundness of Merlot is in fact useful in smoothing the power and strength of Cabernet Sauvignon, while noticing this variety is however excellent when vinified alone and capable of expressing wines of absolute value. Having a good body, Merlot is used in the world to smooth the harshness of some varieties and, at the same time, increase the body, a role Merlot virtually plays in every wine country of the world. Moreover, thanks to its characteristics, Merlot is particularly suited to the fermentation and aging in wood, in particular with the Bordelaise barrique, joining its organoleptic character to the one of wood.

 Our tasting by contrast of Aglianico and Merlot will examine two wines produced with the very same wine making techniques, in order to ensure - as much as possible - the same tertiary organoleptic conditions. This is a fundamental consideration because the two varieties are usually vinified in cask or barrique, containers greatly influencing the characteristics of wine in different ways. As for the place of origin of the two wines, choosing Aglianico is clearly easier than Merlot, the latter widely spread everywhere and with different interpretations. While noticing every territory gives the wine its specific qualities, as well as influencing the expression of grapes, the main characteristics of the varieties will however be well perceptible. Another consideration is about the vintage of the two wines, which will possibly be the same for both and however with at least three years of aging.

 Let's start the evaluation of the two wines from the first phase of wine sensorial tasting: appearance. Of the three phases making the sensorial tasting of wine, this one gives the least number of contrasting elements and the analogies are evident. In general terms, Aglianico and Merlot show the same characteristics. By observing the glass at its base, it will in fact be noticed in both wines an intense and deep ruby red color. By tilting the glass, it will be observed the wine at its edge: the differences are not many if not absent; nuances of ruby or garnet red, according to the age of the wines. Transparency is virtually the same both in Aglianico and Merlot, however it should be noticed that, in certain cases, the famous red from Bordeaux can show a lower transparency. In other cases, and according to viticultural and wine making techniques, Aglianico can show a lower transparency than Merlot.

 Let's now pass to the evaluation of olfactory profiles of the two wines, an examination emphasizing the differences of the two grapes in their expression of aromas. The two wines are quite different to the nose, despite they share many olfactory characteristics, Aglianico and Merlot - in their aromas - are however distant in many aspects. Both share the richness of aromas recalling black berried fruits, sometimes red ones, however the quality and intensity of what can be perceived to the nose is evidently different. In the olfactory profile of the two wines can also be perceived flowers, as well as tertiary qualities developing according to the wine making techniques used for production. On this regard, it should be noticed the vinification of Aglianico is made both in barrique and cask, whereas the container generally used for Merlot is barrique, by following the Bordelaise school.

 Let's start the olfactory evaluation from Aglianico. By keeping the glass in vertical position and without swirling, the opening offers to the nose intense and clean aromas of black cherry, blackberry and plum. Swirling the glass will allow Aglianico to express sensations of violet and blueberry. Moreover, it will be noticed a pretty rustic character, an absolutely typical characteristic of Aglianico and frequently dividing wine lovers, as not all of them appreciate this aspect of the great grape from South Italy. Merlot expresses a series of aromas which can be considered more linear, in which are clearly recognized black currant, black cherry and plum. By swirling the glass, it will be perceived the aromas of blueberry and violet, sometimes peony and iris as well. It should be noticed that, although this is a quality usually avoided in wines, Merlot cultivated in particularly cold areas, can sometimes express a vegetal or herbaceous aroma, mainly recalling green bell pepper.

 Differences gets more evident during the gustatory evaluation of the two wines. The character expressed by Aglianico and Merlot can be considered, in many aspects, opposed and distant. Aglianico is characterized by a vibrant crispness, something reinforcing astringency, while keeping its balance thanks to alcohol and roundness given by the aging in cask. Aglianico does not lose its characteristic crispness despite time can sometime make this quality milder. On the other hand, Merlot expresses a roundness and smoothness distant from what can be perceived in Aglianico, while expressing a good body and an appreciable astringency, usually given by barrique. In both wines will be noticed the role played by alcohol in balance, usually found in significant quantity both in Aglianico and Merlot.

 The final phase of sensorial tasting continues to emphasize the differences of the two varieties. The finish of Aglianico is characterized by its typical crispness and structure, while allowing the perception of blackberry and black cherry. Merlot has a completely different finish, making of its well known roundness the main quality to be perceived after having swallowed the wine. It will also be perceived flavors of black currant and black cherry, as well as a moderate sensation of astringency, far lower than Aglianico. Varieties usually giving good quality products, wines produced with these two grapes express a good persistence and correspondence to the nose. However, they are wines different in many regards and expressing distinct qualities, one characterized by crispness and power, the other by a roundness which can also be supported by power. Nevertheless, two magnificent varieties, capable of giving great wines, controversial for some, excellent wine interpreters for others.

 






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  Wine Tasting Issue 137, February 2015   
Contrasts of Aglianico and MerlotContrasts of Aglianico and Merlot Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 136, January 2015 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 138, March 2015

Wines of the Month


 

Score legend

Fair    Pretty Good    Good
Very Good    Excellent
Wine that excels in its category Wine that excels in its category
Good value wine Good value wine
Prices are to be considered as indicative. Prices may vary according to the country
or the shop where wines are bought




Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio 2013, Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (Marches, Italy)
Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio 2013
Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (Marches, Italy)
Pecorino
Price: € 10.60 Score:

Intense greenish yellow and nuances of greenish yellow, very transparent.
Intense, clean, pleasing and refined, starts with hints of plum, apple and broom followed by aromas of pear, jasmine, hazelnut, peach, pineapple, hawthorn and mineral.
Crisp attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of apple, plum and peach.
4 months in steel tanks, 6 months in bottle.
Pasta with fish, Mushroom soups, Sauteed white meat, Sauteed fish, Fried fish



Offida Rosso Il Grifone 2008, Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (Marches, Italy)
Offida Rosso Il Grifone 2008
Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (Marches, Italy)
Montepulciano (70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%)
Price: € 19.00 Score:

Deep ruby red and nuances of garnet red, little transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of black cherry, plum and black currant followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, blackberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, toffee, graphite, licorice, leather, mace and eucalyptus.
Tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Very persistent finish with long flavors of black cherry, plum and black currant.
32 months in cask, at least 12 months in bottle.
Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Langhe Freisa La Foia 2012, Curto Marco (Piedmont, Italy)
Langhe Freisa La Foia 2012
Curto Marco (Piedmont, Italy)
Freisa
Price: € 14.00 Score:

Intense ruby red and nuances of ruby red, little transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing and refined, starts with hints of black cherry, plum and blueberry followed by aromas of violet, strawberry, raspberry, carob, vanilla and menthol.
Properly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of cherry, plum and strawberry.
Aged in barrique.
Cold cuts, Stuffed pasta with mushrooms, Stewed meat with mushrooms, Roasted meat



Barolo Arborina La Foia 2010, Curto Marco (Piedmont, Italy)
Barolo Arborina La Foia 2010
Curto Marco (Piedmont, Italy)
Nebbiolo
Price: € 38.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category

Brilliant ruby red and nuances of brick red, moderate transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of cherry, plum and raspberry followed by aromas of violet, tobacco, rose, chocolate, pink pepper, cinnamon, mace, vanilla and menthol.
Tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness.
Persistent finish with flavors of cherry, plum and raspberry.
2 years in barrique.
Game, Stewed and braised meat, Roasted meat, Hard cheese



Langhe Rosso Pian del Lupo 2008, Casavecchia Marco (Piedmont, Italy)
Langhe Rosso Pian del Lupo 2008
Casavecchia Marco (Piedmont, Italy)
Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Price: € 10.50 Score:

Intense ruby red and nuances of garnet red, little transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing and refined, starts with hints of black cherry, plum and black currant followed by aromas of dried violet, blueberry, tobacco, vanilla, cocoa, mace, licorice and menthol.
Properly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of black cherry, plum and black currant.
14 months in barrique, at least 12 months in bottle.
Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat with mushrooms, Hard cheese



Barolo Piantà 2007, Casavecchia Marco (Piedmont, Italy)
Barolo Piantà 2007
Casavecchia Marco (Piedmont, Italy)
Nebbiolo
Price: € 21.50 Score: Wine that excels in its category

Brilliant ruby red and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of plum, cherry and violet followed by aromas of blueberry, dried rose, cocoa, licorice, vanilla, cinnamon, mace, tobacco, leather and menthol.
Tannic attack and however balance by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of plum, cherry and blueberry.
2 years in cask, at least 18 months in bottle.
Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Chianti Classico 2010, Podere l'Aja (Tuscany, Italy)
Chianti Classico 2010
Podere l'Aja (Tuscany, Italy)
Sangiovese (95%), Canaiolo Nero, Colorino (5%)
Price: € 8.90 Score:

Intense ruby red and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing and refined, starts with hints of black cherry, plum and dried violet followed by aromas of blueberry, raspberry, tobacco, vanilla, chocolate and menthol.
Properly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness.
Persistent finish with flavors of black cherry, plum and blueberry.
12 months in cask.
Broiled meat and barbecue, Stewed meat, Hard cheese



Chianti Classico Riserva 2009, Podere l'Aja (Tuscany, Italy)
Chianti Classico Riserva 2009
Podere l'Aja (Tuscany, Italy)
Sangiovese (90%), Merlot (5%), Canaiolo Nero, Colorino (5%)
Price: € 12.90 Score:

Brilliant ruby red and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing and refined, starts with hints of black cherry, plum and dried violet followed by aromas of blueberry, blackberry, chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, cinnamon and menthol.
Properly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of black cherry, plum and blueberry.
24 months in cask.
Broiled meat and barbecue, Roasted meat, Stewed meat with mushrooms, Hard cheese



Trebbiano Spoletino 2013, Antonelli San Marco (Umbria, Italy)
Trebbiano Spoletino 2013
Antonelli San Marco (Umbria, Italy)
Trebbiano Spoletino
Price: € 12.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category

Intense straw yellow and nuances of straw yellow, very transparent.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of apple, citrus fruits and plum followed by aromas of pear, medlar, pineapple, broom, hawthorn, peach, grapefruit, mineral and hints of vanilla.
Crisp attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Persistent finish with flavors of apple, plum and medlar.
9 months in cask, 3 months in bottle.
Cold cuts, Pasta with meat, Roasted fish, Sauteed white meat



Montefalco Sagrantino Chiusa di Pannone 2008, Antonelli San Marco (Umbria, Italy)
Montefalco Sagrantino Chiusa di Pannone 2008
Antonelli San Marco (Umbria, Italy)
Sagrantino
Price: € 37.00 Score:

Intense ruby red and nuances of garnet red, little transparency.
Intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant, starts with hints of blackberry, black cherry and plum followed by aromas of blueberry, violet, chocolate, tobacco, leather, cinnamon, licorice, mace, vanilla and menthol.
Tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable.
Very persistent finish with long flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry.
21 months in cask, 3 months in cement tanks, 2 years in bottle.
Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese






 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 137, February 2015   
Contrasts of Aglianico and MerlotContrasts of Aglianico and Merlot Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
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