Aglianico promises to be an upcoming rock star in the world of Arizona wine, for a whole host of reasons. Unlike some other red, super tannic grapes, Aglianico seems to preserve its acidity in the harsh June summer temperatures while producing a unique and intriguing flavor profile. It also tends to bud a little later, meaning that frost pressure is reduced. There is still the risk of rot pressure in wet monsoon years, but this is pretty normal. This late ripening, however, means that it doesn’t always suffer that pressure as extensively. Aglianico is used in several blends, but there are a few single-varietal vintages floating around. The first of these we will look at is the 2014 Aglianico from Passion Cellars.
The 2014 Aglianico, on the road to Perkinsville.
The Wine: The 2014 Aglianico is actually a varietal blend of 95% Aglianico and 5% Grenache, sourced from Dragoon Vineyard near Willcox. The grapes underwent an extended maceration, and the wine was aged in French oak for 24 months. It is a rich, dark garnet red in color.
The Nose: The nose of the 2014 Aglianico is complex, sometimes dizzyingly so. Aromas of violets, Cavendish tobacco, cherries, spiced plum, smoke, and lilac intermingle with the rich earthy petrichor I associate with wines coming from Willcox.
The Palate: The 2014 Aglianico is a rustic, full-bodied red wine. The wine opens with notes of spiced plum, cedar, vanilla, dark cherry, violets, coffee, and tar, intermingling with frankincense and rich earth. There are plenty of rich, leathery tannins to be had in this vintage as well. The finish lasts for 1 minute and 20 seconds, and is filled with notes of anise, earth, tobacco, and cherry.
The Pairing: I want to pair this wine with a rack of lamb, slow cooked, smoked, using a prickly pear based glaze, with a side of rosemary-baked red potatoes. This meal will pair well with such an earthy and rustic vintage with a big load of tannins and acidity. For a vegetarian or vegan pairing, I would serve this wine with grilled portobello mushrooms with a side of artichokes and potatoes.
Impressions: I feel like the 2014 Aglianico is going to age beautifully for 10 years or more. I had originally planned on aging this bottle for a special occasion a year or so from now, to be followed by a revisit 10 years after that point so… drinking it now. Over time, I expect more floral notes to emerge on the palate and nose. If drinking now, I do strongly recommend decanting for an hour.
If you like big, bold, tannic wines, and want to try something other than a Cabernet Sauvignon, this is definitely a vintage you want to try.
Personified, if this wine was a person, it would be your aged Italian grandfather, a former chef and pipe smoker. Possibly, also, he was a deacon.
And here it is, again, at Upper Sycamore Canyon.
Bonus: Occasionally, I wrote poetry. At the time when this Aglianico was fermenting, I was undergoing a really hard time, and a late-night Aglianico punch-down inspired me to write the following poem, entitled “Willcox Nights”:
Midnight comes like a soft blanket
down on the bench,
as Orion looms
over the Dos Cabezas
like a dismembered pagan god,
splayed out upon an altar like a sacrifice
either to ward off some
unknown existential doom;
or to drive off one known to all.
As the owl calls, portending death,
I look above at the vault of heaven
while the brilliant stars above
cut into my soul like obsidian knives
slicing it into slivers of despair;
I gasp in pain in the cool fall air.
“Never again the pain of the heart,”
I mutter to the indifferent skies,
pausing momentarily while
thinking of alternate worlds
where everything was beautiful and
nothing ever caused pain.
Worlds which will never be;
that which is forever
blocked from me
as a victim of circumstances.
I unlock the door,
turning on the lights which
while the soft tones
of byzantine chant fill my ears;
prayers for a better tomorrow
as I open the bin,
top sliding onto the floor
as the rich, yeasty, purple scent
of fermenting Aglianico fills my nose–
Ripe plums, currants, cloves;
history, and hope.
I pray as I slowly push
against shocking violet skins,
sending them into
inky midnight depths
wine intermingling with teardrops
in the deep watches of the night.
It’s punch-down time for the soul,
and I push the feelings and skins
down deep, tannins seeping
into the center of my heart.
So these things go sometimes.