The Best Aglianico You Never Heard Of

Over the past few years the wines of the Campania region have begun to receive the respect and praise that is due them. Of the two Campanian reds, wines made from the aglianico grape are generally believed to be the best.

The aglianico grape is thought to have been brought to Campania by the Greeks and the name a variation of the Italian word for the Greek "ellenico". This grape is also produced in the Basilicata region, but these wines generally do not enjoy the same lofty reputation as those from Campania and command a lower price. However, I have drunk some very nice aglianicos from Basilicata.

For many years the "wine experts" postulated that only a few wineries in Campania produced wines of any note. These were found in the Taurasi area in the province of Avellino known to the locals as Irpinia. The short list included names like Mastroberardino (two wineries now as the brothers Antonio and Walter split acrimoniously and Walter started a new winery called Terredora) and Antonio Caggiano. All three of these produce excellent wines; but now other, somewhat smaller wineries are producing some excellent wines.

One worthy challenger to these heavyweights of Campania is Cantina Giardino ( located in Ariano Irpino. This small six-person grower and bottler produces both local-grape white and red wines, with a total production of less than 20,000 bottles per year.

wine label.
Photo courtesy Cantina Giardino.
One of their aglianico offerings, Nude, is as good as any of the better known producers and maybe a bit better. I first learned of this wine from one of my sons who was stationed in the Naples area as a U. S. Navy Officer. When he and his family returned to the U. S., he brought back a number of bottles and gave my wife and me several of them.

Cantina Giardino emphasizes that it uses only old vines, the youngest of which are 30 years old, and employs no clarification or filtration in their production. In fact, Nude is produced from 80- to 100-year-old vines of Aglianico d'Irpinia.

The 2003 offering that I tasted was 14.5% alcohol that after an early November harvesting was mascerated for 25 days at room temperature, then aged in barriques for 12 months, followed by another 12 months in barrels and finally 6 months in the bottles. No sulfates were added. The result was the classic aglianico leather nose, slightly fruity taste and smooth finish. This is an excellent wine for pasta or red meat dishes. Since everyone today wants a number rating, I would give Nude a 93.

Most of the wineries that I write about are ones that I have visited. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to visit Cantina Giardino but I hope to do so when I next visit the Campania region. Then I will taste their seven other offerings and write what will probably be a glowing report about an excellent small winery.

In the US, Cantina Giardino is represented by Louis Dressner (

August 2010

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