As Bocconi students walked to lectures on March 1st, cold air hit their faces and snowflakes covered their hair. Luckily, Bwine and Viola Enoteca offered the opportunity to get away from the cold and to join a land of sun by tasting some of Southern Italy’s most unique wines.
The evening started with Giorgio, the owner, who explained how the wines we would be tasting were some examples of Italy’s unparalleled biodiversity. With more than 1200 types of wine grapes present exclusively on the peninsula, Italy boasts one of the highest numbers of native varieties and with almost 30’000 wines made from these grapes, Italy is truly unrivalled in the field.
The first wine we tasted was the Janare Lùcchero Aglianico DOP by La Guardiense. Aglianico, which gather together around 30 very similar grape varieties. It has over than 2500 years of history with its origins likely to be found in Greece. For the last 1000 years however, Aglianico production has been based chiefly in Italy’s Campania region, with some production also taking place in the Lucania area, to the south of Campania.
Aglianico is mainly characterized by three things: tannicity, acidity (or freshness), and moderately high alcohol. These characteristics provide it with great ageing potential. Indeed, many Aglianico wines require a few years of ageing before being approachable, due to the high tannicity. Overall, Aglianico presents itself as a strong and rich wine, with a deep garnet red coloring. With its complex olfactory sensations, it is a wine to be combined with structured dishes.
The second wine is the Salice Salentino Riserva by Produttori Vini Manduria, from Apulia. It is a very recent addition to connoisseur’s cellars. The heel of Italy’s boot, Apulia has produced wine for a long time, but its uniqueness was only discovered 40 years ago. Thanks to subsequent quality improvements, today the region’s wines are winning a lot of prestigious awards.
Salice Salentino is made mostly by the Negroamaro grape, which gives the wine a deep dark color and provides it with a strong, slightly bitter and very tannic flavor. To balance these qualities Malvasia Nera grape is also added to Salice Salentino up to 20 percent with the result of softening the wine significantly, reducing its tannicity and lightening the color. Together, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera produce a wine that is very complex, structured and velvety. In Giorgio’s own words the Salice Salentino Riserva is “a very amusing wine”.
The last wine of the evening allowed us to taste the sun as literally as possible. The name of the producer of Furioso is “Assuli”, which means “in the sun” in Sicilian dialect. The sun is not the only thing that makes Furioso special though, it is made by the Perricone grape, which was almost extinct until few years ago. Widespread throughout Sicily in the nineteenth century, Perricone production had ceased almost completely twenty years ago. We can enjoy today the fruits of a relatively robust Perricone production only thanks to the decision of ten producers to reinvest in this rare grape. The result of this revival is a structured, dense and vigorous wine, which presents itself with a strong ruby color and greets the taster with complex olfactory sensations and a pronounced spiciness.
Italy’s unique biodiversity and great winemaking skills made the Aglianico, Salice Salentino and Perricone a true joy to taste. Yet it wasn’t only their quality that made them so enjoyable. On a cold winter evening, these wines took us to places where we could feel the warming touch of the sun. We’ll be happy to return.