Italian Varietals Abound in Temecula Wine Country - Part I

The Aglianico grape

When you think of Italian wine the varietals that most likely come to mind first might be Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Super Tuscan Sangiovese and basket wines (Chianti). With over 2,000 Italian grape varietals identified, there are so many other Italian varietals that are becoming available in the United States and Temecula Wine Country is starting to take notice and plant them.

Ever heard of grape varietals such as Aglianico, Montepulciano, Vermentino, Malvasia Bianca, Arneis or Primitivo? Well, they are all now being planted as well as exist in established producing vineyards in the Temecula Valley AVA.

The new found interest in these varietals is partly due to the similar terrior of Temecula Valley to the regions that these vines thrive in Italy. Another reason for the interest in planting these varietals is that they previously were not available in the United States.

In this article we will discuss one of these newly emerging Italian varietals in Temecula Valley Wine Country. Aglianico (pronounced "ah-LY-AH-nee-koe") is a black grape grown in the Campania and Basilicata regions of Italy. The vine originated in Greece and was brought to Compania by Greek settlers. The name may be a corruption of Vitis hellenica, Latin for "Greek vine". Another etymology derives the name Aglianico from a corruption of Apulianicum, the Latin adjective which indicates the whole of southern Italy in the Roman age. In early Roman times, it was the principal grape of the famous Falernian wine which was the Roman equivalent of a First Growth. Recent research has indicated that Aglianico may be related to the Syrah grape.

Recently Aglianico has been planted in Australia and the United States, specifically in Southern California. Aglianico thrives in dry, sunny climates like that found in Temecula Valley AVA.

In 1988, Caparone Winery in the Paso Robles established the first American Aglianico planting at their San Marcos Road vineyard. They produced the first American Aglianico wine in 1992 and continue to produce Aglianico to this day.

Wines produced from Aglianico tend to be full bodied with firm tannins and high acidity, making this a wine that has aging potential. The rich flavors of the wine make it appropriate for matching with rich meats such as lamb and wonderful red-sauced pastas.

In Temecula Valley, Aglianico is available for wine tasting blended as a percentage of the dessert port-style wine available at Masia de Yabar Winery located at 39788 Camino Arroyo Seco and also as a varietal Estate wine at Cougar Vineyard & Winery located at 39870 De Portola Road. Both of these wineries reside on the De Portola Wine Trail of Temecula Wine Country. There is a well established vineyard planted on property owned by the Temecula Olive Oil Company and also planted in 2006 on the winery property of Cougar Vineyard & Winery.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery is planted in entirely Italian varietals with 2,000 of the 8,500 vines being Aglianico. We will be discussing some of these other varietals being grown by Cougar in upcoming articles about the Italian grape varietals planted in Temecula Wine Country of Southern California.