Aglianico is the great grape of Italy’s south — it is, in fact, one of the greatest grapes in all of Italy. And Aglianico del Vulture is one of the variety’s most famous appellations.

The name refers to the ancient Vulture volcano in northern Basilicata. Although the volcano has been dormant for 40,000 years, its influence lives on in the lava soils that surround it and inform the vineyards that produce the exquisite mineral-driven red wines of the Aglianico del Vulture denomination.

is a good wine you can actually find.

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One of them is the outstanding 2020 Aglianico del Vulture “Siir” from the San Martino winery. This is one of the more exciting Italian reds you’ll find in the $20-or-so range, which, perhaps because of inflation, has become the new benchmark price point for quality “inexpensive” wines. Sadly, the days of the $15 standouts have largely passed.

San Martino farms about 15 acres of vines in the hills just a few miles from Monte Vulture, where owner and winemaker Lorenzo Piccin uses organic methods and relies on indigenous yeasts for fermentation of the grapes used in “Siir” and his two other Aglianico offerings. (Siir translates to “father” or “owner” in the local dialect.)

The wine, which is aged for a year in medium-sized, previously used barrels and larger “botti,” shows a perfect balance of concentrated fruit, minerality, subtle oak, and lively acidity. Red berry notes of crushed cherry and raspberry give way to darker fruit and a touch of cedar as the wine opens up. Aglianico is known for its aggressive tannins, but this one is not overly so.

It was a refreshing companion to a pasta sauce of tomatoes and eggplant sprinkled with grated fresh ricotta. Other possibilities range from grilled pork chops to pizza for this delicious and versatile wine.

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