Gaglioppo, one of the most exciting categories in Italy today

Above, from left: Gaglioppo producers Francesco De Franco, Giuseppe Ippolito, yours truly, Giuseppe and Marinella Parrilla with their son Gianluca (Radici Wines Festival, Apulia, June 2011).

Reflecting on my recent experience in Apulia at the Radici Wines Festival, celebrating the indigenous grapes of Southern Italy, the grape that I can’t stop thinking about is Gaglioppo — the light-skinned, tannic red grape grown and raised as a noble wine in the appellation of Cirò, Calabria.

Above: What a thrill to get to taste with Nicodemo Librandi, one of the Gaglioppo greats and a softly spoken, gentle, knowing man.

Over the course of a week in Apulia, I got to taste a wide array of Gaglioppo bottlings, including richer and more tannic expressions (read longer maceration times) and lighter, yet equally powerful wines.

And although Aglianico del Vulture and Campania Aglianico were the true stars of the event, the wine that kept me going back for more was Galgioppo. From Librandi (the classic) to ‘A Vita by Francesco De Franco (the wine that captivated me the most), I discovered something entirely unique in the world of Italian wine today: a loosely banded however coherent group of heterogeneous winemakers who share a vision of wines that speak of and to the places where they are made and the people who make and drink them.

Above: Look at the beautiful light color in Librandi’s flagship Duca Sanfelice Gaglioppo! Man, that wine was awesome! I’ve been pouring both their Cirò rosato and bianco at Sotto in Los Angeles and I showed their classic Cirò in Atlanta at a conference where I spoke earlier this year. Fantastic wines, great value.

I would never compare apples to oranges or Nebbiolo to Gaglioppo but Gaglioppo does share a fundamental attribute with its more famous counterpart in the north: when vinified in a traditional manner, it can create that ineffable balance of lightness and power in the wine, the “unbearable lightness” I like to call it, the paradox of wine that puzzles and thrills my palate and makes me return my nose to the glass and my tongue to the wine over and over again…

Above: The 1997 Ripe del Falco by Ippolito 1845 was one of the most stunning wines I tasted all week. Still in its youth, this wine blew me away with its power balanced by subtle nuance. The nose alone was enough to inebriate my sensibility with sensuous fruit and salty earth. I loved this wine.

Of course, the festival entries represented the best of the best and those winemakers whose devotion to the authenticity of their appellation is first and foremost in their approach to winemaking and marketing of their products. But you could definitely sense a solidarity among the winemakers, who all seemed to share the same joy and smile when I sat down to taste with them… as if to say, we know how your eyes and your palate are about to light up as we share that joy with you…

For folks like me, who can no longer afford the prices of Nebbiolo bottlings that remained in our reach even 10 years ago, Galioppo represents an excellent ground-floor opportunity for modest collectors who want to cellar affordable wines.

It’s one of the categories Tracie P and I will be cellaring for Baby P’s birth-year wine. :)

Wondering how to pronounce Gaglioppo? Click here.