Magliocco: Italian Grape Name & Appellation Project

Here’s the link for previous entries in the Italian Grape Name & Appellation Pronunciation Project.

When I first launched the Italian Grape Name & Appellation Pronunciation Project I wanted to give a voice to Italian winemakers by creating a public platform where they could “speak” their grapes. The pronunciation of their grape names — their ampelonyms — can often prove challenging for Anglophones.

But as the project expands, I’m including a “layperson” of wine in this entry.

My friend Giovanni Gagliardi is not a winemaker: he’s what I call a “cultural entrepreneur” of Italian wine. A native of Calabria, he curates a website devoted to the wines of Calabria ( and he travels the country attending and speaking at all sorts of wine festivals (that’s how we met).

But most of all I wanted to include him because he is a simpaticone (see photo taken from his Facebook below).

In this week’s entry, Giovanni speaks “Magliocco,” a grape that we’ve seen very little of in the U.S. but that is making new inroads here.

Where Cirò is known for its Gaglioppo, the winemakers of Cosenza view Magliocco as the greatest indigenous expression of their enologic landscape.

In the U.S., I’ve tasted superb bottlings of Magliocco, including wines by Terra di Balbia (by my good friend Giampaolo Venica) and Librandi. And there are more and more wines making it here.

Magliocco (also called Magliocco Canino, Magliocco Ovale, and Magliuacculu) is a tannic grape with a wonderful roundness to it (when vinified monovarietally), good dark red fruit, and healthy acidity. The Terra di Balbia Magliocco is one of the best selling wines by the glass at Sotto in Los Angeles (where I author the wine list).

Thanks for speaking Italan grapes!

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.

Soylent Merlot: the Montalcino Syndrome infects Calabria

It’s the year 2010… People are still the same. They’ll do anything to get what they need. And they need MERLOT.

I couldn’t help but think of the classic horror movie Soylent Green (1973) when a desperate plea appeared in my feed this morning.

Yesterday, the authors of the blog In Difesa dell’Identità del Vino Cirò (In Defense of the Identity of Cirò) posted an open letter to the Italian Association of Enologists* asking them to examine the absurdity of what’s happening on the ground in their appellation in Cirò and Cirò Marina, Calabria (the letter was reposted today by one of Italy’s top wine blogs Esalazioni Etiliche and Mr. Franco Ziliani and I posted about it at VinoWire today as well).

Essentially, this is what has happened… Back in the summer of 2009, before EU reforms came into effect, a relatively small group of commercial producers in Cirò got together and rewrote appellation regulations to allow Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for the first time in Cirò. Calling themselves the “Consortium of Cirò producers,” they submitted their changes to the Italian government, even though their group did not include the flagship producer Librandi, nor the majority of Cirò producers. As a result, today, the EU is considering said change in the appellation even though it was proposed by a minority of greedy, commercial producers.

Mr. Franco Ziliani said it best when he first posted on what was happening there back in June 2009, calling it the “Montalcino Syndrome.” The parallels are crystal clear: a small group of large, industrial wine producers are lobbying (successfully) to eclipse their smaller competitors who not only play by the rules but actually care about the people, place, and grapes that go into their wines. (Remember what Baldo said in the Brunello debate in October 2008? Italian appellation regulations are intended to protect the territory, not the consumer.)

It’s unlikely that the blog and accompanying petition will stop the changes from being approved by Brussels. As a result of the amendment, commercial producers will pump up their Gaglioppo with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (easier and cheaper to grow) and the wines… well, we already know what the wines will taste like… Soylent Green, anyone?

Here in Texas, btw, we eat Soylent Greens accompanied by Charro beans and hot sauce.

*I’m not linking to the Association website because it requires that you download the latest version of Flash to view it.

Pasta in bianco and a Calabrian white (and the story behind Pearl lager)


Above: “Pasta in bianco,” literally “pasta in white,” one of my favorite things to eat. Pasta dressed simply with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and chili flakes.

In the wake of holiday feasting and the unusually cold weather here in Texas (making it all the more challenging to head to the gym!), Tracie B and I have been indulging lately in one of our not-so-guilty pleasures: pasta in bianco, literally, pasta [dressed] in white.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then add a heaping handful of kosher salt (“enough to make it taste like seawater,” is the way Tracie B likes to put it). Cook a short or long pasta to the desired firmness (some like it more al dente than others). And then toss with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and chili flakes (if desired). Sometimes I’ll throw some finely chopped flatleaf parsley in as well.

After bread and wine, pasta in bianco (which can also be made using butter in the place of olive oil), is one of G-d’s true gifts to humankind. And it’s also one of the most healthy things you can eat. South Beach diet? Atkins diet? Hogwash! If you want to slim down or just stay trim, avoid protein and meat. Eat easy-to-digest starches dressed with the “good fat” of olive oil. When I first lived in Italy (more than 20 years ago) and pasta and rice became the central ingredient of my diet, my health (and life) changed radically for the better.


Above: Librandi is a high-volume winery in Calabria that makes well-priced food-friendly wines. They’re highly affordable, clean, and delicious. Calabrian and Apulian wine represent some of the greatest value in the market today.

I got a lot of feedback from yesterday’s post on the Calabria riots.

Last night, with Calabria on our minds, we opened a beautiful wine from Calabria that we love, Cirò Bianco: Calabrian Greco vinified in stainless-steel by Librandi. Bright (but not tongue-splitting) acidity, balanced minerality, and low alcohol (and a more-than-reasonable price) made this wine an ideal pairing for our pasta in bianco.

In other news (from the “recommended reading” department)…

doug sahm

Eric did a wonderful post yesterday poking fun at the fine art of pairing fine with junk food, The Match Game.

His recommended pairing for Mrs. B’s Chex Mix was Pearl lager.

I imagine Eric knows the famous beer of San Antonio from his days as a grad student at University of Texas at Austin.

That’s San Antonio and Austin music legend Doug Sahm with a can of Pearl in the photo left (courtesy of Pogzilla via IWG). (I’m sure you know Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan as icons of the Texas music scene but locally, Doug Sahm is considered its über-hero.) The Pearl Brewery is in the midst of a veritable renaissance these days: the facility itself and the adjacent retail and restaurant complex has become one of the top food and wine destinations in Central Texas. Definitely worth checking out…

Thanks for reading! Ya’ll come back now!