Friday, August 3, 2018

Italian Grapes in Paso Robles: Aglianico, Malvasia Bianca, and Some Pairings #ItalianFWT

This month, for our Italian Food Wine Travel group, Jennifer of Vino Travels is hosting us as we explore Italian grapes used outside of Italy. If you're reading this early enough, join us this Saturday August 4th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT and chat about Italian grapes from around the world.  Here's her preview.

The Line-Up

When I started my search for Italian grapes used outside of Italy, I wanted to find some lesser known grapes. Obviously I could uncork a Sangiovese, but that didn't feel very adventurous. Several California vintners work with Nebbiolo and a few with Barolo, but I wanted to find something more local to me. So, I hunted around until I found an Aglianico and a Malvasia Bianca from just down the coast in Paso Robles.

I ended up pairing both of these wines with fish and they were fantastic matches. I haven't had a chance to finish both recipes posts. So, check back on those. But I will share my thoughts on both wines.

2016 Field Theory Aglianico
Paso Robles, California

Aglianico is indigenous to the Italian regions of Campania and Basilicata. I have paired it once before for the Aglianico Shootout in March. But that wine was made in Campania. The varietal also goes by Aglianico Del Vulture, Aglianico, or Taurasi and has different characteristics in the different wine-making regions. While the wines from Campania tend to have more earthy tones, the ones from Basilicata are more fruit-forward.

I think that Aglianico shares some of my favorite characteristics of Barolo - think violets, anise, and truffles. It's rustic, earthy, and tannic. And this bold, native-fermented version is gorgeous with notes of cherry and pepper.

Field Theory often showcases unfamiliar varietals and this is a quintessential example. Handpicked from the Pomar Junction Vineyard, these late ripening grapes were crushed, destemmed, and fermented only with native yeast. After pressing, it was aged in neutral French oak for nine months. The resulting wine is highly structured with an understated ferocity.

I loved it and I paired it with some brown butter-braised trout with caramelized shallots during our annual family camping trip. My boys caught that fish! But I think it would pair just as well with your favorite pizza or a simple pasta with red sauce.

2017 Loves Me Not Malvasia Bianca
Paso Robles, California

I have only paired Malvasia once before when we explore the Orange Wines of Italy. This time, it's less orange and more white with the Malvasia Bianca. While the varietal is almost ubiquitous in Italy, the highly aromatic, floral Malvasia Bianca grape is a relative unknown in the United States. And, when you do find it, it's often included in a blend. So, I was tickled to find it in a single varietal made in Paso.

This smelled much sweeter than it is and I almost regretted serving it with dinner instead of as a dessert wine. But, it ended up with a medium-sweetness tempered with some hearty oak notes in the middle. And, thankfully, there is some acidity and weight on the palate which made it a good match for a savory application.

I paired this with Sand Dabs En Papillote though I can see it pairing well with a Thai feast or even sushi.

Looking forward to next month's #ItalianFWT adventures as we approach Favorite Fall Italian Reds. Can you say 'Barolo'? Okay, maybe that's just my favorite.


  1. I visited the central coast a lot in the 90s/early 2000s when my mom lived in San Luis Obispo. I explored the wine areas around there extensively but don't recall anyone making wines with Aglianico or Malvasia Bianca so I'm happy to read about your choices. As always, your food rocks Cam!

  2. Nice work, Cam! I wouldn't have guessed Aglianico with the trout, were they lake trout? Anyway, I'll be the brown butter had a good influence in the pairing. Nice!

  3. I love the trout in brown butter, cooked up in an old-fashioned iron skillet. That's just how my grandmother prepared the fish my grandfather brought home from his fishing trips. So delicious!

  4. I'm surprised the aglianico didnt overpower the fish? Looks like you found 2 great grapes outside Italy to try. I love aglianico!