STORY: “It’s a family secret,” she said, taking another sip of the Pandiani Aglianico. “It’s also the story of this wine, and explains why a family from northern Italy has its name on a red wine from southern Italy, from Sicily. My cousin Filippo would never tell you, but the Pandiani family has some royal blood flowing in its veins. Let me explain…..
The story of Pandiani Aglianico begins in the mists of time, with the ancient Greeks, and spans Italy from south to north, Turin in fact, the home of the Italian royal family, the House of Savoy, the world's oldest and longest reigning dynasty. Turin is also the ancestral home of the Pandiani family, were who members of the court of Turin – but I’m getting ahead of my story.
When the Greeks began to settle in southern Italy and Sicily in the 8th century BC, they brought wine-making with them, planting several varieties of grapes, including the black-skinned red grape that has come to be known as Aglianico. The origins of the name are now lost to history, although one theory is that it is derived from the Latin word for Greece, Hellenica.
The wines of Sicily, of course, have been renowned for thousands of years, and sought after by Popes, Dukes, and Kings. They came to be associated with the House of Savoy and Turin when, in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht rewarded with Vittorio Amedeo II, Duke of Savoy, new lands and a Crown in Sicily. He was now a King.
Family history says King Vittorio sent a member of the Pandiani family, Patrizio, known for his taste in wine, to Sicily to select and oversee bringing wines back to the royal court. Patrizio took his younger brother Patrizio with him. One can imagine that the royal family was delighted to now enjoy the same exceptional wines as the Pope, these southern Italian wines so different from those of northern Italy - “the sunlight of Sicily and the fires of Mt. Etna,” captured in a bottle – deep dark red, warm, intense, and smooth. And so the Pandiani family not only enjoyed the wines of Sicily at court dinners, they had some in their own cellars as well.
But that’s not the secret…. You know how royal courts were in those days… full of intrigue…. His royale highness Vittorio, it seems, was enchanted by another member of the Pandiani household, a lovely young lady from Palermo, married to Patrizio’s younger brother, Anacleto. He had met her on the visit to Sicily with his older brother. Her name was Valentina, and she was a gifted writer of poetry. We can imagine her entertaining the royal court at salons, as was the custom in those days, with readings, and perhaps even having private audiences with the King.
Did Vittorio and Valentina become lovers, sharing Aglianico wine and poetry? We think its very possible. Of course, she would have concealed that from Anacleto, or if he suspected, he would not have admitted it. Anacleto and Valentina had 10 children, and the secret oral history passed down through the generations of Pandiani women says at least one of the sons was of royal blood…. “
So its only fitting perhaps, that this Pandiani Aglianico carries on this tradition - the marriage of north and south – the Aglianico wine from Sicily under the name of a family of the royal court of Turin.
DESCRIPTION: Originally from Greece and an early Roman favorite, the Aglianico grape was planted as early as the seventh century B.C. in southern Italy. Since the Aglianico vine prefers dry, warm conditions, it has been introduced to Sicily from the Basilicata area on mainland Italy by a few select vintners, with outstanding results.
Pandiani Aglianico is produced in southeastern Sicily, near the “Valley of the Temples,” and the ancient town of Agrigento, founded as Akragas around 582 BC, which the Greek poet Pindar described as "the most beautiful city of the mortals."
It is made using only steel tanks, which preserves the fruity bouquet and the purity of the flavors of the Aglianico grapes, and then aged for 6 months in the bottle. Ready to enjoy 12 to 24 months after vintage, this is a remarkable and easy to enjoy wine.
TASTE: This dark red wine has a remarkable bouquet of dark wild berries. The flavor is smooth and luscious – dark berries and cherries, with spicy black currant, exotic spice and licorice notes, and hints of chocolate and plums. Pandiani Aglianico is a stylish, intriguing young red, with fine tannins and a ripe balanced finish, complex and structured. It can be enjoyed a mere half an hour after opening.
FOOD MATCHING: Pandiani Aglianico is the perfect wine to serve with the Mediterranean dishes and the cuisine of the island of sunlight and fire - pasta, veal or lamb, and of course seafood, such as “Zuppe di pesce,” a fish and tomato stew, or perhaps its San Francisco cousin, cioppino.
For a wonderful vegetarian meal, pair Pandiani Aglianico with Eggplant Parmigiana and spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, or perhaps Pasta alla Norma (spaghetti with sautéed tomato and eggplant), named in honor of the Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini and his opera “Norma.” Eggplant is a staple of Sicilian cuisine, introduced by the Arabs – in fact eggplant parmigiani means eggplant in the Persian (arab) style. Almost any rich eggplant dish is wonderful with Pandiani Aglianico.
And of course, Sicilian pizza is not enjoyed to the fullest without a glass or two of a fine Sicilian wine, such as this Pandiani Aglianico.