Italian wines are incredibly challenging, largely because many of the grapes found in Italy are not grown abundantly anywhere else in the world. The sheer number of wines and wine styles produced in Italy also makes it difficult for the casual wine lover to really grasp the essence of Italian wines. And finally, the tradition in Italy is to make wines ‘for the table’ (to be served with food), so often the wines are unsuited for the American tradition of wine as a ‘cocktail’.

Italy is a relatively young unified country (unification was not completed until 1918), so many of the food and wine traditions were and remain intensely local. As a example, 0ne doesn’t put grated cheese on a seafood dish, because gratable cheese is not produced along the coastlines. The wines and foods of a particular region are well suited and complementary because of a lengthy shared history. The idea of drinking a wine from the north (say, a Barbaresco) with dinner in Puglia is considered madness…why do such a thing? It’s considered wrong not just because of silly, pretend ‘rules’ but because the idea of bringing a wine from a distant location to a place where wine has been produced for 3,000 years is patently absurd. You know, coals to Newcastle.

Anyway, as Americans, we have no food or wine traditions to speak of, and we like to think of ourselves as worldly (even when we’re not) so we can drink whatever the hell we want. So why not an Aglianico? (What? You’ve never heard of this grape? Told you.)

Aglianico is a grape originally from Greece, planted in Southern Italy probably around 300 BC.  The grape was called Ellenico (the Italian word for “Greek”) until the 15th century, when it acquired its current name. The grape thrives in volcanic soils, and can be aggressively tannic, which is why some liken it to Nebbiolo, the famously tannic grape from Piedmont. That’s no more apt than likening a little red wagon to a fire truck based upon their single commonality. But wine commentators have proven themselves not very knowledgeable about wine, so it’s not very surprising.

This wine is a mouthful. Its name is as well…the winery is Feudi di San Gregorio, located in Irpinia, in Campania. The name of the wine is Rubrato ($17.99, 750 ml), which means…I’m really not sure what. But the wine is full and bold and tannic yet unoaked and fresh and herbal and…did I say tannic? It’s really a great wine for fall (even if its not at all like Nebbiolo. I mean, not even a little bit. Except for the tannins. And its red.)