• John Paul Kaminga

Balanced Brawn: Grifalco Damaschito 2016


The 2015 Grifalco Damaschito was one of our most popular offers last year. Grifalco's wines go from strength to strength, and the 2016 vintage has been widely celebrated across Italy, so although the 2015 Damaschito is brilliant, it was not surprising that the 2016 is even better. If you like a full-bodied earthy red, you should not miss it. We'll cut to the chase with a price and tasting note, but keep reading below if you would like to know more about the Aglianico grape, and the talent and dedication behind Grifalco.


The 2015 Grifalco Damaschito was one of our most popular offers last year. Grifalco's wines go from strength to strength, and the 2016 vintage has been widely celebrated across Italy, so although the 2015 Damaschito is brilliant, it was not surprising that the 2016 is even better. If you like a full-bodied earthy red, you should not miss it. We'll cut to the chase with a price and tasting note, but keep reading below if you would like to know more about the Aglianico grape, and the talent and dedication behind Grifalco.

Grifalco Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG 'Damaschito' 2016 - $33

Blackcurrant, blueberry, cherry, raspberry... all sorts of berries, dark and bright. The wild earthy and animal side of Aglianico is tamed by fruit intensity, yet this is not at all overripe or glossy. Hints of smoky herbs, flowers, cocoa powder and ink provide beautiful contrast to the gorgeous fruit. Long and complex, with velvety tannins, rich layers of fruit, and poised acids.... dry, earthy and herbal finish of extraordinary length and elegance. This is killer Vulture, among the very best I've ever tasted. It will improve for at least 5 years and be worth following 10 or more.

Aglianico must be counted as one of Italy's great red wine grapes. Arguably next to Sangiovese and Nebbiolo in terms of raw potential, Aglianico's reputation remains lesser, and few collectors seek it out. We must admit that there is a reason for this. The number of high-quality producers in regions where Aglianico thrives is far more limited than in Tuscany and Piedmont, so its best wines just do not get a very wide audience. It is also notable that some of the more established names in the Aglianico game do not tend to make particularly elegant or fresh styles. Many an Aglianico is justifiably deemed rough, as intensity and power come naturally to the variety, and its wines can be high in alcohol, tannin and acid. The flavors of Aglianico also tend to be rather wild, with meaty and earthy notes often more prominent than fruit. There are, however, many amazing wines made from Aglianico, wines that exhibit a clear and delicious connection to the pristine berries of the vineyards from whence they've emerged.

Despite what the ubiquity of grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet might seem to indicate, no grape does well everywhere. Aglianico certainly has its sweet spots, and the hills around Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano in Basilicata, are home to some of its most privileged havens. The Piccin family, of the Grifalco winery, works with some of the best crus in Vulture, making some of the finest wines in the region, wines that deserve way more attention. Having establishing the Salcheto winery in 1990, Fabrizio and Cecilia Piccin proceeded to make some of the most celebrated wine in the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. Through the late 90's and early 2000s, they became disenchanted with the region, as the proliferation of hobby wineries for the mega-rich began to change the landscape of their neighborhood. So they sold Salcheto and moved to Basilicata. The reason? Aglianico. In 2004 they started Grifalco and have never looked back. As in Montepulciano, they quickly established themselves as quality leaders in Vulture. Fabrizio passed away in 2019, but Cecilia and her two sons, Andrea and Lorenzo, continue to push the envelope and it seems like every new release is more complex and delicious than the last. Devoted to organic farming since the beginning, the Piccins strive to make fresh wines that showcase the unique fruit of their vines. The grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts, and individual vineyard parcels are fermented and aged separately. Careful management of tannins is essential to making fine Aglianico, and they think of their wines as infusions (think perfectly brewed tea) rather than extractions (think espresso). Their two single-vineyard wines, Damaschito and Daginestra, are aged in large old neutral casks and only made in select vintages. Use of sulfites is kept to a minimum, and every effort is made to bottle a pure representation of Vulture's most famous crop. We are huge fans of their work and count ourselves lucky to be able to offer their wines at extraordinarily reasonable prices.

Blackcurrant, blueberry, cherry, raspberry... all sorts of berries, dark and bright. The wild earthy and animal side of Aglianico is tamed by fruit intensity, yet this is not at all overripe or glossy. Hints of smoky herbs, flowers, cocoa powder and ink provide beautiful contrast to the gorgeous fruit. Long and complex, with velvety tannins, rich layers of fruit, and poised acids.... dry, earthy and herbal finish of extraordinary length and elegance. This is killer Vulture, among the very best I've ever tasted. It will improve for at least 5 years and be worth following 10 or more.

Aglianico must be counted as one of Italy's great red wine grapes. Arguably next to Sangiovese and Nebbiolo in terms of raw potential, Aglianico's reputation remains lesser, and few collectors seek it out. We must admit that there is a reason for this. The number of high-quality producers in regions where Aglianico thrives is far more limited than in Tuscany and Piedmont, so its best wines just do not get a very wide audience. It is also notable that some of the more established names in the Aglianico game do not tend to make particularly elegant or fresh styles. Many an Aglianico is justifiably deemed rough, as intensity and power come naturally to the variety, and its wines can be high in alcohol, tannin and acid. The flavors of Aglianico also tend to be rather wild, with meaty and earthy notes often more prominent than fruit. There are, however, many amazing wines made from Aglianico, wines that exhibit a clear and delicious connection to the pristine berries of the vineyards from whence they've emerged.


Despite what the ubiquity of grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet might seem to indicate, no grape does well everywhere. Aglianico certainly has its sweet spots, and the hills around Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano in Basilicata, are home to some of its most privileged havens. The Piccin family, of the Grifalco winery, works with some of the best crus in Vulture, making some of the finest wines in the region, wines that deserve way more attention.


Having establishing the Salcheto winery in 1990, Fabrizio and Cecilia Piccin proceeded to make some of the most celebrated wine in the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. Through the late 90's and early 2000s, they became disenchanted with the region, as the proliferation of hobby wineries for the mega-rich began to change the landscape of their neighborhood. So they sold Salcheto and moved to Basilicata. The reason? Aglianico. In 2004 they started Grifalco and have never looked back. As in Montepulciano, they quickly established themselves as quality leaders in Vulture. Fabrizio passed away in 2019, but Cecilia and her two sons, Andrea and Lorenzo, continue to push the envelope and it seems like every new release is more complex and delicious than the last.


Devoted to organic farming since the beginning, the Piccins strive to make fresh wines that showcase the unique fruit of their vines. The grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts, and individual vineyard parcels are fermented and aged separately. Careful management of tannins is essential to making fine Aglianico, and they think of their wines as infusions (think perfectly brewed tea) rather than extractions (think espresso). Their two single-vineyard wines, Damaschito and Daginestra, are aged in large old neutral casks and only made in select vintages. Use of sulfites is kept to a minimum, and every effort is made to bottle a pure representation of Vulture's most famous crop. We are huge fans of their work and count ourselves lucky to be able to offer their wines at extraordinarily reasonable prices.

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