Basilicata Stories 2018: First Edition

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Basilicata is a lovely region in Southern Italy with some great wines made from Aglianico in primis and other wine grapes as well. I’ve had many wines from this region although never as many as this part April during Basilicata Stories 2018, a new initiative that is related to Campania Stories and is run by the same media agency, Miriade & Partners, s.r.l.

Over the next couple of days I will write about the tasting of the wines presented by 18 wineries from the region which is one of Italy’s smaller regions, 19th out of 20 years in terms of population density,with 57 inhabitants per kilometer, fewer than even the Valle d’Aosta, to be clear. There are two main provinces in Basilicata – Matera and Potenza. It border Puglia to the North, Campania to the West, and Calabria to the South. The topography is mostly mountainous (46%) and hilly (46%). The only area with real plains is the area around Metaponto, in the southern part of the region, which I visited in 2003 with my Mom. The Apennines run through the region which is also known as Lucania. There is also a larger extinct volcano known as the Vulture. While Basilicata is covered by mountains and hills, it also has two amazing coastlines, one on the Ionian Sea and the other on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The region can be divided into six areas with different climatic influences which will be addressed in the coming posts. Most of the vineyards lie in the province of Potenza with Aglianico being the grape of choice. Aglianico del Vulture Superiore is the only denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita (D.O.C.G.). There are a few DOC wines and a Basilicata IGP denomination as well as well as a Matera DOC (DOP). Sparkling, white, rosé, red and passito wines are produced.

Basilicata holds a dear place in my heart because it was a place I used for years to explain why I couldn’t leave Italy. Essentially, the refrain was, I haven’t yet been to Basilicata so thus I can’t leave. Needless to say I went to Matera in 2002 but still didn’t leave Italy for another few years. I had my first Aglianico del Vulture in 2002 and fell in love. I am thrilled to see that while not a household word yet, it is relatively well known in certain wine circles in the United States.

Basilicata is considered by some to be Aglianico’s true home. While exact evidence is difficult to uncover, experts agree that the grape was found in this region as early as the 6th century B.C. Likely brought by the Greeks, it was called ellenico until about the 15th century. Ellenico is the Italian word for Hellenic or Greek. It is possible that the grape was brought to the settlement at Metaponto, near the city of Matera. Regardless of when it arrived in Basilicata, Aglianico has brought acclaim to the region for the fabulous wines it produces from the volcanic soils around Mount Vulture. Aglianico, a late ripening grape, is generally the last of the grapes to be picked for making dry wines.

In Basilicata, Aglianico, tends to be cultivated on slopes which are anywhere from 400 to 800 meters above sea level. The region is very dry and hot in the summer. In the winter, it can get quite cold. These temperature changes give the vines time to rest and help to create concentrated fruit. Aglianico has good acidity and firm tannins. The aromatics of the grape tend towards blueberry, cherry, chocolate, coffee and smoke notes. Aglianico del Vulture is a very long lived wine and can take some years to open up.

Aglianico del Vulture was given the DOC designation in 1971 and finally the DOCG in 2011.

Aglianico del Vulture can be made into a variety of styles. The base wine is aged for 12 months in barrels which are generally made of chestnut although some producers are trying to use French oak. When the wine label has the word vecchio on it, it means the wines have been aged in wood for 36 months. For the Riserva wines, the aging period is usually 60 months. Aglianico del Vulture can also be made into a dry and sweet sparkling wine as well.

I look forward to going through my notes about the wines.

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