I’ve always had a thing about Basilicata. Many people know the region because it is home to the city of Matera, a beautiful city and absolutely worth a visit. Sadly Matera has been in terrible straights these past few weeks because of flooding. Matera was as badly hit as Venice but we didn’t hear about it in the US. I used to say I would never leave Italy unless I got to see Basilicata, a way of course of staying for many years. After I finally visited, I still didn’t want to leave and remained for another 4 years. Basilicata is one of Italy’s lesser known regions for its wines and its cultural traditions. It is one of the least densely populated regions, 19th out of 20 regions in terms of population density, 18th of 20 in terms of population numbers, 14th out of 20 in terms of it’s territory. There are two main provinces, Matera and Potenza. It’s borders are Puglia to the North and East, Campania to the West and Calabria to the South. Some 46% of the region is mountains and another 46% is hilly. It borders both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas as well. The Apennine mountain range runs through the region in the area known as Lucania. There are also important rivers of volcanic origin and extinct volcanoes.
Climatically speaking, Basilicata has a Continental climate except for the areas on the sea coasts. Most of the viticulture takes place in the province of Potenza and less in that of Matera.
The best known wines to be produced in Basilicata are made from Aglianico. I remember fondly my first Aglianico del Vulture. 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 but according to Attilio Scienza, Italy’s preeminent grape geneticist, the word Aglianico actually comes from a Spanish word that means field.
It is possible that the grape was brought to the settlement at Metaponto, near the city of Matera, the only part of Basilicata where there is flat land. 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 have tasted a number of years with producers from Basilicata, specifically from Lucania.
Sadly none of my pictures of this region are digital so, here I suggest looking up a movie that came out in the last few years about Basilicata – Basilicata Coast To Coast. It will give you a flavor of the rugged landscape.
At Basilicata Stories in 2018, I tasted through many wines from Basilicata. In addition to red wines made from Aglianico, they make wines from Primitivo, Malvasia Nera, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Aleatico, Greco Nero, and international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
They also produce many white wines and rosatos. You can find Fiano, Greco, Malvasia Bianca, Falanghina and a host of other grape varieties. I will do a comprehensive post about those wines another day.
Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG is the only DOCG area in Basilicata for wines but there are other important DOC denominations such as Aglianico del Vulture DOC, Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri, Grottino di Roccanova and Matera. There is also an IGP Basilicata.
Oddly enough, international varieties are used in the Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri DOC. I tried the wines of the Consorzio Terre dell’Alta Val D’Agri years ago at Vinitaly. They were blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for the reds which surprised me as well as a small percentage of indigenous varietals. The whites were made with Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata.
I tried a number of wines including ones from Francesco Pisani’s Azienda Agricola Biologica Pisani. They were also organic which was even more surprising. Perhaps it was the altitude at which the vines were grown, 600-800 meters above sea level, that allowed them to grow without intervention of any sort.
I also tried wines from De Blasis, Nigro, Fiorenti and L’Arcera. They were all interesting, big, rich wines that needed to be tried with food. Needless to say, I am going to go back this year on a full stomach, towards the end of the day. These are not morning wines.
Matera DOC, the third area that I explored makes both red and white wines from indigenous grapes. One of the most memorable wines was from Ditaranto. I especially enjoyed the Greco bianco which was floral and fruity at the same time. I also really enjoyed their wine called L’Abate made from Primitivo.
Of all the wines I tried that day though, I have a soft spot for those of Michele Laluce. I highly recommend them if you have the chance. I think you will be as speechless as I was at their bonta’.
Please join us tomorrow as we explore a number of Italian regions that get less attention. Surely you have something to say about one of them so, come along on our adventure. We will be on Twitter at #ItalianFWT on Saturday, December 7th at 11:00am EST. We will be taking you all over Italy. We hope you can join.
Jennifer from Vino Travels Italy shares “Sangiovese from Le Marche with Agricola La Canosa”
Gwen from Wine Predator joins with “3 Surprising Sparklers from Emilia Romagna’s Terramossa #ItalianFWT“
Cindy from Grape Experiences will post “Montecucco – An Obscure, Delicious Slice of Tuscany”
Katarina from Grape Vine Adventures takes us to Calabria with “Sustainable Wines for the Curious Mind from Calabria”
and here at Avvinare, I will be posting about “Basilicata and its Viticultural Gems – #ItalianFWT“