Nov 8, 2021
Basilicata is a tiny region that represents the arch of the Italy’s boot -the small area that borders Calabria in the west, Puglia in the east, Campania in the north and the Gulf of Taranto in the south.
In this, Italy’s 3rd least populous region, wine has been made for thousands of years but today, what remains is just 2,006 ha/5,000 acres of vineyards, which is 0.15% of Italy’s total wine production. Of the 2% that is DOC wine, there is a shining star – a wine that can rival the best of the best in all of Italy – Aglianico del Vulture (ahl-LYAh-nee-koh del VOOL-too-ray). In this show we discuss the background of this southern Italian region and discuss the jewel in its crown.
Here are the show notes…
We first discuss the location and land of Basilicata
In the southern Apennines, Basilicata is the most mountainous region in the south of Italy. 47% is covered by mountains, 45% is hilly, and only 8% is plains. The west is the hillier area, the east runs into flatter land into Puglia. There is a small stretch of coastline between Campania and Calabria and a longer one along the Gulf of Taranto, between Puglia and Calabria.
Photo: Getty Images
We do a good look at the history of Basilicata, but the highlights are:
We mention several DOCs of Basilicata:
Photo of Matera: Getty Images
Matera DOC was granted in 2005
Grottino di Roccanova DOC was granted in 2009
Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri DOC was granted in 2003.
Photo: Getty Images, Val d’Agri
We spend the rest of the show discussing Aglianico del Vulture DOC/DOCG, which is 25% of Basilicata’s total production
Vulture is an extinct volcano that was last active about 130,000 years ago. It is 56 km/35 miles north of Potenza at an altitude of 1,326m/4,350 ft, close to borders with Puglia and Campania. Woods surround the area and the top of the slope has more volcanic soils and lower lying vineyards have more mixed, colluvial, and clay soils. The elevations are specified by the DOC – too low or too high and you won’t get great flavor development or quality wine, so the range is 200-700 m/660 -2300 ft. The variety of soils, elevations and exposures mean that there are different styles of Aglianico del Vulture.
Photo: Getty Images
Vulture is continental in climate and it has lower average daily temperatures than Sicily or Tuscany. There are cool breezes that sweep in from the Adriatic, cooling the area and preventing humidity. Elevation also keeps things cooler, especially at night, which means the grapes experience a long growing season, building flavor in the hot sun during the day, and cooling at night to hoard acidity. The rain shadow of Mount Vulture also keeps the weather cool and dry. That said, in some years the drought is fierce, grapes can get sunburned, the tannins can be tough, and the wine can be overly alcoholic.
Characteristics of Aglianico del Vulture
Aglianico is a thick-skinned grape that needs mineral-rich soils with clay and limestone (like what is on Vulture). It can be overcropped, so careful tending to the grapes leads to better results (this is kind of a dumb thing to say, since that’s the case with all grapes, but I’m putting it out there anyway!).
Flavors range in Aglianico del Vulture. Younger wines are high in tannins and acidity, with black cherry, chocolate, flowers, minerals, dark-fruit, and shrubby, forest notes. With a few years (5 or more), you may get nuances of Earl gray tea, black tea, licorice, earth, tar, spice, and violets. The tannins calm with age, but the acidity remains – with age (7-10 years) these wines are pretty impressive. We discuss the fact that there are some lighter styles and some savory, complex ones, but most are minerally with tannin in some form.
Photo of Aglianico: Getty Images
Aglianico del Vulture was made a DOC in 1971
Photo: Monte Vulture, Getty Images
Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG/ Riserva Superiore DOCG was created in 2010.
In the show we discuss the food of Basilicata and mention a few specialties:
M.C. Ice was surprised that in this area, bread crumbs were a cheese substitute, sprinkled over pasta, meat, and vegetables. Horseradish is common here, along with Italian hot peppers, beans, pork sausage, and the famed bread of Matera, which is a Protected Georgraphical Indication and uses wheat grown locally and a yeast infused with fruit.
Producers are vital to getting a quality wine. This is my list…
DOC wines are around US$20/GBP£15, DOCG wines are more like US$45/GBP£43.
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Some interesting sources I used for this show: