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Basilicata Wine

Basilicata Wine

The Italian region of Basilicata is often overlooked in conversations about the country's wines, overshadowed by the fame of Tuscany, Piedmont, and Veneto. Yet, for those in the know, Basilicata represents a bastion of unique viticultural treasures, driven by a combination of ancient traditions, varied microclimates, and a singular dedication to authenticity. This article delves into the regional wines of Basilicata, exploring their history, characteristics, and the devotion of the winemakers who create them.

Historical Roots and Viticultural Significance

Wine production in Basilicata can be traced back to the time of the ancient Greeks, who brought the first vines to this sun-soaked, mountainous territory in southern Italy. The region, sandwiched between Calabria and Apulia, boasts a tumultuous history where viticulture has remained one of the few constants. Despite its historical significance, Basilicata is home to just one DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the Aglianico del Vulture, and four DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) wine designations, signifying both quality and geographical specificity.

Geography and Terroir: The Making of Distinctive Flavors

Basilicata is predominantly mountainous, with the extinct volcano Mount Vulture dominating its northern landscape. It is this volcanic soil that imbues the Aglianico grape, the star of Basilicata's wine scene, with its distinctive minerality and depth. The region's varied climate, marked by stark differences between the hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters, creates an environment in which the Aglianico grape thrives, reaching full maturation while maintaining a commendable acidity.

Aglianico del Vulture: The King of Basilicata Wines

Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata's flagship wine, is an embodiment of the region's volcanic terroir. The grape from which it is made, Aglianico, is considered one of Italy’s three great varietals, alongside Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. Known for its potential to age gracefully, Aglianico del Vulture boasts a robust structure, complex aromas of dark fruits, chocolate, and spice, and a palate that unfolds with layers of flavor and firm tannins.

The creation of Aglianico del Vulture is a labor of love and patience, often requiring several years of aging before reaching its full expression. Some winemakers even choose to mature their Aglianico in traditional terracotta vessels, allowing the wine to develop without the influence of oak, which can sometimes overshadow the grape's natural characteristics.

The Rise of Indigenous Varietals and Modern Winemaking

Beyond Aglianico, Basilicata's vineyards are speckled with a variety of indigenous grapes, many of which have been resurrected by a new generation of winemakers keen on preserving their vinous heritage. Varietals such as the white Greco and Fiano, and the lesser-known red grape Aleatico, are being carefully cultivated to create wines that speak of the region's diversity.

Contemporary Basilicatan winemaking walks a fine line between innovation and tradition. While technology and modern techniques are embraced, they are carefully balanced with age-old practices that have defined Basilicatan wines for centuries. This approach is evident in the meticulous vineyard management, low-interventionist winemaking, and a general philosophy that wine is made in the vineyard first and foremost.

The Importance of Sustainability and Organic Practices

In response to global trends and the demands of conscientious consumers, many Basilicatan vineyards are turning to organic and biodynamic practices. The region's isolation and the small scale of its wine production have inadvertently protected it from the overuse of chemicals, making the transition to organic certification less challenging than in more intensively farmed areas.

Enotourism: Experiencing Basilicata's Wines Firsthand

Wine tourism in Basilicata is a growing sector, with wineries opening their doors to visitors seeking an authentic experience. The wine routes of Basilicata offer not just tastings, but also an insight into the region's culture and traditions. From the ancient cellars carved into the tufo rock to the panoramic vineyards that seem to defy gravity on the steep slopes of Mount Vulture, the enotourism experience in Basilicata is as rich and varied as its wines.

Pairing Basilicata Wines with Regional Cuisine

The robust character of Basilicata’s wines makes them excellent companions to the hearty local cuisine. Aglianico del Vulture, with its bold profile, is a natural match for the region's game, roasted meats, and aged cheeses. Meanwhile, the white wines of Basilicata, with their crisp acidity, are perfect when paired with the region's fresh seafood and vegetable-based dishes.

The Future of Basilicata's Wine Industry

As the global wine industry continues to evolve, Basilicata faces the challenge of preserving its unique wine identity while expanding its reach to international markets. The region's winemakers are increasingly focusing on expressing the nuances of their terroir, creating single-vineyard expressions, and experimenting with aging processes to find the perfect balance that will showcase the best of what Basilicata has to offer.

Conclusion

Basilicata's regional wines are a testament to the resilience and passion of its people. From the full-bodied and complex Aglianico del Vulture to the crisp and aromatic whites, Basilicata offers a distinctive and memorable wine-drinking experience. As more enthusiasts discover the region's offerings, Basilicata stands poised to claim its rightful place on the international stage, not as a shadowed underdog, but as a region with a proud and unique viticultural voice.

The regional wines of Basilicata are a narrative of the land, a story told through each bottle that speaks of volcanic soils, ancient traditions, and the unwavering spirit of its winemakers. For those willing to venture off the beaten path, Basilicata offers a wine journey that is both profoundly historic and excitingly untapped. It is here, in the heart of southern Italy, that the regional wines of Basilicata will continue to enchant, evolve, and endure.

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Notable Wines of Basilicata

Here's a list of some notable wines from Basilicata, primarily revolving around the region's most celebrated varietal, Aglianico, along with other local grapes:

Aglianico del Vulture DOCG:

  • Aglianico del Vulture Superiore
  • Aglianico del Vulture Superiore Riserva
  • Aglianico del Vulture - classic or vintage
  • Aglianico del Vulture Passito (a sweet wine made from partially dried grapes)

Other Aglianico-based Wines:

  • Aglianico del Vulture "Vecchio Pioppo"
  • Aglianico del Vulture "Il Repertorio"
  • Aglianico del Vulture "La Firma"
  • Aglianico del Vulture "Gudarrà"

Basilicata IGT Wines:

These are wines that don’t necessarily conform to the strict rules of DOC or DOCG status but can still be of high quality, often experimenting with various grape blends and production methods.

  • Basilicata Rosso IGT (Red Blend)
  • Basilicata Bianco IGT (White Blend)
  • Basilicata Rosato IGT (Rosé)

DOC Wines of Basilicata:

  • Grottino di Roccanova DOC
  • Terre dell'Alta Val d'Agri DOC
  • Matera DOC

Varietal Wines:

  • Malvasia di Basilicata (White)
  • Moscato di Basilicata (White, can be still or sparkling)
  • Greco Bianco (White)
  • Fiano (White)

Lesser-Known Indigenous Varietals:

  • Aleatico (Red)
  • Malvasia Nera di Basilicata (Red)
  • Aglianico del Vulture "Piano del Cerro"
  • Aglianico del Vulture "Titolo" by Elena Fucci

Experimental and Boutique Wines:

  • Aglianico del Vulture "Synthesi"
  • Aglianico del Vulture "Dal Re"
  • "Kerà" Potenza IGT

Notable Wineries and Their Signature Wines:

  • Cantina di Venosa - Verbo Aglianico del Vulture
  • D'Angelo - Caselle Aglianico del Vulture
  • Elena Fucci - Titolo Aglianico del Vulture
  • Paternoster - Don Anselmo Aglianico del Vulture
  • Cantine del Notaio - La Firma Aglianico del Vulture
  • Bisceglia - Terra di Vulcano Aglianico del Vulture
  • Grifalco - Gricos Aglianico del Vulture
  • Tenuta del Portale - Starsa Aglianico del Vulture

Please note that availability of these wines can vary depending on the market and vintage year. Each winery offers its own take on Aglianico and other local varietals, showcasing the diversity within the region. Moreover, vintage conditions and the winemaker's style can significantly affect the flavor profile and quality of the wine.

Italian Wines
  • Italian Red Grapes
    • Sangiovese

      • The most well known of the Italian grapes and responsible for the famous Tuscan wines. Using tradional techniques, the wines are earthy, full of cherry fruit and cedar. The wines produced include such famous names as: Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso. The "Super-Tuscans", produced for the international market, blend the Sangiovese grape with Bordeaux varietals such as: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and often used French oak barrels to age.

    • Nebbiolo

      • Translated, the name means: "Little Fog", which refers to the autumn fog common in the region of Piedmont where it is grown. The grape seems to like these conditions but is difficult to cultivate otherwise. It is responsible for the famous wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, both produced in the Cuneo province of Piedmont. Barolo is often kept for more than 50 years, and is considered by many to be the greatest wine produced in Italy.

    • Montepulciano

      • This grape is planted in Abruzzo,and should not be confused with the town of the same name in Tuscany. It produces a wine with silky plum-like fruit, friendly acidity, and light tannin, recent bottles have improved greatly on those in the past.

    • Barbera

      • This grape is the most widely grown in Piedmont and southern Lombardy, particularly around the towns of Asti, Alba and Pavia. Previously, the Barbera wines were considered a poor alternative to Barolo, but recently they have improved dramatically. The wine has bright cherry fruit, a very dark color, and a food-friendly acidity. It is being produced increasingly for the international market.

    • Corvina

      • This is the grape that makes Valpolicella and Amarone, the best known wines of the Veneto. Valpolicella has dark cherry fruit and spice. If the grapes are dried, a process called "passito", they produce a wine called Amarone. Some are aged for more than 40 years and can command extremely high prices. Amarone di Valpolicella was awarded DOCG status in 2009.

    • Nero dAvola

      • A native varietal of Sicily, this grape was virtually unheard of a few years ago. Now, the quality of the wine is improving steadily and it is becoming increasingly popular on the international market for its plummy fruit and sweet tannins.

    • Dolcetto

      • This grape is called "Little Sweet One", because it is easy to grow and produces great wines for everyday drinking. It is grown alongside the Barbera and Nebbiola grapes in Piedmont and produces wine with flavors of concord grape, wild blackberries and herbs.

    • Negroamaro

      • Translated, the name means "Black and Bitter". It is grown extensively in the region of Puglia where it is used to produce the Salento wines: spicy, toasty, and full of dark red fruits.

    • Aglianico

      • Considered by many to be the "Noble Varietal of the south" Aglianico grapes are primarily grown in the regions of Campania and Basilicata. The name is derived from Hellenic, so the grape is considered to be a Greek transplant. Thick skinned and spicy, the wines are often both rustic and powerful.

    • Sagrantino

      • This grape is native to Umbria. It is only planted on 250 hectares, but the wines produced from it are world-renowned. Inky purple, with rustic brooding fruit and heavy tannins, these wines can age for many years.

    • Malvasia Nera

      • Red Malvasia varietal from Piedmont. A sweet and perfumed wine, sometimes elaborated in the passito style.

Other major red varieties are Ciliegolo, Gaglioppo, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Monica, Nerello Mascalese, Pignolo, Primitivo (Zinfandel in California), Refosco, Schiava, Schiopettino, Teroldego, and Uva di Troia. "International" varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also widely grown.

  • Italian White Grapes
    • Catarratto

      • This is the most widely planted white varietal in Salaparuta, south western Sicily.

    • Trebbiano

      • This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati. Mostly, they are pale, easy drinking wines, but trebbiano from producers such as Valentini have been known to age for 15+ years. It is known as Ugni Blanc in France.

    • Moscato

      • Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in the slightly-sparkling (frizzante), semi-sweet Moscato d"Asti. Not to be confused with moscato giallo and moscato rosa, two Germanic varietals that are grown in Trentino- Alto-Adige.

    • Nuragus

      • An ancient Phoenician varietal found in southern Sardegna. Light and tart wines that are drunk as an apertif in their homeland.

    • Pinot Grigio

      • A hugely successful commercial grape (known as Pinot Gris in France), its wines are characterized by crispness and cleanness. As a hugely mass-produced wine, it is usually delicate and mild, but in a good producers" hands, the wine can grow more full-bodied and complex. The main problem with the grape is that to satisfy the commercial demand, the grapes are harvested too early every year, leading to wines without character.

    • Tocai Friulano

      • A varietal distantly related to Sauvignon Blanc, it yields the top wine of Friuli, full of peachiness and minerality. Currently, there is a bit of controversy regarding the name, as the EC has demanded it changed to avoid confusion with the Tokay dessert wine from Hungary.

    • Ribolla Gialla

      • A Slovenian grape that now makes its home in Friuli, these wines are decidedly old-world, with aromas of pineapple and mustiness.

    • Arneis

      • A crisp and floral varietal from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th century.

    • Malvasia Bianca

      • Another white varietal that peeks up in all corners of Italy with a wide variety of clones and mutations. Can range from easy quaffers to funky, musty whites.

    • Pigato

      • A heavily acidic varietal from Liguria, the wines are vinified to pair with a cuisine rich in seafood.

    • Fiano
      • Grown on the southwest coast of Italy, the wines from this grape can be described as dewy and herbal, often with notes of pinenut and pesto.
    • Garganega

      • The main grape varietal for wines labeled Soave, this is a crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto wine region of Italy. It"s a very popular wine that hails from northeast Italy around the city of Verona. Currently, there are over 3,500 distinct producers of Soave.

    • Vermentino

      • This is widely planted in northern Sardinia and also found in Tuscan and Ligurian coastal districts. Wines are particularly popular to accompany fish and seafood.

    • Verdicchio

      • This is grown in the areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica in the Marche region and gives its name to the varietal white wine made from it. The name comes from "verde" (green). The white wines are noted for their high acidity and a characteristic nutty flavour with a hint of honey.

Other important whites include Carricante, Catarratto, Coda de Volpe, Cortese, Falanghina, Grechetto, Grillo, Inzolia, Picolit, Traminer, Verduzzo, and Vernaccia. As far as non-native varietals, the Italians plant Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer (sometimes called traminer aromatico), Riesling, Petite Arvine, and many others.

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