A present that is almost exclusively linked to Vulture and Aglianico, but a future that, animated by the same strength of mind with which the stones of Matera have been transformed into one of the wonders of the world, wants to recover the past, the huge variety of vines of ancient crops saved and recovered (over 60), and look to the future, through promotion, to be known and to enhance their production, wine but not only, but also through scientific research, exploring every frontier, including that of genetics. It is the vital jumble that tells the story of Basilicata’s wine, a land in Basilicata where viticulture is a history of millennia, with an institutional and productive fabric that has returned to work together, in its diversity, to build a new future with roots rooted on solid foundations. As solid as an ancient story, because here viticulture has been present since 1,300 BC, told in the testimonies of Roman historians, Pliny and Stradone, in the land that gave birth to the Latin poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, born in Venosa. As solid as the stones of Matera, European Capital of Culture 2019, which hosts the Congress of Italian Oenologists (Assoenologi), directed by the Enoteca Regionale Lucana, led by Paolo Montrone.
“Basilicata has always been identified with Aglianico, which is the predominant grape variety, but today is a much more varied reality, made up of many historical grape varieties recovered,” said journalist and critic Luciano Pignataro, one of the greatest connoisseurs and disseminators of wine and gastronomy in southern Italy.
In fact, Basilicata, in its 2,000 hectares of vineyards (half of which are dedicated to the production of PDO wines, including DOCG, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore, 4 le Doc, Aglianico del Vulture, Grottino di Roccanova, Matera and Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri), contains dozens and dozens of ancient vines, and its being small, in size, is one of the richest Italian regions in this sense. And in many cases they are almost extinct vines, and recovered only recently, as explained by Professor Donato Antonacci, director Crea Utv – Turi: “Aglianico is the vine that represents the territory, there is no doubt: alone, until 1999, covered 10% of the ampelographic base. Then there were many research and study projects, between Crea, University of Basilicata and beyond, and for example, with Basivin_Sud in Matera we found and recovered over 60 ancient vines that were in danger of being lost. Including Aglianico Bianco, which will soon be registered in the register of wine grape varieties that can be used for production, and which seems to be a particularly interesting grape because of its pH, good acidity and the sugars present”.
But there are many rediscovered gems of Basilicata wine, “like the Black Guarnacino, which we found only in Chiaromonte, for example – explained Filippo Corbo, head of the Department of Agriculture of the Basilicata Region – one of the many peculiarities of a region that has produced wine for years, but often a wine without a face, and little valued. I say that there was already excellence that, however, was not organized. In the last 15 years, we have worked to enhance the value of the vineyard, the landscape, to put what we have into the system. Until a few years ago there was only the Doc Aglianico del Vulture, which later became Docg in the Superior version, and were born Doc Matera, linked to the history of 800, and also those of the Grottino di Roccanova and Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri. Until a few years ago there were 45 wineries (here have also invested important realities of Italian wine, in addition to the same Italian Wine Group, including Feudi di San Gregorio with Basilisco, or Tommasi with Paternoster winery, among others, ed), today there are more or less 100. A sign that there is a willingness to invest and work to make this territory grow”.
A growth that also passes from research, as explained by Gerardo Giuratrabocchetti, at the head of the Cantine del Notaio and the Consortium “Qui Vulture”.
“When one thinks of Basilicata, one thinks of a small region with little tradition, but this is not the case. It is a region rich in agriculture and history: I am thinking of the caves of Barile or Rapolla, or those of Rionero del Vulture, with 1,250 cellars dug into the volcanic tuff. A large part of the territory planted with vines is in mountainous areas, but there is also a lot of hills and plains, and viticulture covers almost half of the regional area, of 1 million square kilometers. It’s a world to discover. The Consortium “Qui Vulture” was born from the initiative of a few individuals, an action that aims to be a boost to the development of the territory, and to do research. With various projects. One, for example, concerns the cultivation techniques of Aglianico. Because making Aglianico del Vulture costs so much: it’s November, and it’s still in full ripeness, it’s the latest vine, it’s an extraordinary companion for us, but it imposes its rules on us, its timing exposes us to great risks. So, for example, let’s study how to mechanize as much as possible the operations in the vineyard, to lower the cost of production, while preserving the quality of the wine and the territory. But we are also working on the study of the genome of Aglianico, to work on the genome editing, which, it is worth remembering once again, is not doing GMOs. The Aglianico, also for its long maturation times, is strongly sensitive and exposed to powdery mildew and downy mildew, for example, and working on the genome you can think of varieties of Aglianico more resistant to diseases, and perhaps even a little earlier in maturity, as was the case for example in the mid-nineteenth century. We are on the right track, and I think that in 2-3 years we will achieve important results”.
This is also where Francesco Perillo, president of the Consorzio dell’Aglianico del Vulture, passes by, calling the revolution of “made in Vulture”. “The Aglianico del Vulture is the spearhead of Lucanian viticulture. In the last 20 years we have made great strides forward for the production sector, we have grown both in product quality and in numbers, not only thanks to the large forerunner wineries but also to the small producers who push to confront themselves with the most important realities of the Belpaese, and the awards that arrive are important and confirm and say that we are on the right track”.
But as mentioned, the Basilicata of wine is much more than Vulture and Aglianico. Like Doc Matera, “which is young, we were born in 2005 – explains the president of the Consortium, Vito Cifarelli – but it is the most important by extension, and embraces 31 municipalities in the province. And it is the one that has the most varieties in the regulations, with many local varieties, such as Primitivo, Greco Bianco, Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata, Aglianico, but also international, such as Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and also Sangiovese, among others. We produce 11 types of wine, including white, red, rosé, sparkling and raisin wines, and it is in Matera that we find one of the first sparkling wines from the south. We focus on Greco Bianco, and especially on Primitivo, which is a challenge because we are close to Puglia, which is the region best known for this grape variety. But we are convinced that our Primitivo expresses unique characteristics here. And then a wine is culture when it tells the story of a territory, a climate, a land, but also the history of the territory, the hospitality of the people. Whoever opens a bottle wants emotion, and we don’t want to make a drink, but to give emotions”.
But Basilicata, as well as being a treasure trove of wine-growing jewels, is also a treasure trove of ancient food and wine. From the Peppers of Senise to the Beans of Sarconi, from the Lucanica of Picerno to the Pecorino of Filiano, from the Bread of Matera to the Red Eggplant of Rotonda, to mention a few. For some years now, there have been those who thought that they should be promoted in synergy with wine, as explained by Giuseppe Avigliano, president of the Consortium of Lucanian Excellence – Terre del Cibo.
“The idea was to create a unique promotion project, which would include all the food and wine richness of Basilicata, to strengthen the supply chain and put it more in communication with the final consumer, to tell that it is an uncontaminated, ancient, rich territory. But we have also worked in the area, for direct sales potential, to educate in schools, building food and wine routes in synergy with restaurants, distributors and players in the area, working with tour operators and buyers. We need to create synergies between public and private realities, to make Basilicata grow in food and wine”.
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