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Basilicata is a region in southern Italy, with Campania and Puglia to the north and Calabria to the south. The region is also sometimes referred to by the name, Lucania, for its first known ancient settlers, the Lucanians (referring to the Latin word “lucan,” or forest). The Greeks, who produced its first wines, took it over in the 7th century BC, and the Romans in the 3rd. The Byzantines came next, renaming it “Basilikos,” which can mean either prince or governor. Next came the Normans, Germanic Swabians and the Saracens. The Italian unification became official in the late 19th century, but the Roman Catholic church distributed much of the wine country to various nobility who couldn’t be bothered to keep up wine cultivation. A long period of violent social uprising and widespread banditry came as a result of the noble land ownership. It wasn’t until after World War II that legitimate agricultural land distribution and industrial innovations finally returned Basilicata to its wine making roots for serious industry.
The Ionian and Tyrrenhian Seas flank either side of Basilicata, and most of it is comprised of mountains from the Pollino, Sirno and Vulture ranges. Given these climate moderators, this is one chilly place for such a southerly position. Because of the extensive mountain coverage, the majority of wine production takes place in the Vulture Masif area in the north, where land is most fertile. The volcanic soils and microclimate of long sunny days in the growing season between periods of cooler weather is very conducive to growing the Aglianico grape.
This starring red grape comprises the famous Aglianico del Vulture DOC. This is a deep, robust, tannic and highly structured red wine prized for its depth of flavor and aging potential, sometimes best enjoyed after ten or more years of aging. The entry level Aglianico del Vulture is aged for one year before release. the Vecchio version is two years in oak, three years total. The Riserva is aged five years before release. Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG is its highest classification status, referring to its choicest vineyard locations and age statement. There is even an Aglianico del Vulture spumante, a red sparkling wine that is vinified both dry and sweet.
The other three DOCs of Basilicata are all fairly new, only given status within the past decade: Grottino di Rocanova, Matera and Terre dell’Alta d’Agri. These DOCs cover reds produced from a mix of indigenous, Italian national and international varietiels. For reds: Primitivo, Sangiovese, Monepulciano, Bombino Nero, Malvasia Nera, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Whites are predominately blends of Greco Bianco, Malvasia Bianca and Moscato. These wines are produced as blends with specific grape percentages or as varietal releases. Rosato styles are also found within these DOCs.
There are also several IGT wines produced in Basilicata which allow producers some experimentation with local and international varietals, styles and aging techniques, including some fine Aglianico blends. ~Amanda Schuster
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