Allegrini 2018

Basilicata of wine, an ancient history that looks to the future, around the Vulture, and not only

A journey in a land where many small and few large wineries coexist, which over the years has attracted investments from leading groups of Italy
The Vulture and its vineyards in Basilicata (ph cellar Paternoster )

“Here the vineyards are great because there is tuff that feeds the plant”. That’s the saying of the old winemakers. It’s the Vulture. Here is the oenological history of Basilicata, daughter of Magna Grecia. On the slopes of the sleeping giant, whose last eruption dates back 130,000 years, beats at a new and lively pace the agricultural life linked to that ancient vine brought by the settlers around the eighth century BC.. On the soils made tuffaceous by the ashes, a sector is running that dreams of bringing the Lucanian voice to emerge from the chorus of the Italian wine offer and that is infecting and driving the entire productive scenario of the Region, including the three wine-growing areas, each identified by a DOC, of Materano, of Val d’Agri and of the countryside between Roccanova, Sant’Arcangelo and Castronuovo di S. Andrea. At the doors of the Assoenologi n. 74 Congress, scheduled in Matera from 31 to 3 November, with the theme “Wine as Culture” (and with the confirmed presence of the Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte), Basilicata del Vino is preparing to emerge in the spotlight. An ideal journey of discovery that crosses it, between testimonies of the past, the present, and aspirations for the future.
It starts with Vulture, from the last project started in this panorama. The Le Nuvole farm debuts with the clear intention of exalting the value of man and his contribution to the cultivation of the vine, in the most ancestral and artisanal sense, through a production that relies on respect for the material and the minimum intervention in the winemaking.
The ancient meaning of wine is taken up with a productive perspective that follows the principles of sustainability and with a vision of contemporary society based on social inclusion, on the reintegration into work of people in conditions of fragility. It represents the first step of the “Piccole Ali” initiative set up by the Fondazione Bagnale e Aias Melfi Matera onlus, developing an idea by Giulio Francesco Bagnale and Alessandro Bocchetti. 20,000 bottles put on the market and 7.5 hectares and a half cultivated. “Attention to the climate and the environment will be the choice for economic development - comments Giulio Francesco Bagnale - this is the issue that will have to be addressed and on which Basilicata will have to focus. We have decided to take the path with this vision. More and more spaces will be opened in the market for wines that reflect the idea of sustainability. It will be necessary to re-read the wine in these terms, without losing the character and complexity that identify the territorial belonging”. The company’s headquarters is in one of the oldest and most representative cellars in Barile, a municipality chosen, together with Rionero, Maschito, Rapolla, and Ripacandida, for the cultivation of Aglianico, the cradle of Lucanian wine.
Looking to the future, then, from the scenario of Barile painted by Pierpaolo Pasolini, the grid of the cellars of Shesh dug into the tuffaceous rock. In these cavities, for the ideal thermal conditions, each family has always produced its own wine, while a crucifix, placed near the tanks, is entrusted with the vigil of fermentation, a legacy of those times when the livelihood of the community depended on the good harvest of grapes and the benevolence of the divine. The children were given the task of collecting the fallen grains on the ground or left in the plant during the harvest.
“From the early years of the twentieth century until the seventies, and in the seventy-one year, the Doc was born, Basilicata could be summarized as follows: great capacity to produce grapes and scarce winemaking”, recalls Fabio Mecca, the fourth generation of Paternoster who, first, the year was 1925, they put Aglianico in the bottle, acquired for some years by the Venetian Tommasi. There was no palm of land that was not cultivated with vines, at the time there were 16,000 hectares of vineyards when now they are reduced to 1200. But it was a fragmented cultivation, of the order of one, two, three hectares on average per family. “In Barile and Rionero there were convoys loaded with grapes, bought by the mediators, to be sold in the north to cut the wines. The wine was made for personal consumption. The presence of the matchmakers was massive, many then decided to settle here and begin to produce. My great-great-grandfather Alfonso opened the first inn and tavern in Barile just to welcome them,” he says.
Between the 1980s and 1990s, the register changed. The incentives encourage producers to focus on the characteristics of Aglianico. The era of the social cellars began, still today the Cantina Sociale of Venosa remains active, with 400 members. At that time, viticulture expanded in the area surrounding the city of Orazio, which now has the largest area planted with vines and houses the Castello Pirro del Balzo Lucaa Regional Wine Cellar, presided over by Paolo Montrone at the helm of the Re Manfredi - Terre degli Svevi winery, which belongs to the Italian Wine Group (Giv). “Things have changed a lot in recent years, thanks to the institutional work - reports Montrone -.
Just think that twenty-five years ago there were only ten wineries in Vulture, while now there are eighty and three new Docs have been created. The focus has been on the potential of Aglianico which, thanks to this extraordinary land, has unique qualities. We no longer live in the shadow of Apulia or Campania. We boast a great wine”. The first bottlers traced the Renaissance at the foot of the volcano, historic companies such as D’Angelo, Sasso, and Martino, and the great names in wine from the north, an evolution that led to small companies (Elena Fucci, Mastrodomenico among many) and large companies to structure themselves as signatures of contemporary Basilicata.
In this period, the experimentation of Cantine del Notaio in Rionero in Vulture, the village with 1,250 cellars underground, dug under the houses and roads, each numbered and accessible from the basins on the sides of the roads known as “facili”, is very much alive. Even the most brutal and famous brigand, Carmine Cocco, owned his cellar.

“We introduced ourselves with a different approach - says Gerardo Giuratrabocchetti at the head of the company - having a tradition of viticulture in the family and being an agronomist and oenologist I thought that this was the time to study the vine, to understand what to get. The assumption from which I started was this: if the wine of Vulture improves those of the North, it is because it is better. So I convinced Luigi Moio to study”. The research started with the analysis of fifteen wines with fifteen different vinifications, obtained from different harvest times. The strong alcohol content, the high acidity due to the type of climate with excursions of up to twenty degrees between day and night, the tannic structure and therefore the polyphenolic richness convince the two scholars “on the ability of Aglianico to age like no other wine in the world and to study different wine destinations. “We discovered a new wine - he adds - different from the one sold in the past, decades before, unloading color, without the fullness of the bouquet because it was harvested as early as possible to avoid adverse weather conditions as the maturation takes place between October and November”.
A recent experiment is being conducted by Viviana Malafarina di Basilisco, a project by Feudi di San Gregorio in Barile. Ligurian grew up in Piedmont and formed in Burgundy decided to marry Basilicata and work on the cru. “Having twenty-five hectares located in the most suitable districts of Barile, I was able to dedicate myself to the concept of cru - she says -. I saw how Aglianico changes, maintaining the same orientation in different soils and with the same exposure. Here the soil varies from area to area. Where there is marl, the wines are more floral and immediate, in the ferrous areas they have a more haematic character, in the areas they calculate the very fine tannin. But the great thing is that today I tell the story of the Aglianico that is not yet known. There is so much to discover. And this stimulates me. But the whole of Basilicata is to be discovered. A land to be imagined”.
There is an oenological history to be written also in the Matera area where the Doc Matera insists, between Irsina and Nova Siri, between Accettura and the Ionian coast. A territory that is identifying its ascent in the Primitivo. Masseria Cardillo in the Metapontum area of Bernalda, whose origins date back to the end of the eighteenth century, cultivates its vineyards in a place of ancient Hellenic tradition. This is attested to by the grape of Elena dating back to the fifth century BC, a small sculpture found during the planting of a vineyard and now preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Altamura. It is one of the companies that fought for the Doc. The company of the Fratelli Dragone laid the foundations for the wine of Matera. “Here the cultivation and vinification of the Primitivo are prior - declares the owner Rocco Graziadei, who governs 22 hectares of vineyards out of 270 of the Masseria - to the Apulian ones, to the Primitivo of Manduria and Gioia del Colle. The primitive of Matera is more sober, savoury and fresh. There is a desire to get involved to bring out our unique territory. We are small and medium-sized companies, about fifteen, and we are working on quality rather than quantity. We want to be recognizable and different”.
The DOC Terre Alte Della Val d’Agri will be able to add so much content to the Basilicata story of wine soon. In this area, of great landscape attraction, where hills, rocks, and gullies, cultivated fields, villages as far as the eye can see, ancient autochthonous varieties are being recovered. The project was launched by the municipality of Viggiano in 2007 in collaboration with the Agenzia Lucana per lo Sviluppo in Agricoltura e del Cra. The project was launched by the municipality of Viggiano in 2007 in collaboration with the Lucanian Agency for Development in Agriculture and Cra. There are about forty varieties identified, intercepted by guardians of centenary vines, including two varieties of Aglianico Bianco and Dolce Precoce. Along the upper part of the Val D’Agri, already in the II century A.D., the Roman gens Allia tame the vine, and from which the name Aglianico derives. From here passed the traffic route of the Oenotrians, Greeks, and Romans. Today, the Consorzio di Tutela has 8 member companies.
From Caprarico towards Chiaromonte to the south extends the small Doc Grottino di Roccanova established in 2009. A hilly area where Sangiovese reigns supreme. But Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata is also cutting out a space for itself. Already in the 1700s there was an intense wine-growing activity in the area, the symbol of which are the wine caves, the cellars, registered in Roccanova and its suburbs and in the municipalities of Castronuovo S. Andrea and S. Arcangelo.
Many faces of a land that is still a rough diamond of Italian enology, which aims to shine more than ever.

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