Tag Archives: Italian wine

From marshland to world-class superstar

The evolution of Bolgheri

What was once a malaria-ridden marsh on the Tuscan shore is now one of Italy’s most prestigious wine regions and home to some of the so-called Super Tuscans. Wines such as Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Massetto are now counted among Italy’s most prestigious wines.

Yet how did this uninviting, neglected area of the Maremma, where people died from poverty and malaria and prior to WWII produced nondescript red and white wines, peaches, apricots, almonds, potatoes and onions, become one of the most sought-after vineyard areas in Italy – the Tuscan equivalent of Napa? And how did it come to be predominantly planted with international varieties, primarily those from, Bordeaux rather than Tuscan king Sangiovese?

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Birth and growth of the Super Tuscans

It all began at Tenuta San Guido, home of Sassicaia, when Mario Inciso della Rocchetta married into the noble Tuscan Della Gherardesca family, who had been instrumental in this area’s development, buying land and building castles here in the Middle Ages. In the 19th century, they started to drain this very fertile land and the Tenuta San Guido building was actually a greenhouse, growing flowers such as tulips, which were sold to Holland. The estate became Mario Inciso’s hobby farm for horse breeding and viticulture. Piedmontese by birth, he was not enamoured with the local wines and in 1944 started to cultivate vines to produce wines for his own consumption. He experimented first with Sangiovese and Canaiolo in a vineyard at 400m in Castiglioncello di Bolgheri and then, away from prying eyes, he decided to plant cuttings of Bordeaux varieties. His wines were eventually released commercially in 1968 and called Sassicaia – named after the rocky area in which the vines were growing. The wine was a huge success and the vineyards moved down to around Tenuta San Guido itself.

 

Encouraged by his success, he was then followed by others, such as Piermario Meletti Cavallari from Bergamo in 1977, who founded Grattamacco and released the his first Rosso in 1982. Soon after, Ludovico Antinori (Mario Inceso’s nephew) also planted Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which he thought would thrive in the Bolgheri climate and the sandy clay soils, on some other family land. Thus, Ornellaia was born, as was Massetto, the estate’s pure Merlot, planted on a plot with unique clay soils. Incidentally, Ornellaia’s winemaker from the late eighties to 1997 was Eger’s Tibor Gal. Michele Satta also got in on the act around this time. And so, the Super Tuscan phenomenon was born.

The disciplinare at the time only allowed for white and rosato, so comically, these wines, considered by many as the best Tuscan wines, hence the name, had to be labelled as lowly vino da tavola, or in the best case, Toscana IGT. It was only in 1994 that reds could also be labelled as Bolgheri DOC.

Naturally, with the success of these wines, the big guns from elsewhere in the country didn’t want to be left out, so Piero Antinori founded Guado al Tasso in 1990, Gaja arrived from Barbaresco, the Allegrini family from the Veneto and Balfi all arrived on the scene. Winemaking in the region exploded from around 250 hectares at the end of the nineties to around 1,200 hectares now, with around four million bottles being produced in the DOC by around 65 companies, 95% of which belong to the Consortium. Riccardo Binda, its General Manager, jokes that “almost nobody is from Bolgheri, maybe that’s why they all get on so well – they are all guests here”. Just like the grapes, which are now an integral part of the landscape.

Unique terroir

Bolgheri benefits from special climatic conditions and a patchwork of diverse soil types. It stretches along a band of maritime hills running parallel to the coast down through their foothills and across the plain to the dunes and marshes near the sea. This so-called ’Bolgheri amphitheatre’ is where marine breezes meet mountain breezes, tempering the hot summer sun and ensuring cool nights. Thus, the grapes retain acidity, and balance and finesse are maintained in these Mediterranean blends. The sunlight seems to have a special quality and is also reflected back by the sea. Grapes mature gradually in moderate conditions ensuring both phenolic and sugar ripeness, resulting in elegant, firm tannins.

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The region’s geological history has endowed it with huge soil diversity, even in a relatively small area. Alluvial soils, round pebbles deposited by ancient watercourses, are interspersed with windblown sand from Africa, limestone and clay, and even some volcanic rock from the Metalliferous Hills to the east. The oldest rocks in the denomination are those of the Bolgheri Hills, ancient flysch not found anywhere else in the area. Marine terraces form the undulations clearly visible as you look along the cypress-lined Strada Bolgherese that cuts through the centre of the region. Each area has a very different composition and so, in order to understand their soils and wines better, the denomination is now undertaking careful zonation with Attilio Scienza of Milan University. Each winery has plots on various types of soils, which they harvest and vinify separately and then blend. The highest quality vineyards are those at the bottoms of the slopes and on the plain, stretching along either side of Strada Bolgherese, which is where you’ll find most of the big names.

Styles of wine

The variations on Bordeaux blends – the Super Tuscans – are what most people associate with Bolgheri, with some also containing some Syrah or adding a Tuscan touch with a splash of Sangiovese, which has almost disappeared from the DOC. Interestingly monovarietal wines were only permitted later, so Massetto was, and still is, labelled as Toscana IGT, while Sassicaia now has its own DOC – the only estate in Italy to boast such. There is also a small percentage of rosato produced.

However, the region is increasingly creating great whites, primarily from Vermentino. Antinori’s Guado al Tasso, the largest Bolgheri estate, is a firm follower and is planting more of the variety, while Grattamacco makes one of the best Vermentino-based whites in Italy. Poggio al Tesoro’s Solosole is also a classic, pioneer of the trend to grow Vermentino in Bolgheri, and they now also produce a version partially fermented in amphora, PagusCamilla, which we saw bubbling away in the winery. Viognier is also gaining ground, with Michele Satta producing a lovely version with short skin contact.

Producers to visit

As well as trying to get through the hallowed gates of Ornellaia, Tenuta San Guido, Guado al Tasso and Tenuta Argentiera’s impressive premises with their fabulous view across the plain to the sea. it’s also worth paying a visit to Bolgheri pioneers Grattamacco and Michele Satta, who are located at higher altitudes than many of their counterparts. Another interesting port of call is Guado al Melo, the estate of scientist Attilio Scienza and his son Michele. Not only does Attilio boast one of the most impressive wine and Italian culture libraries I’ve ever seen – around 15,000 volumes – they also have a small museum, an experimental vineyard with over 70 varieties (including vines from the Caucasus, Spain and Portugal, which are being studied regarding future climate change) and some vitis silvestris climbing up the trees next to the vineyards.

Eating and sleeping

Having worked up an appetite wine tasting, serious meat eaters should head to Osteria La Magona for some Tuscan steak, while fish lovers might head to the coast and indulge themselves at I Ginepri or Tana del Pirata in Marina di Castagneto Carducci. Help is also at hand for vegetarians in meat-loving Tuscany as Podere Arduino has a great pop-up restaurant in summer next to Strada Bolgherese with delicious vegetarian treats and a picnic-like atmosphere. In Bolgheri itself, you can dine with wines selected from the shelves of Enoteca Tognoni’s restaurant. The picturesque town with its narrow streets makes a good base or, if you fancy getting away from it all, book one of the cottages on the estate of renowned photographer Oliviero Toscani, where you can relax among vineyards and paddocks with a great view of neighbouring Casale Marittimo.

 

Final thoughts

And remember, Bolgheri is a region still in its infancy compared to other classic regions; young vines are still not at their best, small producers can only compete with the big in terms of quality, and zonation will enable producers to match varieties and soils more effectively, so the only way is up.

Ten wines to try… and not just the classics

Tenuta Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Vermentino 2018

Zingy, bright citrus acidity and notes of green apple, the wine is textured and creamy on the palate with a lovely herbal, saline finish.

Grattamacco Bolgheri Vermentino 2017

A rich lush wine with a creamy texture and plenty of fresh, zesty lime and grapefruit acidity. Reveals its origins with notes of Mediterranean herbs and salt.

Michele Satta GiovinRe Toscana IGT 2017

A lovely oily textured skin-contact Viognier with rich notes of apricot, butter and spice. Some tannins and a beautiful caramel persistence on the finish.

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese Toscana IGT 2017

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese from the producers of Sassicaia. The Sangiovese contributes fresh acidity and fine tannins. Notes of plum, raspberry and sour cherry mingle with dried tomatoes and herbs and well-integrated oak. Drinking beautifully now.

Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore 2016

Lauded as one of the best expressions of the last ten years. This classic Bordeaux blend is bursting with dark blackberry, cherry and chocolate. Its supple tannins make it structured yet ripe, rich and elegant wine, lingering long after you swallow.

Michele Satta Piastraia Bolgheri Superiore 2016

This Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese blend is a complex dark fruit salad mixed with notes of chocolate, smoky pepper and spice. The tannins are ripe and smooth, while a lifted herbal note endows this otherwise rich wine with great elegance.

Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore 2016

Juicy ripe cherry, plum and cassis with well-integrated oak, a fresh mineral note and a hint of liquorice. It boasts bright acidity, chalky tannins and long sweet and spicy finish.

Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore 2016 – This iconic Bordeaux blend with just a splash of Petit Verdot, offers intense dark black-berried fruit with notes of cedar and spice. Smooth, long and textured on the palate with firm tannins and racy acidity. A Bolgheri classic.

Guado al Melo Artis Bolgheri Superiore 2015

Classic Bordeaux blend not produced every year. Freshly crushed raspberries mingle with ripe cherry, cassis and plum. A structured wine with an attractive hint of green pepper.

Poggio al Tesoro Dedicato a Walter Bolgheri Superiore 2015

This 100% Cabernet Franc is bursting with rich dark fruit and notes of pepper and mint. Full-bodied with smooth tannins and juicy acidity that persists on the finish.

*First published in Hungarian in Vince magazine.

Visiting the garden of Diodoros

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Italy is a magnet for lovers of food and wine, attracting around 17 million visitors annually in search of the boot’s gastronomic delights, 90% of whom also arrive with wine tasting on their mind. Yet how many of these visitors end up in the south of the country? A paltry 7%, with Lazio, home to the capital Rome, creaming off a good proportion of that. Most of the Italian food and wine lovers end up in Tuscany, Piedmont and Trentino-Alto Adige. So where does that leave Sicily, once known as ‘God’s kitchen’, with its abundance of fresh produce and increasingly high-quality wines. Well, with a fraction of that 7%, I guess.

Sicily and its vinous and gastronomic bounty have a special place in my heart. So, when I received a call from Salvo Giusino of Cronache di Gusto and a subsequent invitation from Luigi Bonsignore, president of the Strada del Vino e dei Sapori della Valle dei Templi (Wine and Flavours Route of the Valley of Temples), to attend their inaugural conference and tasting in Agrigento at the beginning of June, I was delighted to accept.

The area of Agrigento is known primarily for the Valley of the Temples – an archaeological park with wonderfully preserved Greek temples that is the world’s largest archaeological site and one of Sicily’s main attractions. Yet of the 950,000 visitors visiting the park last year (up from 550,000 in 2012, according to director of the park, Giuseppe Parello), how many of these actually take the time to discover the wider region and its produce? Probably a fraction of that, before they jump back onto their tour buses and head back to resorts such as Taormina or Cefalù, having not spent a penny outside the park.

A group of local companies, including olive oil and wine producers, restaurants and hotels have clubbed together to establish a wine and food route, branded with the name ‘Valley of the Temples’ with the aim of improving the quality of tourism in the region and attracting visitors to remain longer and sample its wine, olive oil and abundant hospitality. It’s no coincidence that the Valley of the Temples is at the heart of the route, as the site also boasts a wonderful garden, and wine and olive oil are produced from the plantations within its boundaries.  The  produce from the park is branded with the name Diodoros; Val Paradiso (who also took us on a tour of their facilities) tend the olive and almond groves and produce the olive oil whereas the Canicattì cooperative produce the wine from a blend of 90% Nero d’Avola and 10% Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio – the latter two varieties being more closely associated with Mount Etna.

1 June saw the official start of the wine route with a conference involving discussions and presentations by key members of the route, such as Luigi Bonsignore, its president and owner of Baglio Bonsignore and Fabio Gulotta, its director and owner of the Terracotta restaurant in Agrigento as well as representatives from the Sicilian Regional Institute for Wine and Oil and the Federation of Sicilian Wine Routes.

foto convegno Casa Sanfilippo

Luigi Bonsignore believes that the region has something unique to offer in terms of its olive oils and wines. It’s one of the best places to grow Nero d’Avola , he thinks, and the wines produced here represent the best expression of the variety. The initiative aims to bring this to the eyes of the public and attach it to the already known brand of the ‘Valley of the Temples’, which already draws crowds to Agrigento. The hope is that some of these visitors will then also remain a little longer and discover the beauty of the 250-kilometre route stretching from Casteltermini and Caltanissetta in the north to Licata and its heart, Agrigento, in the south.

The region also boasts attractive, off-the-beaten-track Baroque hill towns such as Nardo and the Farm Cultural Park of Favara where an abandoned town was brought back to life by community efforts and is now one of the area’s most important attractions – as its name suggests, an open-air cultural park. Florinda Saieva from the Farm Cultural Park emphasises the need for cooperation here in order to really achieve something.

One of the participants jokes that they now have a wine road, but no roads! A slight exaggeration perhaps, but one of the hurdles that the region, and Sicily as a whole, faces – is a lack of infrastructure. Many of the roads are in a poor state of repair and often lined with rubbish, an eyesore for tourists not used to this. They realise they need to work together to improve this situation as this also represents a factor for success. They are also proposing the introduction of mobility solutions for sustainable tourism, such as electric carsharing.

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The following day, journalists and visitors to the archaeological park had the chance to taste the producers’ wines and olive oils in an idyllic, if rather hot, setting in the heart of the site. As well as the region’s stated flagship variety, Nero d’Avola, juicy Grillo, elegant Perricone, attractive sparkling wine, zesty Cattaratto Comune, refreshing Nero d’Avola Rosé and spicy Syrah were on offer, demonstrating that the region has plenty to offer the curious wine lover.

A website is under construction at http://www.stradadelvinovalledeitempli.it/, where visitors will soon be able to find comprehensive information on the region and producers taking part in the initiative.

Foto soci Strada del Vino_Valle dei Templi

I wish them the best of luck and hope that the Valle dei Templi will soon become a more recognisable name on the Sicilian wine map. I’ll certainly be watching their progress eagerly.

Italian flair and German efficiency

We’re here to visit Cantina Tramin, the region’s third oldest winemakers’ cooperative, based in the professed home of the Traminer variety, Tramin – or Termeno in Italian. We’re met by Wolfgang Klotz at their futuristic winery at the entrance to the village. This stunning green-veined building, a mixture of metal, cement and glass, based on the vine’s shape, morphology and the role it plays in the local landscape, morphs into a giant sculpture as you approach and has become a major landmark in Tramin.

Building on a long tradition of viticulture
En route to the vineyards, we call into the café in the centre of the village, as we all profess the need for a caffeine injection. In the tiny space, Wolfgang gives a bit of background on the area as we sip our espressi. There’s no viticulture on the valley floor here, unlike around Verona, this is given over to apple orchards. Apple production is big business here – Alto Adige is one of the biggest growers of apples in Europe. Munching on a Pink Lady? There’s a good chance it came from Alto Adige. Everyone around is speaking a form of German, but it’s not the German you’ll learn at school; it’s the kind of Alpine German you’ll found spoken in Tyrol and even Bavaria. Yet unlike their more northerly counterparts, the South Tyrolese don’t learn Hoch Deutsch (High German) and have no connection with it – they speak their local dialect and also learn Italian at school.

Despite today’s vast swathes of apples, they’ve only been here for two hundred years or so, previously corn was planted here on the swampy valley floor. Wolfgang tells us that it was very difficult to cross the valley, so dialects vary greatly from village to village. Viticulture, however, dates back 3000 years here. Monks later invested in viticulture too as it represented the warmest, mildest part of the German-speaking world. Viticulture is still a key industry in the valley nowadays with a myriad of varieties grown along its slopes. Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are grown on this side of the valley with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir on the other.

We head off along narrow roads with fabulous views over the valley, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, to take a look at some of the vineyards and Wolfgang points out where which varieties are typically grown. In the seventies, they merged with another coop from the other side of the valley in Mazon, which is the grand cru for Pinot Noir in Italy. The Pinot Noir from here has great concentration and body. Gewürztraminer (or Traminer Aromatico in Italian), the winery’s flagship variety, prefers higher altitude with heavy soils which retain humidity, whereas Lagrein, another key local variety, is planted low on sandy soils.

The vineyards belonging to the coop’s members run 10km north to south. There are around 350 growers representing about 260 hectares, meaning that most work less than one hectare. The coop, founded 100 years ago, helps to keep such family businesses alive. The income is divided based on quality, meaning that there is only a small difference between grape price and bottle price in Alto Adige, enabling families to make a good income and maintain their traditional way of life. They will probably have some orchards too.

We take a look at some Gewürztraminer vines where botrytis has already set in – it usually appears between November and January. These berries represent the liquid gold that will become luscious late-harvest, naturally sweet wine, Terminium, which the cantina has produced since 1998.Alto Adige, aka Südtirol, is a strange, but delightful place. This most northerly region of Italy used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and is thus a combination of Italian style and Austrian gemütlichkeit, one of those German words it’s simply impossible to translate effectively. Although Italian is widely spoken, you often have the feeling you are in Austria – the signs are in both Italian and German and the people are more likely to converse in German than Italian.

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The Gewürztraminer winery
Our next port of call is high up above Bolzano (aka Bozen) to taste the winery’s flagship variety, Gewürztraminer. The cantina, which has played a key role in raising the bar for Alto Adige wine, has based its profile on the aromatic variety and has become synonymous with high-quality, still Gewürztraminer. Its single-vineyard Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer has won Gambero Rosso’s highest accolade, Tre Bicchieri, 18 years on the trot and its newly released Epokale, a spätlese aged for seven years in a silver mine at 2000m scooped up an amazing 100 Parker points last year. However, the proof will be in the pudding or, in this case, in the wineglass.

We take the Renon cable car up the mountainside and across verdant mountaintop meadows to the atmospheric Parkhotel-Holzner, built in 1908. Before getting stuck into the real work of Gewürztraminer tasting, we enjoy the spectacular views across to the snow-covered peaks of the dolomites from the beautiful turn-of-the-century’s sunny terrace. Glass of their Chardonnay blend, Stoan (a play on the dialect word for stone) in hand, Willi Stürz, the cantina’s winemaker gets us up to speed with the variety, one of the oldest in viticulture, dating back at least a thousand years, although nobody knows exactly where it came from.

Traminer gets its name from the village of Tramin where its village museum has a bottle of wine from 1883 where the name Traminer is still used, Gewürztraminer being a spicy mutation of the same variety. Famous names such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling are descendants of the variety and Pinot Noir also shares genetic similarities. The variety still has one of its strongholds in Alto Adige, the other being Alsace. Gewürztraminer from here is generally drier, usually with around 3-7g of residual sugar and spicy notes of cinnamon, whereas Alsatian version may well contain up to 20g and tends to be more floral, with its familiar aromas of rose petals.  Twenty-two percent of the coop’s members’ vineyards are planted with Gewürztraminer.

We taste their range, from the dry Selida 2017, which offers the accustomed rose and lychee character, through to the luscious Terminium 2015, which is labelled as late harvest but is more like a Trockenbeerenauslese. Harvested between the end of November through to mid-January with 60-70% botrytis, the luscious golden-amber liquid proffered orange, marmalade, honey, ripe peach and umami and weighed in at a whopping 320g of residual sugar. Long lingering finish.

Of course, the main course comprised the Nussbaumer and Epokale. The 2016 Nussbaumer, where they had made 25 separate vinifications to try to understand the variations comes from the Nussbaumer vineyard with porphyry base rock. Well-deserving of its tre bicchieri – a rich, creamy, full-bodied wine filling the nose and palate with aromatic rose, lychee and bags of cinnamon spice. The 2009 had already begun to lose varietal expression but had developed greater harmony and elegance on the palate. Still retaining freshness, it had become smoother, creamier, more buttery with vanilla, spice and mineral notes. Willi pointed out that they now release their Gewürztraminer a year later than in the past.

And on to the Parker 100-pointer, the Epokale 2011. This was produced in the old medieval style (hence its name) of the variety, semi-dry with 40g of residual sugar and harvested at the end of October. The first vintage, Willi tells us, boasted 107g. Beautifully balanced and creamy, elegant yet honeyed and rich.

A cooperative recognised for high quality
Back at base camp in Tramin, we also taste some of their other wines, demonstrating that they not only excel with their flagship variety but also turn out very high-quality wines from the wide range of varieties grown in the area, such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Although a cooperative, here there are none of the negative connotations associated with the concept, these wines have earned them recognition as one of Italy’s top white wine producers. Willi Stürz, the driving force behind helping growers and introducing cutting edge technology in the cellar, was named Italian Winemaker of the Year by Gambero Rosso in 2004. In their search for high quality, they also decided to age their top whites longer, releasing them six months later. This entailed a drop in sales in 2015, but the quality-motivated coop members chose to bear this.

Naturally, we don’t pass up the chance to taste the Maglen Pinot Nero or the Urban Lagrein, the cellar’s top reds.

Cantina Tramin is an excellent example of how the cooperative system helps turn mountain viticulture into an economically sustainable activity for local wine-growing families, whilst pursuing the highest quality in their wines. It is an example that could be followed, despite the distaste for the word ‘cooperative’, in many regions where individual vineyard holdings are relatively small. Not only could it increase the income of grape growers, but it would also enable greater investment in modern technology, thus facilitating an increase in quality.

Many thanks to Irene Graziotto of Studio Cru for organising the trip and to Wolfgang and Willi of Cantina Tramin for hosting us.

Photos by Cantina Tramin, Parkhotel Holzner and Sue Tolson.

Article originally published in two parts on WineSofa. 

Passionate, sustainable winemaking on Vulture

Vinitaly, the annual wine show devoted principally to Italian wines held in Verona, is always a great opportunity to uncover, discover and explore a bewildering range of regions, varieties and producers. The huge pavilions dedicated to the country’s regions are graced with both the magnificent stands of large, prestigious wineries and smaller, less ostentatious producers with small booths. It’s easy to walk kilometres every day and to lose yourself amongst the overwhelming scale of it all. However, a great place to discover some of the latter, smaller, independent producers is in the FIVI (Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Independenti – Italian Federation of Independent Winegrowers) zone.

Vigne Mastrodomenico

One such producer was Emanuela Mastrodomenico of Basilicata’s Vigne Mastrodomenico, who took the time to show me her family’s wines and to tell me something of their activities on the ancient, extinct volcano of Vulture.

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Emanuela initial calling led her, like so many from wine-making families, to study something completely different – in her case, law – before being entranced by wine and ending up in the family business after all. Once she’d caught the bug, Emanuela told me she read everything about winemaking she could get her hands on and is now firmly and passionately ensconced in the wine world. Her enthusiasm and passion glow around her, despite it being the last day of an exhausting Vinitaly, as she talks about Vulture and the wines they make there.

Vigna

Five generations of the Mastrodomenico family have been growing grapes and making wine on the slopes of Vulture, but it was her father who really boosted everything 15 years ago with the first bottling of Likos, their Aglianico del Vulture DOC wine. Previously, they had really only produced wine for themselves, selling the excess grapes.
Nowadays, they farm eight hectares on a small hill overlooking the slopes of Mount Vulture. Their west-facing vineyards have plenty of exposure to the sun and are well ventilated by winds coming from the nearby sea, ensuring the grapes ripen well and remain healthy as well as aiding their ability to work organically. They do everything the traditional way, by hand, and with as little intervention as possible. The area, I learn, had been under the sea millennia ago and the volcano created very hard strata, thus conserving its marine deposits and layers of water amongst the rock, which they discovered when they broke through the rocks. Therefore, the vines also have access to a unique richness of nutrients as well as water throughout the hot summers.

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Naturally, as they are on the Vulture, they produce Aglianico, the south’s answer to Nebbiolo, and only Aglianico, Emanuela informs me. The vines on the lower slopes had already been planted by her grandparents, whilst those higher up were planted by her father – this area had previously been given over to cereal.

A tribute to the past yet looking forward to the future

We begin with their unfiltered, cherry-hued IGT Rosato Fonte del Ceraso 2017, a lovely fresh wine bursting with cherry, redcurrants, raspberry and a floral note. Refreshing acidity, a touch of tannins, a good dose of stoniness and a spicy saline finish make this more than just your average summer quaffer. It’s a real wine, reflecting the power of Vulture Aglianico and also harkening back to the past, when it was actually more typical to make rosato on Vulture than rosso, and it was often spumante.

Emanuela dubs the Mòs Rosso Basilicata IGT 2016 the spirit of the volcano and says they decided to make this wine to show the purity of the Aglianico fruit produced on the Vulture’s unique terroir. Fermented in stainless steel and then aged in second use French oak for six months, Mòs is a fresh red-berry-dominated wine with plenty of minerals and spice. Lively acidity, well-managed tannins and beautiful, pure fruit on the palate. Intense and long, it would be the perfect match for the Caciocavallo di montagna cheese typical to Lucania – the ancient name for Basilicata.

Their Likos Agliancio del Vulture DOC is now only produced in the best years, from a special selection of old vines. We taste the 2015, which is rich and dense with chewy yet fine tannins. The intense nose of blackberry, blackcurrant and cherry underlain with plentiful herbs and spices and a touch of dark chocolate is reflected on the palate with bright acidity providing balance to this elegant wine with great ageing potential. I could imagine this with some Easter lamb or perhaps even a dark chocolate dessert.

Our final treat would be an even better pair for dark chocolate or perhaps some blue cheese. Shekàr Passito del Vulture 2012 is a meditation wine produced in limited quantities. The grapes are left to shrivel on the vine, having been selected and had their stems cut during the harvest, concentrating the sugars and further intensifying Aglianico’s already intense stature. The grapes are then macerated on their skins for 15 days, fermented in stainless steel and left to age in French oak for three years in their winery cut into the rock, whose constant temperature and humidity provides the perfect environment for the ageing of this majestic, innovative Aglianico. Beautifully fruity with an attractive tannic structure, plenty of spice and flowers as well as a burst of fresh acidity to balance the residual sugar. Truly a wine with which to contemplate the past, present and future of the magnificent Vulture and those who make wine there, with passion, respect and in harmony with nature, just like the Mastrodomenicos.

Thanks to Emanuela for the first three photos!

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