Tag Archives: Rosato

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!

Visiting the tower of the wind while in the grip of Lucifer

Torrevento

Wines of another Puglia

I have unashamedly stolen my sub-title from large Puglian winery Torrevento, which dubs itself ‘vini di un alt(r)a Puglia’ – ‘wines of another Puglia’; by removing the ‘r’, you then get ‘wines of an ancient Puglia’. I paid a visit to the winery in the Castel del Monte DOC on the invitation of its Technical Director, Leonardo Palumbo, fellow judge at the 2017 VinAgora International Wine Competition held in Budapest in July. Upon discovering we would be spending this year’s family holiday in Puglia, Leonardo promptly invited me to visit the winery.

The name Puglia conjures up oceans of easy-drinking Primitivo and perhaps two of its more well-known DOCs – Primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino (a blend of Negroamaro (the region’s most planted black variety) and Malvasia Nera) – will be familar to many. However, as Torrevento’s sub-title suggests, there is more to Puglia than meets the eye of the majority of wine drinkers. There are plenty of native and local grapes to be discovered in Puglia, and in the apparently endless sea of red wine, white and rosato is also produced in small pockets from grapes that few will have heard of, or indeed tasted.

Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte

Torrevento is located in the Castel del Monte DOC, in the wildest and most rugged part of Puglia, in the middle of the Alta Murgia National Park, at the foot of the thirteenth-century castle of the same name, which commands fantastic views of the local countryside. The castle has served as a prison, a plague shelter and a source of building materials for those pilfering the castle and its contents over the years. It sits at the centre of the DOC, which also had three wines styles raised to DOCG status in 2011, all based on local varieties, now constituting three of Puglia’s four DOCGs.

The two reds – Caste del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva DOCG and Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva DOCG – both take Nero di Troia (officially named Uva di Troia) as their backbone, minimum 90% for the former and 65% for the latter, with the rest made up of Aglianico and Montepulciano. Nero di Troia is the third of Puglia’s key varieties, producing well-structured, ageworthy reds with aromas of red fruits, undergrowth, roses, tobacco, black pepper and herbs. The third DOCG is, unusually, a DOCG solely devoted to rosato, the only one in Italy, so Leonardo tells me – Castel del Monte Bombino Nero DOCG. Bombino Nero, grown mostly in Puglia is a variety containing plenty of anthocyanins, so perfect for making rosato as the colour bleeds very quickly before any bitter tannins, giving a soft, well-coloured rosato with flavours of red berries. Although many people will not have heard of the Caste del Monte region, it is actually one of Puglia’s largest production zones.

Torrevento

The Torrevento winery is actually an eighteenth century Benedictine monastery, situated in the ’Torre del Vento’, or Tower of the Wind district, giving rise to its name. It has been the heart of the company since the estate was acquired by the Liantonio brothers in 1948, with wines being aged in large cellars carved into the rock of the monastery. However, its roots go back much earlier, when founder Francesco Liantonio set sail for New York to seek his fortune. Having amassed enough money working in an ice factory, he returned to his beloved Puglia to realise his dream of producing and trading in wine and olive oil, one of the other staples of Puglia. Indeed, wherever you go in Puglia, ancient olive grows dot the region’s characteristic rusty-looking terra rossa soils.

The family cultivates mainly indigenous varieties in this wild, stony landscape of the limestone Murgia plateau. Alongside the DOC(G)’s flagship varieties of Uva di Troia and Bombino Nero, Torrevento cultivate Bombino Bianco, Pampanuto, Aglianico, Fiano, and the ubiquitous Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are only used in blends. Naturally, as a large Puglian winery, they also have other lines with local grapes sourced from elsewhere in Puglia and bearing different DOC or IGT names, including the rare sweet Moscato di Trani DOC.

Torrevento botti

We arrived at Torrevento on a scorching hot day, in the middle of the heatwave that the Italians had nicknamed ‘Lucifer’, with temperatures soaring well above 40°C. Leonardo, despite seeming to be holding the fort practically single-handedly whilst many of his colleagues were on holiday, gave us a comprehensive tour of the winery, saw us off on our way to visit Frederic II’s Castel del Monte, reserved us a table at an innovative Puglian restaurant in the shadow of the castle, Montegusto, and generously packed up a dozen wines representative of Castel de Monte to pick up on our way back, for us to taste at our leisure. A couple of hours in the car with Lucifer’s sun beating down would have quickly turned them into mulled wine otherwise. Into the boot with two cases of ‘another Puglia’, including varieties such as Pampanuto, Uva di Troia, Bombino Nero and Bombino Bianco (no relation), which thus far I had only learnt about during my Vinitaly Academy Italia Wine Ambassador course with chief Italian grape guru Ian d’Agata. Leonardo then dispatched us off to visit picturesque port town Trani, centre of the Moscato di Trani DOC. Beware, if you wish to park your car in Trani, there are no parking meters – you need to purchase a kind of ‘scratch card’ from a tobacconist beforehand!

Locorotondo 2

Sipping a light Torrevento white and rosato whilst gazing at our holiday home’s picture-postcard view of hilltop town Locorotondo was the perfect way to while away our last few nights in Puglia and ensured that the remaining wines, mostly reds unsuited to the baking heat, caused our cases to weigh in at just 500g under our luggage allowance. All are now safely waiting for cooler, more appropriate temperatures before tasting.

Locorotondo vines

*This article first appeared on WineSofa, the first and only comprehensive website in English focussing on Central and Eastern European wine.