Monday, January 5, 2015

Italy Unit 17 - Basilicata

The following are my notes for studying the wines of the Basilicata region of Italy including information about the topography, climate, soils, important red and white grapes and extensive information on the DOCs and DOCGS of the region. I also include notes on the wines I tasted from this region.

Basilicata, historically known as Lucania, is the arch in the foot between the heel of Puglia and the toe of Calabria of Italy’s boot. The current name of the region is derived from the Byzantines who called it Basilicata, derived from basilikos which in Latin and Greek means both “prince / governor” or basileus which means “kingdom”. Its capital and largest city is Potenza. It is the third least populous region following Molise and the Valle d’Aosta that is very mountainous with lush forests as well as sandy coastlines along the Adriatic, Ionian, and Tyrrhenian Seas.


Red and White Wines of Basilicata

Basilicata produces very little wine but the region’s primary grape variety is Aglianico (56%) whose name is a corruption of the word “Hellenic” or Greek. There are no native grapes in this region as the vines were brought in by the Greeks prior to the rise of the Roman Empire, long before many native grapes in the northern regions were used to produce wine. The Greeks planted many vines in the zones around the Mount Volture from which the Aglianico del Volture DOC, derives its name. The second important red grape is Malvasia Nera. The wines may be dry (acsiutto) or off-dry (amabile) or spumante but dry, still wines remain the most important.

Basilicata produces very little white wine but the dominant white grapes are the ubiquitous Greco and Malvasia as well as Moscato used to produce frizzante. However, there is no DOC for Malvasia or Moscato and the wines are sold at the vini da tavola (table wine) level.

Basilicata has a Mediterranean climate on the coast and a warm continental climate inland. The mountains provide a typical continental climate while the Jonian and Tyrrhenian coasts have a Mediterranean climate. These two opposite climates meet up in the Matera district and in the Vulture.
Basilicata’s most important vineyards are located around Mount Vulture which is a dormant volcano, and its vineyards are located on the lower tiers of the cone where ash deposits are thickest. Basilicata experiences hot, dry conditions ideal for Aglianico (a late-ripening variety) which thrive on the region’s well-drained volcanic soils.
Basilicata has 1 Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) zones which is: Basilicata
DOCs and DOCGs
There are 4 Denominazioni di Origine Controllata (DOC)s and 1 Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)s in Basilicata.
1. Aglianico del Vulture DOC
Established in 1971. The primary red grape varietal is Aglianico. Rosso and Spumante (Metodo Classico) must consist of 100% Aglianico.
2. Grottino di Roccanova DOC
Established in 2009. The primary white grape varietal is Malvasia. The primary red grape varietal is Sangiovese. Bianco must consist of a minimum of 80% Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata. Rosso and Rosato  must consist of a minimum of 60–85% Sangiovese; 5–30% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5–30% Malvasia Nera di Basilicata; 5–30% Montepulciano.
3. Matera DOC
Established in 2005. The primary white grape varietals are: Greco and Malvasia The primary red grape varietals are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Primitivo, and Sangiovese. Bianco must consist of a minimum of 85% Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata. Passito Bianco must consist of 85% Malvasia. Rosso must consist of a minimum of 60% Sangiovese and a minimum of 30% Primitivo. Passito Primitivo and Rosato must consist of a minimum of 90% Primitivo. Spumante must be Metodo Classico and consist of a minimum of 85% Malvasia.  Spumante Rosato must consist of a minimum of 90% Primitivo.
4. Terre dell'Alta Val d'Agri DOC
Established in 2003. The primary red grape varietals are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malvasia Nera, and Merlot. Rosso must consist of a minimum of 50% Merlot; minimum 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Rosato must consist of a minimum of 50% Merlot; minimum 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; minimum 10% Malvasia Nera di Basilicata.
1. Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG
Established as a DOC in 1971; became a DOCG in 2010. The primary red grape varietals is Aglianico. Superiore must consist of a minimum of 100% Aglianico and be aged a minimum of 3 years, including 12 months in barrel and 12 months in bottle. Riserva must be aged a minimum of minimum 5 years, including 24 months in barrel and 12 months in bottle. The most highly regarded producer is Fratelli D’Angelo.
Key White Grape Varieties
Recent DNA profiling has proven that Greco is genetically identical to Asprinio, as it is known along the coast of Campania. It tends to have high acidity and a fresh, clean, grapey flavor profile but they also tend to oxidize in bottle relatively quickly resulting in nutty, caramelized flavors so they are best when consumed young.
Also known as Malmsey, Malvasier, Malvazia, and Monemvasia. It is believed to be of Greek origin, the Malvasia family has been commercially important to the Mediterranean for more than 2000 years. Malvasia, the name, is a derivation of the coastal Greek town of Monemvasia. It is grown all over Italy.
Known as Moscatel in Spain and Portugal, and Muscat internationally it is one of the oldest and most widespread grape families in the world. It is believed to have originated in the Middle East and was grown by the ancient Greeks. Moscato Bianco (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) is the oldest and most highly valued of the Muscat family. In Basilicata is used to produce frizzante wines.
Key Red Grape Varieties
French Varietals
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.
Aglianico’s two greatest expressions are Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata and Taurasi in neighboring Campania. It pronounced "ahl-YAH-nee-koe" but it is also known as Agliatica, Ellenico, Ellanico, Gnanico, and Uva Nera. Structurally it is similar to Nebbiolo giving it the nickname “the Barolo of the South.” It produces wines with high tannins, high levels of acidity, and full-body with musky berry flavors.
Malvasia Nera
Also known as Malvasia di Casorzo and Malvasia di Schierano. It is darker-skinned member of the greater Malvasia family. It is a thin-skinned variety that is very aromatic and can be used to produce dry red, rosé, sparkling and passito style wines. It is also a Teinturier grape with juice that ranges in color from light to a deep ruby-red with aromas of plums and cherries.
Also known as Cordisco, Morellone, Primaticcio, Uva Abruzzo, and Violone The variety was named after the Tuscan parish of Montepulciano, but is no longer used to make wines in Tuscany. Nor should it be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is made from mostly Sangiovese. It tends to have moderate tannins and medium tannins making it drinkable in its youth. It can age well but will not gain any more complexity.
Primitivo and its California relative Zinfandel are clones of a Croatian grape called Crljenak. The history of this grape in Italy dates back at least to the 17th century when the Benedictine monks named the varietal “Primitivo” which translates roughly as “early one” and it was named as such because of it is an early ripening grape in this zone. It tends to produce wines that are deeply colored, with aromas of flavors of cherry, jam, wild blackberry, raspberry clove and spice. Structurally it tends to have high tannins, moderate acidity, be full bodied and have high alcohol.
Sangiovese derives its name from the Latin Sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove and it has several synonyms. In Chianti Classico it may be referred to as Sangiovetto, in Montalcino it is called Brunello, in Montepulciano it is called Prugnello Gentile and along the coast in Maremma it is called Morellino. "Sangiovese" was actually several "varieties" of clones which are broadly classified as Sangiovese Grosso and Sangiovese Piccolo. The Sangiovese Grosso family includes the clones growing in the Brunello region as well as the clones known as Prugnolo Gentileand Sangiovese di Lamole that was grown in the Greve in Chianti region. Sangiovese wines in Tuscany tend to be light in color with sour cherry notes and herbal undertones. Structurally they are naturally high in acidity, firmly tannic, and medium to full-bodied. When aged, Sangiovese traditionally spends time in large European (often Slavonian) casks, but modern wines are just as likely to be aged in new barriques, which infuse both flavor and texture into the wines.
Notable Wine Producers
Fratelli D’Angelo
Fattoria di San Francesco

The Wines

While studying Basilicata I tasted the following wines:

2004 Arca Aglianico del Vulture DOC

This wine is made from 100% Aglianico. It is an opaque red wine, dark ruby at the core to garnet at the rim with a slight tint of brick red-brown around the edge with moderate viscosity. Unfortunately, on the nose and the palate it has distinctive musty, wet newspaper, and wet dog notes which are definite signs of Trichloroanisole (TCA), more commonly known as “cork taint.” Perhaps in very small amounts it might be tolerable but it was so strong the wine was undrinkable. This wine sells for $39.99 at Enoteca Vino Nostro in San Francisco.

2005 Lelusi Aglianico del Vulture DOC

This wine is made from 100% Aglianico. It is an opaque red wine, dark ruby at the core to garnet at the rim with a slight tint of brick red-brown around the edge with moderate viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of dried cherries, red plums, tar, tobacco, black licorice, dried cinnamon stick, hints of pepper and spice followed by minor balsamic notes. On the palate it is dry yet with some juicy elements on entry, it has well refine medium++ tannins, medium body with a moderate length finish. It is well balanced, in many ways it is Barolo-like but with not as much finesse and elegance. This wine sells for $36.99 at Enoteca Vino Nostro in San Francisco.

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