Aglianico del Vulture: The Basilicata Region Produces One of the Great Undiscovered Wines of Italy

All the way down at the southern end of Italy, in the arch of the boot, is the region of Basilicata. It is sparsely populated with sturdy peoples of very old traditions. The people who reside there often call their region by the ancient Roman name of Lucanta. The wine making and drinking traditions there predate Rome. One of the oldest and best wines made there is from the Aglianico grape. It is called Aglianico del Vulture. In fact, it is one of the great-undiscovered wines of Italy. This is most likely due to the isolated position of Basilicata and lack of tourism.

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Basilicata is a poor region. The area, being mostly mountainous is not well suited to agriculture. The climate is often dry. Despite being in the south, the locale has lots of mountains and hills and can be surprisingly cool. It has lagged behind most of Italy’s industrialization.

It is known that the Aglianico grape has been grown in Basilicata since the 6th century BC. There are three theories about its origin; two of them crediting the ancient Greeks with its introduction to Italy. One theory purports that the Greeks planted the grape in their colony of Metaponto on the Basilicata coast where the grape was called ellenico, the Italian word for Hellenic or Greek. Another theory has the Greeks first planting Aglianico in Campania, just north of Naples, and used to make Falernum, a red wine hailed by the Roman writers of that time as one of the best in Rome. A third more recent theory has the Aglianico grape being native to southern Italy. Attilio Scienza of the University of Milan claims the grape grew wild and was enjoyed as early as the Bronze Age by the indigenous peoples. According to Scienza, the Greeks discovered it there and named is eilanikos, which means a vine that grows up trees. While the authentic truth may never be know, I suspect some amount of regional and/or national pride is behind many of these theories. Until the DNA evidence can track it down for sure, feel free to choose whichever version suits you best.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.