Vineyard: Terra dei Re
The region of Basilicata is one of Italy’s most ancient: colonized by the Greeks around the 7th century B.C., its noble red grape of Aglianico (from Hellenico, “Greek”) was first planted here at that time. Principally mountainous, rich in untouched natural scenery and wedged between two seas of the Mediterranean basin, it is one of the country’s least populated areas. In medieval times, it was a favorite hunting ground for kings and emperors like Frederick II, who did much for the prosperity and prestige of southern Italy. Hence the name Terra dei Re, “Land of Kings”.
In honor of Frederick the Great, the De Sio, Leone and Rabasco families, who founded the estate in 2002, have stylized the Roman Emperor’s sword into the letter T of the winery logo, and reproduced it on the label of their pinnacle wine, Divinus… Both homage and omen for the future prosperity and prestige of this superb operation.
The newly built winery, 650 meters (2,133 feet) a.s.l. on the slopes of Mount Vulture and 3,000 square meters (close to 32,300 square feet) in surface, is itself extremely impressive. State-of-the-art technology and equipment have been brought in, and the design of the winery – most of which subterranean, 82 feet below ground level – is clearly with ‘minimal intervention’ in mind: gravitational flow, space, impeccable hygiene, the gentlest maceration on the skins, non-aggressive vinification. The winery’s adjacent underground grottoes, dug into the volcanic rock, supply an ideal ambience for the wines’ élevage.
Winemaker is the Maestro of Aglianico, Sergio Paternoster, with over quarter of a century’s experience. Widely recognized as one of the variety’s leading oenologists, Sergio was delighted to join the project, particularly on seeing the choice of location for both vineyards and winery: “the heart and top area for producing Aglianico in the whole of southern Italy”. Sergio also works closely with agronomist/oenologist Giuseppe Leone in clonal research and rootstock selection. Together, they have chosen five main clones, notably the traditional 420A and 1103. Total surface under vine is now over 27 acres (11 hectares), and microclimate is ideal for top growths, with excellent ventilation from the northeast and a temperature variance – even in the summer months – between 8° C (46.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at night and 30° C (86° F) in the daytime.
These milder temperatures are crucial in differentiating the Aglianico of the Vulture area from the hotter climates and jammier versions to be found elsewhere.
Density ranges from 5,500 vines per hectare (c. 2,300 per acre) to 8,000 vines per hectare (over 3,200 per acre) for the pinnacle wine. A good portion of the vines themselves are over 40 years old, Guyot-trained, around 400 meters (1,310 feet) a.s.l. in altitude, southeastern in exposure; soil is clayey/volcanic (Vulture is an extinct volcano).
Basilicata ranks as one of the least known, least populated, and one of the poorest regions of Italy. Often described as lonely, isolated, and undiscovered, the area is largely dominated by the Lucanian Apennine Mountains with only 8% of the land considered fertile plains. And while this region is located deep in the south of Italy, it is in fact one of the most frigid areas in the country. The capital Potenza is regularly the coldest location in the country both winter and summer with grapes generally harvested in late October and often well into November. Yet by all accounts there is one very good reason from a wine perspective to know and become familiar with Basilicata-Aglianico del Vulture. Several theories exist as to the origin of Aglianico-the Greeks introduced to Italy in the 6th or 7th century B.C via Campania or Basilicata (most lean towards Basilicata) or as others have suggested the grape is indigenous