Posted by: tomciocco | September 8, 2008

HEY, HERO!

There is no more unlikely place for a would-be hero to spring from than Vulture. The region is rugged, and under-developed. You can’t even see the beaten path from the top of the tallest tree in the region. But thinking about it again in a more mythological way, there might be no better place…The region’s very ruggedness and remote location recall the pantheon of deities of the Greek merchants and their families who colonized this region 2,500 years ago. The name “Vulture” (pronounced VOOL-too-reh) to the English speaker unmistakeably recalls the carrion bird of the same spelling, perhaps sitting on a broken down mansion with lightning flashing behind for extra creepiness, but perhaps it should recall the giant eagle’s daily removal of Prometheus’ liver…OK, I won’t exaggerate, this wine doesn’t rate that level of drama, but I think at their best, they can. 

I’m also not going to lie to you. The northeastern corner of the Basilicata region doesn’t look anything like an Addams Family re-run, nor can one shake hands with, or have one’s picture taken next to Bacchus or Ceres, but as I said, it is a very remote and mountainous zone studded with extinct volcanos (the real derivation of the “Vulture” name, referring to Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and volcanos), and where there are/were volcanos, there are mineral rich/organic matter-poor soils, usually situated at fairly high elevations. And what all that represents is a big slice of the perfect set of conditions needed to grow vines to make great wines. And that goes double for Aglianico, a grape variety that adores volcanic soils (the other (known) great area for Aglianico is in Campania (Taurasi) which is also a region with a long history of vulcanism). 

After some recent genetic mapping work, it was found that the strain of Aglianico from Vulture is quite distinct from that found in Campania, and indeed I have always found Taurasi to be darker fruited and more terse and tightly woven, with Vulture Aglianico often showing a more elegant and finesse-oriented character. The vagaries of terroir defintely come into play here, but the differences in the two sides of the Aglianico brood are perhaps an even bigger factor…

So with the Cantina Venosa Aglianico del Vulture 2003, I dished up a VERY southern Italian (though not strictly Lucanian (what they call people and things from Basilicata – long story…) menu of orecchiette with broccoli rabe sauced with an oil/pasta water sauce with lots of garlic, pounded anchovies, bread crumbs (gotta be homemade!), and red pepper flakes, and a pretty traditional plate of stuffed braciole with some broad beans from my neighbor Maria’s garden – grazie, Maria! This is an old school wine and the old school menu was just the right thing: the peppery, earthy, hot and dusty flavors of the wine had the fortitude to stand up to the brashness of the pasta, as well as the shredding beef and hard-cooked eggs inside, with the dark wine sauce from the braise…Some more specific words on the wine, and a few photos…

TOM CIOCCO

 

 

Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture 2003

Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture 2003

Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture 2003
 

 

Slightly browned and deep dusty garnet color. Evocative nose of baked earth, dried fruit, black cherry, toasted fennel, leather shoes, and a hint of violet. The initial texture is satiny, leading into rustic and peppery but not unpolished tannins, and flavors of pomegrante molasses, dried tomato, and fig paste. Finishes a bit short, but there’s a nice rustic complexity while it lasts.

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