Basilicata is located in Southern Italy and is characterized by ancient villages, green rolling hills, and views of the Ionian Sea. Basilicata is bounded by Campania to the west, Calabria to the south, and Puglia to the north and east. Basilicata is one of the smallest and least renowned regions in Italy, although in recent years its second-biggest city, Matera, has become a sought-after touristic destination.
When the Greeks and Romans settled in Basilicata around 6th century B.C., they named it Lucania, after a tribe who lived there before they did, called the Lucani. Throughout history, the region has been controlled by the dukes of Benevento, the princes of Salerno, was under Byzantine control, and finally by the Normans. The region was incorporated during the unification of Italy, in 1861. Despite the process of political unification, which came with some homogenization, Basilicata was able to retain customs and traditions that go back to the Paleolithic period.
There are only two provinces in Basilicata; Matera, and Potenza (the capital). Matera has had a very interesting evolution, going from being the hotbed of an ancient civilization to a devastatingly impoverished area, and finally becoming one of southern Italy’s best tourist attractions. In Basilicata, winemaking dates back over a thousand years beginning with the settlement of the Greeks. The region is full of mountains, hills, and an extinct volcano - the Vulture Mastif - making Basilicata's terroir one of the most vary albeit relatively unexplored.
THE TERROIR OF BASILICATA
Small but mighty, Basilicata consists of a whopping 47percent mountains and 45 percent hills. Mount Vulture is an extinct volcano that rests in the northern area of the region. Basilicata’s vineyards thrive on Mount Vulture’s volcanic soils, which helps the local grapes forming robust tannins as well as good acidity. The Mediterranean drafts from the Adriatic and Puglia sweep through Basilicata mitigating hot southern summers. The Apennines protect the vines from currents that travel in from the Tyrrhenian Sea.
One of the native red grapes from the area, Aglianico, is the “star” of the region - wines made from it are also called Aglianico, the "Barolo of the South". Aglianico vines flourish in the volcanic soils and cool Mediterranean breezes and have a long ripening process. Basilicata is home to 4 DOCs, 1 DOCG and the rest of the wines produced are sold as IGT titles. Basilicata pumps out less than 50 million liters of wine annually, small production of high-quality wine.
THE WHITE WINES OF BASILICATA
Malvasia - The grape is said to be of Greek origin, the Greeks settled in Basilicata thousands of years ago. The region is best known for producing Malvasia Bianca, which can produce dry, sweet, or sparkling whites. Tasting notes include peaches, apricots, and white currants. Malvasia Bianca is grown in all 4 DOC’s; Terre dell'Alta Val d'Agri DOC, Matera DOC, Aglianico del Vulture DOC (Mount Vulture region), and Grottino di Roccanova DOC.
THE RED WINES OF BASILICATA
Aglianico - Aglianico del Vulture originates from the Potenza province in the town of Rionero in Vulture, characterized by mineral heavy, volcanic soils. Aglianico del Vulture has become one of Italy’s most interesting wines, after decades of neglect. When young, Aglianico boasts tasting notes of dark fruits, cracked pepper, and leather; when aged, Aglianico displays notes of dried figs, tobacco, and worn leather. Aglianico is a full-bodied, high tannin, high acidity red wine.
THE CUISINE OF BASILICATA
Basilicata is acknowledged for its rich agrarian land and culinary traditions. Beans, vegetables, wheat, peppers, and olives are all found in abundance throughout this region, heavily influencing the local dishes.
To warm up their taste buds, locals in Basilicata like to make a dish called Acqua e Sale (al pomodoro). This is a delicate bruschetta served with local tomatoes, garlic, oil and, sometimes, purple onions. Since a sliver of the Ionan sea is so close, the natives love to enjoy fresh anchovies, tuna, and sardines, which they buy straight from fishing boats.
Orecchiette alla Potentina is a typical Sunday dish and is native to the province of Potenza. The dish is composed of orecchiette (“small ear” pasta shape), pork meatballs, and local mozzarella. Flocks of sheep run wild in local farms throughout Basilicata, making the region’s cheese culture quite remarkable. Some of the best include Pecorino di Filiano, Caciocavallo Podolico, Canestrato di Moliterno DOP, and Cacioricotta.
Mostacciolo is one of Basilicata’s most treasured sweets. It’s made with cooked wine, almonds, flour, and honey.
Author: Melissa Norton ©