San Martino “Arberesko”
Aglianico del Vulture, 2010
Producer: San Martino
Appellation: Aglianico del Vulture
Basilicata is a region in the south of Italy, bordering on Campania to the west, Puglia to the north and east, and Calabria to the south. The region can be thought of as the “instep” of Italy, with Calabria functioning as the “toe” and Apulia the “heel”.
Basilicata is one of Italy’s least-known, least populated and inhospitable regions in Italy. The Apennine Mountains occupy most of the region, along with hills with only 8 percent of the regions land classified as plains.
The Greeks arrived in what is now Basilicata in the 6th century B.C. and planted grapevines, including what is now Southern Italy’s finest variety, Aglianico.
The region has struggled as one of the poorest in all of Italy. It is only with recent economic development in the area that has those from outside its borders are exploring its wines.
Winemaking in the Region
Basilicata is a paradox in Southern Italy, the “Land of Wine”. It produces only five million cases of wine annually, one of the countries lowest totals and it has one of the lowest grape yields per hectare of any of Italy’s region. Basilicata’s topography, mostly mountains, plus it’s cool, harsh climate keeps production limited.
In the wine realm, the small region of Basilicata distinguishes itself as a specialist in Aglianico. Aglianico del Vulture, from 1971 – 2003, had long been the sole DOC of Basilicata, although the number of DOCs in the region has in recent years climbed to four. Aglianico del Vulture remains the region’s only real wine of note, and arguably one of the finest expressions of the thick-skinned Aglianico grape.
Though Aglianico is grown throughout much of Basilicata, it comes into its own in the northern part of the region, far from the sea on the slopes of Mount Vulture. Here the vineyards are at elevations between 600 and 2200 feet (the best are between 600 and 1600), where they can soak up the summer sunlight, and are spared the worst of the heat that blankets the lowlands.
Some people call Aglianico del Vulture the Barolo of the South. Aglianico in many ways resembles Nebbiolo, the renowned variety that produces Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont. Not only are both late-ripening, and capable of growing successfully only in very limited areas, but both are also tannic, acidic varieties which typically require many years before their wines are approachable and mature enough to enjoy.
The San Martino winery is a relatively young vineyard, but has deep winemaking roots. In 2008 Lorenzo Piccin, in his early 20’s and a recent graduate of enology school, purchased 7 hectares of vineyards from his parents who also produce wine.
“Arberesko” refers to the name of the ancient Greek-Albanian population of the region who cultivated vines there in the 1400’s. The vineyard is certified organic and the wine is sourced from the oldest vines on the property (30 year old vines). The wine is aged for 12 months in used tonneaux and barrique and not clarified before bottling.
Monte Vulture’s soil and climate is the key to the wines greatness. The vineyard gets good day-to-night temperature variations which helps preserve the acidity, but it is the intense sunlight from the south that gives the wine its power.
The wine is produced from 100% of the ancient varietal Aglianico. The wine has a dark garnet core with a ruby red rim. On the nose and palate there are aromas and flavors of black fruit, purple flowers, dark chocolate, coffee, leather, smoke and mineral all deriving from the volcanic soil.