The driving impulse for vine growing in this region came from the settlement of the first Greek colonies.
Vine growing grew in importance and wine became an object used in trade between the various populations. Nothing is known, however, about the quality or type of wine that these people produced and put on vessels which began their journey at Metapontino. Something more is known about the Roman period: the poet Horace, a native of Venosa (Potenza), often referred to the vines and wines of his region in his poems. Pliny the Elder refers to the fame of the wines of Tempsa, an ancient city which has now disappeared, and the wines from other wine production centres such as Buxentum, now known as Policastro Bussentino.
In the 16th century, Aglianico wine was cited in the famous letter about the nature and quality of wines which Sante Lancerio sent to Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza. This letter may, with good reason, be considered the beginning of Italian enological literature. About Aglianico wine he wrote, “This wine is red, and certainly as good as the Greek wines, especially when the harvest is dry (the harvest is said to be dry when the grapes are allowed to dry on the vine before being picked). Such wines are also loaded with colour, and in comparison to those with very little colour, they are mellower. To really understand their perfection, the wine should aromatic, light in colour and mellow.”
In 1629, Prospero Rendella cited Il Melfiaco (from Melfi) who, in describing the wines of the Two Sicilies, called it fragrant, golden and sweet, in no way inferior to the wines of Cyprus and Crete.
In 1870, Ottavio Ottavi, when presenting the wines from the area around Basilicata, considered the wine produced in Melfi to be better. This wine was not marketed as such, but was instead used as a mixing wine, used mostly by “tavern keepers in Naples to correct and better their very weak wines.”
In 1893, Giovanni Bianchi, a wine expert, published a monograph on the vineyards and wines of Basilicata. In describing the wines of Vulture, he judged the area to be the best for the production of quality wines. Two of these wines were outstanding for him: Aglianico del Vulture and Aleatico di Rionero, with a prevalence of the first, which became the symbol of Basilicata. It is still famous today and certainly worthy of mentioning.
Vulture is an extinct volcano that rises up, isolated, on the Adriatic slope of the Apennines, near the borders of Campania and Puglia. It is 1,300 metres high. It has the same shape as Vesuvius and has two splendid lakes on the inside. The most flourishing vineyards of the region grow around them.
Through the various historical eras, from the Middle Ages to modern times, through the succession in foreign domination, kings and leaders, there was a way to appreciate the excellence of the wines of Vulture and of spreading their fame. Ferdinand Bourbon, penultimate king of the Two Sicilies, was so charmed by the splendid countryside, the excellence of the typical dishes of the area and also inebriated after drinking the marvellous Aglianico wine produced on the slopes of Vulture during an official visit, that he stayed much longer than necessary.
Paolo III called Aglianico “bevanda delli vecchi rispetto alla pienezza.” Carlo D’Angio’ ordered “for his own table and those of the court dignitaries 400 loads of good Vulture wine.”
Andrea Bacci, the 16th century author of the famous treatise De Naturalis Vinorium Historia, about this wine wrote, “It is considerably strong, especially that which is obtained from dry harvests, not from fresh harvests, and which is preserved in the best vessels. In fact it becomes perfumed and juicy, pleasing to the taste, sweet and stable. It is, therefore, nutritious, serves to invigorate the stomach and the other members rather than to open it.”
Today this wine is still considered to be a magnificent wine to accompany meals, with many aspects in common with Barbera wine.
It has a more or less ruby red colour, or a lively garnet red colour, with orange reflections after ageing. It has a vinous odour with a delicate, distinctive aroma which improves with ageing. It has a dry, zesty, refreshing, harmonious, lightly tannic flavour which tends to become velvety with ageing. It may also be slightly sweetish. The minimum alcohol content is 11.5 percent. Two versions are expected, with the denomination of “riserva” and “vecchio”.