“It’s been quite warm today and there’s still no sign of autumn in the air, even though it’s evening and we’re now back at our hotel in historic Venosa.
Today’s bike ride was wonderful, cycling through rolling hills of vineyards to the pretty village of Melfi [left], dominated by a rather impressive castle, in the shadow of Monte Vulture, a long-extinct volcano.
And guess what? The local wine festival has just begun – and so we’re joining the locals by indulging in a glass (or two) of their full-bodied red wine – richly textured, with a chocolatey flavour, or do I detect a hint of cherry?”
Vino Aglianico del Vulture has been produced in this largely unknown region of southern Italy for millennia – legend says that the “red honey-fruited wine” given by Ulysses to Polyphemus was the Aglianico del Vulture – and there’s no better time to go than early autumn when the harvest and wine festival take place.
These rich red wines are considered to be some of the best in Italy – though not as well-known, perhaps, as Chianti or Barolo – having been awarded DOC status in 1971 and DOCG status more recently in 2010 (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – ‘controlled designation of origin guaranteed’) as Aglianico del Vulture Superiore.
The Aglianico is a late ripening variety of grape, requiring a longer period of sunshine than many others and so the volcanic slopes and foothills of Monte Vulture in the Potenza province of Basilicata are ideal. Traditionally, the harvest falls in October – this year, the Aglianica Wine Festival is being held over the weekend 5 to 7 October in the marvellous Castel Del Balzo Orsini in Venosa, birthplace of Roman lyric poet, Horace – in order to maximise the amount of time the grapes hang on the vine and to ensure the correct ripeness is achieved.
A wide a variety of events will be taking place throughout the weekend: you can taste over 100 wines; sample regional dishes created specially by local Lucanian chefs to complement the wines; meet the wine-growers themselves; and, of course, buy some of their wines to take home.
You could also choose to join in with the grape harvest – something that every wine-lover should experience once in his or her lifetime. There’s something truly magical about helping to fill baskets with the ripe fruits that go to make your favourite wine, all the more so if it forms part of a memorable holiday, particularly in a region so fascinating, traditional and largely unspoiled as Basilicata.
Getting to Venosa is easy. Enjoy a cycling holiday in Italy that explore the Vineyards and Castles of the South and you spend two nights in Venosa; take A Journey through Puglia, and use your hire car to visit Venosa from Matera; alternatively, spend a leisurely week at l’Orto, our tasteful self-catering apartments near Montescaglioso, and again, use your included hire car to visit the festival. Salute!