Savour the Wine of Ulysses | Posted: 11 June 2015
Self-guided cycling holidays in Italy
Self-guided cycling holidays in Italy
Self-guided cycling holidays in Italy

Autumn in southern Italy is the time for wine festivals and one of the most interesting takes place in Vulture, near the historic town of Venosa.

Venosa itself is the birthplace of the Roman poet Horace and today is the centre for the production of a full-bodied red wine from the rich volcanic soils of Monte Vulture.

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 grape harvest and local wine festival both 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.

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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. Every year, the harvest takes place in early October (usually) in order to maximise the amount of time the grapes hang on the vine and to ensure the correct ripeness is achieved, and the event is celebrated with the Aglianica Wine Festival. It’s a moveable, itinerant event, taking place in different towns across the region each year, with the town of Rionero-in-Vulture as the 2017 venue, taking place over the weekend of 15-17 September.

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 help with the grape harvest – something that every wine-lover should have a go at once in his or her lifetime, especially if it forms part of a memorable holiday. There’s something truly magical about helping to fill baskets with the ripe fruits that go to make your favourite wine, particularly in a region so fascinating, traditional and largely unspoiled as Basilicata.

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