Basilicata Aglianico Eruption #ItalianFWT

Basilicata Who?
If there’s ever an under-the-radar Italian region, Basilicata is it. Located in the instep of the boot of Italy, it’s not a big tourism area, or an area of commerce. No big cities. Very little access to the coast.  With one exception, wines from Basilicata are not heard of or seen outside the region. The shining star of Basilicata is the Aglianico grape, grown on the slopes of the extinct volcano, Mt. Vulture.

One grape, three very different wines, all grown on the slopes of Mt. Vulture

One grape, three very different wines, all grown on the slopes of Mt. Vulture

Aglianico del Vulture
Aglianico is a grape not seen very much outside of Italy (except for here and here). In Italy, it’s grown in Campania and Basilicata. In Basilicata, the Aglianico vineyards are all on the lower slopes of extinct Mt. Vulture. Aglianico del Vulture is quite highly regarded, but I found the styles vary widely, from distinctly traditional to very modern international.

L'Atto was the simplest wine, but very accessible

L’Atto was the simplest wine, but very accessible

Cantine del Notaio L’Atto Basilicata IGT 2013 ($27 at South Lyndale Liquors)
Eye: Clear, medium intensity ruby color
Nose: Blue fruit, fresh, a touch of pine tar in the background.
Mouth: Medium body, good acidity and medium + tannins. Nice length to the finish.

This was the easiest drinking of our three Aglianico’s.  A bit of oak influence, but not overwhelming. This was the group favorite wine both by itself and with the meal.

Made in a very modern style, the Pipoli was not my personal favorite

Made in a very modern style, the Pipoli was not my personal favorite

Vigneti del Vulture “Pipoli” Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2010 ($18 at Zipp’s Liquors)
Aged 10 months in 60% stainless and 40% 2nd year barriques.
Eye: Clear, ruby, deep intensity.
Nose: Excessive oak notes, smoky, vanilla overwhelms the fruit.
Mouth: Medium+ body, strong tannins, acidity is moderate. Long finish

This was a well made wine, but I just didn’t like the flavor. Clearly crafted for the international palette, I thought the oak overwhelmed the other flavors.

A very traditional interpretion, I was impressed with this wine.

A very traditional interpretion, I was impressed with this wine.

D’Angelo Rionero in Vulture Aglianico del Vulture 2012 ($17 at South Lyndale Liquors)
According to the winery, this wine is aged in “big barrels” for 20 months.
Eye: Clear, but a touch of cloudiness (unfiltered?). Deep intensity ruby in color.
Nose: Fresh dark blue fruit, a touch of rosemary, balsamic vinegar.
Mouth: Dark rosemary herbal impression, strong tannins, medium + acidity. Nice long finish.

This was my favorite of the Aglianico del Vultures tasted. Oak is well integrated in the background, very nice with food.

Semolina Cavatelli
Pasta in southern Italy is likely to avoid any use of eggs and relies almost entirely on the flour and water with just a tiny amount of other ingredients. Cavatelli is very typical all over southern Italy. Take some time on a Sunday afternoon to try your hand at making your own! (click on any photo below to view as a slide show)

The ridges and curves hold the rich sauce

The ridges and curves hold the rich sauce

Was one wine better?

Was one wine better?

Wine Pairing – Semolina Cavatelli with Beef Ragù
Cavatelli pasta are made for Beef Ragù, the curved form and all those ridges are perfect for holding the sauce.  We finished the dish with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and fresh thyme leaves. The thyme provided a pretty green highlight and fresh herbal aromatics to top the rich flavors.

As for the wine pairing, everyone enjoyed the L’Atto as an easygoing wine with enough depth to stand up to the chewy texture of the pasta and the deep, meaty ragù.  With a traditional palette, I thought the D’Angelo was perfect with the dish.  Even though I didn’t care for the Pipoli on its’ own, it was nice enough with the dish.  All the wines had the structure and tannins to pair with this rich pasta dish.

#ItalianFWT bloggers weigh in on Basilicata

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Are you a homemade pasta fan? Buy this book.

Are you a homemade pasta fan? Buy this book.

Recipes for Semolina Cavatelli with Beef Ragù
With just a bit of searching you can find a variety of recipes for semolina cavatelli and beef ragù on the web. If you’re a fan of handmade pasta, I can highly recommend Pasta by Hand by Jenn Louis. Jenn’s book includes recipes for handmade pasta from each region in Italy as well as a number of simple sauces. I love regional recipes! For Basilicata, Jenn recommends semolina cavatelli with a ragù sauce.

Semolina Cavatelli

  • Recipe adapted from Pasta by Hand by Jenn Louis
  • A $10 gnocchi board is a nice addition, but you can make this pasta entirely by hand if you like. Pasta machine not required!
  • I tried using a stand mixer to initially mix the dough. I usually enjoy mixing the ingredients by hand and I’ll do that next time, it’s therapeutic!  I did finish the dough with several minutes of hand kneading.

Ingredients (measure by weight for the best, most consistent results)

  • 430 grams (15.1 oz) Semolina flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1.5 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 200 grams (7.0 oz) hot water


  • I mixed the salt and EVOO into the flour before adding the hot water.  I worked the EVOO into the flour to prevent little “bubbles” of oil remaining unmixed in the final dough.
  • With the dough hook moving slowly, mix in the hot water, then let the mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes.  You’ll need to stop from time to time to mix the dough a bit to ensure complete wetting of the flour and incorporation of all the ingredients
  • Finish kneading the dough by hand, adding either a bit of additional flour or water if necessary to finish with a nice ball of dough. Note, this dough is firm.
  • Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  Dough can also be held overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Hand made pasta is not a quick-Tuesday-night affair!  Leave plenty of time for forming the pasta, an extra set of hands is a life saver.
  • To form the cavatelli, cut off a chunk of the dough and roll it into a cylinder about 1/2″ in diameter. Cut into pieces 1/2 – 3/4″ long.
  • Move the pieces to a semolina dusted work surface and dust with extra semolina flour.
  • Form the individual cavatelli by pressing down with your thumb, then rolling them on the gnocchi board or the back of a fork to form the ridges (for holding that wonderful ragù)
  • Place the individual cavatelli on a parchment paper lined sheet pan to dry a bit.

Aglianico del Vulture needs a rich, chewy dish.

15 Responses to “Basilicata Aglianico Eruption #ItalianFWT”
  1. Cooking Chat says:

    Good idea to sample three different wines from the region to get some compare and contrast going. The pasta and meat sauce seems like a tasty pairing for the wines.

    • Thanks, David. The wines were a great match as the pasta was both rich from the ragu and chewy due to the thickness of the pasta. I was prepared for the wines, as I had read about style changes over the recent past. It was still surprising to see just how different they were, and all due to differences in the cellar!

  2. culinarycam says:

    As always, Jeff, your post has me starving and ready to uncork some wine…and it’s not even 7 o’clock here! Cheers. I am definitely going to have to track down some Basilicata wine now.

  3. Awesome. You rocked it again Jeff! Which wine did you enjoy the most? Your dish looks spectacular as always. Cheers.

    • Thanks, Michelle. I’m very firmly in the traditional camp, especially regarding oak. The D’Angelo was my fave, and the L’Atto was also good and the crowd favorite.

  4. Bravo on the homemade cavatelli. I love watching your preparation of dishes and your creativity. There’s nothing like having the opportunity to sample multiples styles of one grape to get a feel for its characteristics and the differences producer to producer.

  5. TheWiningHour says:

    I love that photo of the wine in the snow! I am so impressed with your homemade pasta. I took a class in Italy and learned how…but never did it here! Looks delicious. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks! Handmade pasta is definitely not a weekday evening event, but the hand’s on work is very therapeutic. Plus, now I have some handmade pasta in the freezer for a weekday evening!

  6. I tasted an Aglianico del Vulture when we did the volcano theme for #WinePW. I was very impressed with it. We enjoyed it a lot. I have made gnocchi before, but I use a fork. I like your gnocchi board.

  7. Valeriekq says:

    We did a few producer visits in Vulture when we were in Basilicata in August. I had heard of Aglianico via Taurasi; often called ‘the Barolo of the south’. The first producer we visited, Grifalco (their base wine is fantastic, BTW), the son told us that he preferred the Aglianico of Vulture because it is softer and more elegant. I can imagine that once the word starts to get out about Vulture we’ll be hearing Barbaresco comparisons! Cheers!

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