Helen Keller said, “Life is either an adventure or it’s nothing at all.” Although I’ve never seen my life as an adventure, I do see wine as one. Today’s wine, Musto Camelitano Serra Del Prete, is an adventure all its own, and one I hope you decide to take.
Like every wine I write about there’s a story. I learned of the Musto Camelitano Serra Del Prete through an e-mail ad from a wine store near where my daughter lives. The hook for me was the grape: Aglianico (pronounced) “ahl-YAH-nee-koe” (it is good to live with a beautiful Italian woman who can read the labels for me.) Aglianico del Vulture is considered one of the best wines of Italy, right up there with Nebbiolo, the noble grape of the north that produces Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont. A wine that is as good as a Barolo for $19, oh baby let the adventure begin!
The Aglianico grape came to Southern Italy like almost all the wines of the region, from Greece. Some say the name is a corruption of vitis hellencia, Latin for “Greek Wine.” My money is on the possibility that it’s a corruption of Apulianicum, the Latin name for Southern Italy in Roman times. In ancient Rome Aglianico was the principal grape of the famous Falernian wines that I’ve talked about before. The truth is most likely the first story because the grape was called “Ellenico,” the Italian word for “Greek,” until the 15th century when it acquired its current name.
The grape is most-widely cultivated in Basilicata Italy (I dare you to find that on a map!) Here’s where the adventure comes in. I’ve become a aficionado of Southern Italian wines. My first adventure with Southern Italian wine came from my adopted homeland of Sicily, then to the very attractive and history-rich Puglia, and now Basilicata. That’s over 470 miles of journeying through Southern Italy I’ve drank through. Basilicata is so unknown that even most Italians don’t know where to find it. So to help: if Puglia is the heal on the boot kicking the football of Sicily and Campania is the toe, Basilicata is the ankle, or roughly halfway between Puglia and Salerno on a map. If I ever get the chance to get back to Sicily for and extended stay I’m renting a Fiat, which are built in Basilicata, and driving Campania, Basilicata, and Puglia to enjoy wine all along the trip. One stop will be Castle of Melfi the other the town of Sere Del Prete.
The wine is deep red in color, I would say ruby, but that’s a little over-worked. The nose is calming, almost like a good old-fashioned candy store, one that sells a lot of licorice. The taste when you first open is very tart with aggressive tannins, so you will need to let this one breath a little. Decanter and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes and it will be less of a slap in the face, and then you can savor the majesty the Musto has to offer. No matter what you do you’ll have a powerful wine in your hands, so I’d pair this with some equally powerful food and let the magic happen. The wine softens and mellows both the food and itself. I had mine with tacos, very spicy homemade tacos, and both tasted better together than apart.
The vineyard is on the eastern slops of Monte Vulture, an old volcano which provides excellent soil for growing wine. The wine is 100% Agloanico, aged for 6 months in stainless steel barrels, cement refined for 6 months, and then spends at least 4 months in the bottle.
Gambero Rosso has rated this wine as “TRE BICCHINE,” or three glasses, but you can do much better than that. My bottle was a 2009, the same year rated by Gambero Rosso, and it tasted very young. I would love the opportunity to get another bottle, cellar it for two years, and revisit. I’d be willing to bet it would be even more wonderful than the first!
Take the adventure, explore Southern Italian wines, and I promise you will not be sorry. I leave you with this toast: “Here’s to cold nights, warm friends, and a good drink to give them.”