The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Exploring Basilicata Cuisine and Wine

Posted on | June 21, 2010 | Written by Tina Benitez | 1 Comment

The more I learn about Italian wine and food, the more I realize the close tie between regional cuisine and the indigenous wines throughout Italy. For example, in eastern Italy, the bean soup known as Jota, Montasio, a cow’s milk cheese, and  the seafood along the Adriatic coast are all perfect pairings for Friuli’s distinct, white wines like Ribolla, Pinot Grigio or Pinot Bianco. Travel west toward Piemonte, and you’ll find heavier meat dishes topped with truffles or rich cheese sauces. These foods all complement the mighty Barolos and Barbarescos produced there.

Also on the hearty side is one region I knew little about: Basilicata. Nestled in the southern part of the boot in Campania within the provinces of Matera and Potenza, Basilicata has some serious gastronomic treasures, including the region’s traditional lamb-based dishes. Usually slow-cooked in a pot to create a stew called Pignata, lamb, and fish, stews are common dishes of Basilicata. Families would cook out in the open field, throwing the vegetables and meat that were close at hand into a big pot and choosing bread from Matera or local Potenza cheeses to accompany their meals.  Along with the hearty stews, bread and cheeses, the people of Basilicata served wines of equal depth like Aglianco.

Aglianico, the name of both the wine and the varietal, tends toward the full-bodied end of the spectrum and is marked by firm tannins and jaunty acidity. The wine’s intensity is a perfect match for Basilicata meats, especially the region’s trademark lamb. In addition to acting as a solo varietal, producers in Campania often blend Aglianco with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape is known for its deep earthy aromas, which works to bring out the best in the region’s cuisine. Basilicata once had really infertile soils that meant very little space for sustained agriculture. Farmers grew what they could—like lamb—and thus the region’s cuisine is defined by heavier meat dishes as well as really good wine.

The adage is, was, and always has been “what grows together goes together.” It’s a truism that remains amazingly valid—especially in these days of fast food, frozen dinners and fusion cuisine. The wonder of Italian food and wine is not in proving the rule; it’s rediscovering it, region by region, dish by dish and wine by wine.


One Response to “Exploring Basilicata Cuisine and Wine”

  1. Francesco
    June 21st, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

    While there is nothing better than regional combinations, I do enjoy mixing things up. Its a lot of fun to mix and match wines and foods. For instance one time I made a burger in an Italian style, but paired it with a Spanish red. So basically in one dinner you can get American, Spanish, and Italian!

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