Cantina Madonna delle Grazie

The Story

The historical Roman town Venosa, named after the Roman goddess, Venus, sits in the northwestern corner of the Basilicata, Italy’s third least populated department. The city’s centro storico is mostly well-manicured, or at least somewhat recently renovated, and the large and often juxtaposed limestone and black volcanic road slabs seem to be even polished in some areas; it’s not typical of Italy’s south, where inside cities spatzzatura (Italian for trash) always seems to be within sight. There is an industrial side to Venosa, but where you want to be, in the historical center, is wonderful. What makes Venosa even more special for us is our relationship with the Latoracca family, the owners of Cantina Madonna della Grazie, a name derived from the eponymous historic church that abuts their home and cantina.

The Family

During our year in Salerno, about two hours away by car from Venosa, we went back and forth to visit the Latoraccas, particularly the highly energetic and sweet-natured, Paolo. He’s the family’s principal winemaker, and would sometimes make the trip down to visit us on some weekends, too. He and the eldest brother, Michele, are an enormous wealth of historical and technical information. They both have enology degrees from universities, and Michele maintains an additional degree in agronomy and was a contract professor of enology for the University of Basilicata between 2011-2014. Both also have a great interest in their local history and are like walking textbooks on the subject.

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Lay of the Land

For a year I lived in Salerno, a port city in Southern Italy close to the Amalfi Coast. And never far from my mind was Monte Vesuvio, the notorious volcano that famously buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in its ash and pyroclastic flow only a couple of millennia ago. Pliny the Younger (the nephew and adopted son of Pliny the Elder, who died in this catastrophic event while trying to rescue people) described in letters to friends a horrific scene, impossible to imagine if you weren’t there. Interestingly, an even bigger eruption in 1631 killed over 3,000 people. It’s most recent was not too long ago, in 1944. (Watch the video here.) Every trip into Naples for a pizza or to catch a plane brought thoughts that maybe today would be the day…

The Violent History of Monte Vulture

Volcanoes are violent. And the most powerful can change an entire landscape in hours. Consider Washington State’s Mount Saint Helens that erupted in 1980. Take a look at a Google earth map (link) that shows with great clarity what happens when 1,300 feet of mountaintop gets blown off of a near 10,000-foot peak. There are numerous videos that show what happened with the flooding and pyroclastic flows that devastated an entire region. (Here’s one) Even as far as five hundred miles away where I grew up in Montana, the daytime sky was black and it rained ash for days.

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Drogone

Cantina Madonna delle Grazie - 2013 Drogone d’Altavilla

Price: $57.00
Size: 750ml
Availability: 

24+ in stock

Type of Wine: Red
Grape(s): Aglianico
Style: Rich, Rustic

The Wine

From a classically-styled wine standpoint, Drogone d'Altavilla, takes its place at the top of our portfolio with the best. It checks the boxes of great wine: impeccable balance, powerful yet refined, gritty and suave in the same moment, a deep well with high lift, enjoyable young but destined to grow old with grace and nuance. It's made in only the best years when the Liscone vineyard's oldest vines produce something unique and not missed as a crucial element in their Bauccio wine, where it is usually blended in seven out of ten years; the only vintages thus far were 2003, 2007 and 2013.

INFORMATION DISCLAIMER

Terroir: A sub-parcel of the Liscone vineyard between the Bauccio parcel and the rest of the vineyard, the soil here is exclusively black volcanic clay and volcanic elements with a volcanic tuff layer about 50-60cm below the surface and a touch of the soft tuff rock. Tuff is a combination of sand compacted with pyroclastic material, and each volcanic region and subzone has its own combination of minerals and bedrock structure. In sync with its deep clay soils, the ancient masale selection here has a notably higher natural acidity than all of their other parcels making it the last to be harvested and is usually pulled off the vine in the first week of November.

Vinification: Made exactly like their Bauccio wine, all the grapes are destemmed and crushed before its natural fermentation that lasts between 25-34 days, depending on the tannin level of the vintage. Extractions are made daily, with more in the beginning than the end, and the peak temperatures range between 30-35°C–related to the sugar level, which is higher here than the Liscone wine which maxes around 28-32°C. The higher temperatures and the longer maceration extract more tannins from the seeds, but with the longer time on skins and seeds the tannins reach a point where they begin to polymerize and become softer before the aging process. Malolactic fermentation takes place naturally in the spring and sulfites are added after that.

Aging: Once the grapes are pressed, they are settled in stainless steel tank for 7-10 days then racked off the gross less and back into stainless for 2 years. After stainless aging, they are put in 500-liter French oak barrels with 80% of them new for 3-4 years! Interestingly, after this lengthy time in wood its presence within the wine becomes notably absent by the time it is bottled. After its aging in wood, it’s racked back into stainless steel for at least six months before bottling. Eventually they will incorporate more time in old foudre (25hl) as well. The wine is lightly filtered but not fined.

(Subjective and based on young wines)

General Impressions:

Powerful, Graceful, Volcanic, Refined, Deep, Textured, Balanced, Perfect

Mineral Impressions:

Lightly SaltySaltyMetalMineralWet StoneFlintGraphiteReductivePetrol

Ageability:

Drink YoungShort-Term BenefitsLong-Term BenefitsUnknown

Technical Precision:

NatureModerateNurture

Intensity:

SubtleVigorousElectric

Core:

LitheMediumDense

Acidity:

LightMediumFullElectric

Texture:

LitheMediumDense

Body:

LightMediumFull

Tannin:

NoneLightMediumFull

Wood Presence:

NoneSubtleNoticeable

The Vineyard

Soil:

Black volcanic clay with soft volcanic tuff bedrock.

Farming:

SustainableOrganic CertifiedBiodynamic CertifiedUncertified Naturalist

Completely natural farming with only the use of copper and sulfur in the vineyards.

Irrigation:

ForbiddenNeverSometimes

Vine Age:

Planted in 1968

Altitude (meters):

420

Aspect:

Exposed to all directions

Slope:

Flat
(typical numbers; not vintage specific)

Enological Additions:

Sulfites

Total SO2:

None AddedVery LowLowMediumHigh

Alcohol:

14.0-14.5

pH:

3.40-3.50

Titratable Acidity:

6.0-6.2

Notes compiled in 2019 by Ted Vance (The Source) and Paolo Latoracca

About The Wine

From a classically-styled wine standpoint, Drogone d’Altavilla, takes its place at the top of our portfolio with the best. It checks the boxes of great wine: impeccable balance, powerful yet refined, gritty and suave in the same moment, a deep well with high lift, enjoyable young but destined to grow old with grace and nuance. It’s made in only the best years when the Liscone vineyard’s oldest vines produce something unique and not missed as a crucial element in their Bauccio wine, where it is usually blended in seven out of ten years; the only vintages thus far were 2003, 2007 and 2013.