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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Cantina Madonna della Grazie Liscone

Cantina Madonna delle Grazie - 2015 Liscone

Price: $27.00
Size: 750ml
Availability: 

24+ in stock

Type of Wine: Red
Grape(s): Aglianico
Style: Rustic, Medium Body, Elegant and Aromatic

The Wine

While Madonna della Grazie's Agliancio del Vulture "Liscone" is the second Agliancio in the cantina's range of reds, it can easily rival many a cantina’s first. It’s a very serious wine but equally as charming, and it punches so far above its weight class that it seems silly for the price. (I have told the Latoracca family—the owners and winegrowers—that the wine is simply amazing for the price, followed by threats in the event that they should increase it!) Even our top Italian wine professionals in some of the best restaurants in the country ask to reserve dozens of cases in advance for the by-the-glass programs.

INFORMATION DISCLAIMER

Terroir: The 5.5 hectares that compose the Liscone wine comes from 30+ year-old vines sitting 430 meters above the sea. Three kilometers away from Messer Oto, it is harvested one week later in late October because of its soil made of more clay and the nearby creek, not because the temperature is so different. The plants are a masale selection different than those on Messer Oto, but likely have their larger size because of the stronger water retentive ability of the soils by comparison. The average yield is 50-55hl/ha (70-80 quintale).

Vinification: Liscone’s natural fermentation is longer than Messer Oto’s, and ranges between 14-24 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 28-32°C. Malolactic fermentation takes place naturally in the spring and sulfites are added after that.

Aging: Aging takes place initially in stainless steel for 18 months, then it is racked into old, neutral 500-liter French oak barrels for one year and then back to stainless for 3-6 months before bottling. The wine is lightly filtered but not fined.

(Subjective and based on young wines)

General Impressions:

Dark Fruit, Earthy, Ashy, Classy, Elegant, Structured

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:

Exclusively black volcanic soil with more clay and volcanic elements without much in the way of a solid bedrock within reach of the vine roots, save the volcanic reasonably soft tuff layer below. 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. Mixed in with the topsoil, tuff rocks are easy broken apart, adding a slightly sandier grain to the soil along with the dark clay. Bauccio, a step up in their range, is also located in this vineyard but with less tuff, making for soils with more dense, darker clay.

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 1986

Altitude (meters):

430

Aspect:

Exposed to all directions

Slope:

Flat
(typical numbers; not vintage specific)

Enological Additions:

Sulfites

Total SO2:

None AddedVery LowLowMediumHigh

Alcohol:

13.0-14.0

pH:

3.4-3.5

Titratable Acidity:

5.5-6.0

Residual Sugar:

Dry

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

About The Wine

While Madonna della Grazie’s Agliancio del Vulture “Liscone” is the second Agliancio in the cantina’s range of reds, it can easily rival many a cantina’s first. It’s a very serious wine but equally as charming, and it punches so far above its weight class that it seems silly for the price. (I have told the Latoracca family—the owners and winegrowers—that the wine is simply amazing for the price, followed by threats in the event that they should increase it!) Even our top Italian wine professionals in some of the best restaurants in the country ask to reserve dozens of cases in advance for the by-the-glass programs.