Interview: Fabio Mecca tells Paul Caputo why there is so much excitement about the future of Aglianico
Fabio Mecca is a consultant winemaker from Basilicata. He is well known for his involvement with family winery Azienda Paternoster, one of the oldest producers of Aglianico del Vulture, but he also lends his experience and advice to growers in Calabria, Campania, Lazio and Tuscany.
You are part of a new wave of young wine makers and winery owners in Basilicata. How do you see the future of Aglianico and do you see any other varieties emerging alongside this traditional grape? The future of Aglianico del Vulture is flourishing as it is a great wine; it combines elegance and power and thanks to the excellent communication paths built so far by many wineries, we are beginning to achieve the proper recognition at an international level. I love the other varieties however; I believe that grapes such as Fiano or Moscato are necessary to growth here and the best way to complete to the whole picture of the region.
The villages of the Vulture each have their own characteristics. How would you summarise the differences in terroir that can be found across the DOC? The differences between the various production areas of the Vulture are demarcated by multiple volcanic eruptions over the millennia; simplistically it can be viewed as two large production areas. The one closest to the crater of the extinct Monte Vulture is highest in altitude. Towns such as Barile produce wines with much more mineral notes and with precise, complex aromas due to temperature changes between day and night. The second area is that furthest from the mouth of the crater, including communes such as Venosa where the grapes mature earlier and the soil is not completely volcanic. I'm currently finishing a project that will be presented to the region of Basilicata to create a zoning of the Vulture. This I think, is something very exciting.
What are the big challenges that you face when trying to grow Aglianico in Basilicata? I think that the biggest challenge is the continued need to communicate and promote Aglianico del Vulture. Part of this involves recognising the important relationship between the wine and the territory. When you talk about other important areas around Italy such as Barolo or Montalcino, you think of a complex, organised system in which the entire economy revolves around the world of wine. I think that the Vulture should be inspired by the "Brunello" system which as a result, manages to attract millions of visitors.
How do you think the Aglianico del Vulture wines being made today compare with the great wines of Italy? There is no doubt that the quality of Aglianico del Vulture rivals the wines of any other wine growing area in the world. Aglianico is a great vine and has great potential and so we must work harder to communicate the distinctive characteristics of our territory in the same way other important wine growing areas have.
As a consultant oenologist, what is your ideal client? In what kind of winery can you add value? The ideal customer for me is one in which the goals and style of the wine is clearly articulated, to the point where every bottle can clearly depict his concept, but at the same time a client that allows the wine maker to decide the best way of achieving that goal. In each winery, in every vineyard, in every wine you can always add value; there is rarely such a thing as a perfect wine and everything can be improved, always!
You are involved with a number of wineries throughout Southern Italy. Is there anywhere where you have seen genuine potential for authentic wine? I work in an that stretches from Tuscany to Calabria, and tremendously large and diverse area which includes important and traditional production zones such as Taurasi and Cirò. There are others where the quality of the wines clearly compensates for any possible lack of awareness of the territory - in Basilicata or Lazio for example. No matter where the production zone, the wine is authentic if we start our work and focus from the vineyard.
What are your thoughts on organic and biodynamic viticulture? I think that organic farming is one for the future, especially given the view that nature must be respected and any farming we do sustainable. In fact, many of the wineries that I consult for are already working according to organic methods. With biodynamics though I remain skeptical. I've tasted some good wines that support this method, but there is a danger of valuing the process more than the final wine.
Did you ever feel like pursuing another career or were you destined to join the wine trade? I always knew what I should do in my life; walk vineyards and make wine! I couldn't do anything but this, each vineyard is a wine for me and every wine should also mirror the soul of the maker. No matter what the vintage, it is a process of joy and success!