The aglianico grape was brought to southern Italy by the Greeks (some think the name is a corruption of "Hellenic") and the vines that grow around the old volcano, Monte Vulture, in Basilicata, make some of its most revered wines.
"Some people call Aglianico del Vulture the Barolo of the South," he began, and went on to explain that this may be a misnomer, because the Aglianico grape has been cultivated since before Rome even existed, and long before the Celts living in Piedmont knew about wine. Though things get hazy at this point, historians think the grape may have been introduced by the Greeks as Hellenica; the name gradually became Hellanica, and that became Aglianico (pronounced Allianico) sometime in the 15th
century. All this means that the vines have had close to three thousand years to become adapted to their terroir;
they have done so superbly.
Though Aglianico is grown throughout much of Basilicata, it comes into its own in the northern part of the region, far from the sea on the slopes of Mount Vulture. Here the vineyards are at elevations between 600 and 2200 feet (the best are between 600 and 1600), where they can soak up the summer sunlight, and are spared the worst of the heat that blankets the lowlands. Making wine on a mountain does have drawbacks; if the weather shifts during the harvest it can ruin the vintage, and Aglianico is known for being inconsistent from year to year.