Discovering Elena Fucci by Cynthia Chaplin IWA

Elena’s story is compelling and a tale as old as Italian wine history itself.

Cynthia Chaplin IWA

A little teaser before our Clubhouse interview with Xiaowen and Elena Fucci. Tune in on Thursday 15 July at 8pm CET to hear Elena’s views and our new VIA Ambassador Xiaowen’s questions.

Basilicata is one of those fascinating places in Italy, not easy to get to, not full of world famous monuments and museums, yet still renowned for its history and culture. Looming large on Basilicata’s landscape is Monte Vulture, the extinct volcano whose silhouette is reminiscent of the crouching vulture for which it was named. The volcanic soils here are much older than those of Mt Etna in Sicily, with the last eruption taking place 40,000 years ago. The great age of the volcanic material, perfectly weathered and broken down over time, together with the altitude of the slopes rising over 1300 meters above sea level and the unique position facing south toward the Ionian Sea, makes the region perfect for successful vineyards.

Nowhere are the vineyards more ripe for success than those of Elena Fucci, at 600 meters above sea level, on land bought by her grandfather Generoso in the 1960’s. Elena’s story is compelling and a tale as old as Italian wine history itself. Having grown up in the vineyards, Elena’s dreams as a young student led her far from home, with no interest in winemaking. It wasn’t until the moment when her family decided to sell the land that Elena was struck by the thunderous revelation so many young Italian winemakers experience — a heart wrenching pang at the thought of someone else owning her family’s vineyards, and a sudden undeniable urge to protect and defend her grandfather’s dream. Supported by her parents, she made the decision to completely change the course of her life, taking up the study of winemaking and taking over the vineyard as a new venture in her own name in 2000.

Aglianico is king in Basilicata, often referred to as the “Barolo of the South.” If Fucci is anything to go by, Barolo might eventually be known as the Aglianico of the North. Today, Elena enjoys the great reputation she has earned through sheer hard work with her single brand TITOLO, named after the building where Generoso stored his tractor. Scoring in the 90’s from Robert Parker and James Suckling, as well as being in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Italian Wineries for the past several years, she could be resting on her young laurels, but that is not the case. She has created a new cellar dug into the volcanic rock under the Torre Titolo, added a modern eco-sustainable cantina to the property, and she still continues to dream big. TITOLO is made from 100% aglianico grapes, the entry level red is aged for 12 months in oak, 24 for the Superiore and 36 for the Riserva. Elena has also launched an amphora project and the resulting wine is showing fantastic minerality and sapidity, as well as generating huge interest through the wine world.

Now comes the exciting part. I am always a strong supporter of female producers, especially in Italy where they are few in number. As a woman in the Italian wine sector, and a mother of four daughters, I am especially interested in young women who are making their way in what can be a fraught business in this country. I’ve been well aware of Elena’s work for the past few years, having tasted her excellent wines at various trade fairs and competitions. However, it was the news that she was releasing a rosé, TITOLO Pink Edition that grabbed my attention. Many of you already know that Italian rosé is a particular area of focus for me and I am always on the lookout for emerging wines from new areas. Aglianico rosé is produced in other parts of Italy, but I was very curious to see what Fucci came up with on top of her volcano. So, after a great conversation with Elena in person at OperaWine in Verona two weeks ago, it transpired that I had TITOLO Pink Edition to taste and try out on friends and clients.

This wine doesn’t disappoint! A stunning bright watermelon pink colour is the first attraction, drawing everyone to the table to see the bottle and pick up a glass. Then the nose kicks in, with a big bouquet of fruity, floral tones followed by a refreshing palate ranging from watermelon itself, through to tart wild strawberries, pink grapefruit, and juicy nectarine. The finish is refreshingly mineral, with a vague herbal note of fresh parsley and lemon thyme. Perfect for a barbecue, it paired well with both chicken and beef, as well as grilled prawns. It stood up well to spicy sauce and enhanced the dining experience for all those present. I suspect there will be several people who wish they had been there! Next time, guys. Until then, I continue to encourage all Italian wine lovers to seek out and explore the undervalued and undiscussed wealth of Italian rosé. Forget about pale pink Provence, people. La dolce vita in Italy comes in a dazzling array of shades of pink, get out there and taste!

July 13, 2021
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