Women in Wine: Elena Fucci in Basilicata

Elena Fucci’s famed Aglianico del Vulture is commonly known as the “Barolo of the South”.

This is a 4-part series on women winemakers who are making waves in Italy not only for producing award-winning wines in a traditionally male-dominated field, but also for their visionary efforts in sustainable viticulture and investment in the cultural heritage of their territories. Let’s raise our glasses and toast to their continued success!

Meet Elena Fucci of Azienda Agricola Elena Fucci

Often referred to as the “Barolo of the South”, Aglianico is a noble grape celebrated for its balanced acidity, strong tannins and minerality lending it a complex flavor profile. This deep, dark grape is grown throughout in southern Italy, primarily in Campania where it is known through the Taurasi and Taburno wines. In Basilicata, the best expression of Aglianico is produced in the area surrounding Mount Vulture, an extinct volcano in Basilicata where fertile soils are a blessing to the pocket of dedicated winemakers crafting wine in this difficult inland area. It is here that Elena Fucci makes her world-renowned wine, Titolo, an Aglianico di Vulture Superiore DOCG.

The wine is named after the Solagna di Titolo contrada, or cru, where her grandfather, Generoso, bought a 6-hectare vineyard on the highest part of Monte Vulture in 1960. Situated 600 meters above sea level, with good ventilation and mineral-rich volcanic soils, this parcel of land is an ideal place for the expressive Aglianico grape to thrive.

But after more than three decades spent working the land, and no one in line to manage the vineyard, her grandfather was ready to sell his vineyard which sparked Elena to make a life-changing decision at just 18-years-old. Faced with the possibility of losing the vineyard she grew up playing in and her childhood home, she decided to alter her field of study to pursue enology to take up her family’s mantle.

“I could not bear the idea that someone else would come in and do something great with the oldest vineyards on Mount Vulture,” says Elena as she reflects on that pivotal decision.

Elena Fucci and her grandfather Generoso, who continues to tend to the vineyards.

Historically, the Fucci family had sold their grapes to other producers, keeping only enough to make wine for the family’s consumption as is common practice in Italy. But Elena knew she wanted to manage a winery with her own label. In 2000, Elena completed her degree in Enology and Viticulture and established the Azienda Agricola Elena Fucci. Just four years later, she released her first solo vintage of Titolo.

Titolo is a full-bodied Aglianico, rounder and more complex than most: its nose is alive with ripe berries, spice and earthy undertones. On the palate, it is an eruption of flavors, including red cherries, blackberries, Mediterranean herbs, tobacco, and light baking spices, complemented by a rich texture, tingling minerality and big structure. The tannins are ample, but well-integrated and become more so with age–something this wine is very much capable of doing.

From the beginning, Elena’s vision was to boldly create a single wine on her family’s vineyards. “One grape, one wine—done well. That is our only rule.” Today, she also produces a limited number of Titolo wine aged in amphora, a vinification process that enhances the minerality and spice aromas of the Aglianico grape. “The resulting flavors surprised even me,” she says.

While not a ‘modernist’, Elena’s wine is considered to be modern. And her desire to update Aglianico’s old reputation as a rustic wine is shared by some of the other younger producers in the area. Together, she and likeminded vintners formed a group called Generazione Vulture that is equal parts support network and marketing campaign. Thanks to their self-funded publicity tours and social media strategy, Generazione Vulture has brought Aglianico del Vulture out onto the world stage.

Elena has received her fair share of celebrity for her top-rated wine, and she makes sure to share her fame with the community. She invites regional chefs to cater lunches and dinners for visitors to her winery. She promotes artisanal agricultural products, such as the local honey production. And she directs clients to like-minded wineries and restaurants in Basilicata that champion sustainability.

Elena’s philosophy respects nature and its cycles — both inside and outside the vineyard. Her family’s land has never been treated with chemicals, and “even the vines are tied up with dried broom fibers during the summer,” she says. The winery, too, was created following ecological design principles with use recycled materials and technologies that minimize energy consumption.

Anyone who has been lucky enough to spend time with Elena knows how she exudes   exuberance for her work and territory. One could even say there is a new active volcano on Mount Vulture!

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