ONE WOMAN, ONE WINE, COUNTLESS ACCOLADES
The Titolo label, which has become known as a benchmark for the ageability of aglianico wines, one of Italy’s oldest old but largely undiscovered varietals, may never have existed if it weren’t for a last minute ‘shot to the heart’ of winemaker Elena Fucci.
In 2000, the Fuccis were considering selling the picturesque vineyards the family had tended for four generations and that surrounded the house Elena grew up in, at the foot of the ancient volcano Mount Vulture in Contrada Solagna del Titolo in Southern Italy. They’d been purchased in the 1960s by grandfather Generoso and were tended by him and his father, selling most of the grapes after harvest and keeping only enough to produce a little wine for personal consumption.
But Elena’s parents were school teachers and she and her siblings were set to move away from home to study, so the family decided to sell up. There was no shortage of interest but when a sale was imminent, Elena had that fortuitous ‘shot to the heart’.
‘I could not bear the idea that someone may take away from our family the vineyard that I grew up in or accept the possibility that another name may do something great with the oldest vineyards on Mount Vulture.’
So she changed her plans and began studying oenology with the full support of her father Salvatore, who it seemed had secretly harboured the same dream for some time, and was himself well versed in agronomy and everything else that would be needed to start their new venture.
And so Titolo (named after the local volcanic terroir) came to life in 2000, that first vintage coinciding with the completion of Elena’s studies. Initially the Fuccis were assisted by an external consultant, but by 2004 they had taken control of all facets of the winery.
‘The choice from the beginning, without any regret, was to stake everything on a single label, the Titolo, envisioning it as a high quality, first class wine or cru,’ said Elena. ‘A unique wine to best represent the characteristics of the aglianico grape and the territory of the Vulture, where the particular mix of microclimate and terroir transmits to our wine one of the best and most unique expressions of this fabulous area .’
Her interpretation of the territory has been described by industry insiders as ‘modern but not modernist’. ‘Modern for being able to understand the real needs of the aglianico variety in terms of maturation and ageing,’ she explains, ‘but always without changing the characteristics of the fruit that the vineyard yields in this wonderful corner of Italy. Not to mention the history of my family, the knowledge that has been passed down from past generations, who had this craft and art in their blood.’
‘The work we do in the vineyard, as I always say to my grandfather, is not only viticulture, it is also the art of gardening and in this way we are able to provide so much care to our vines. A complete respect for nature and its cycles without the use of chemicals; even the vines are tied up with broom fibres that are dried during the summer.’
And that dedication, and the strategy to stick to a single wine, has certainly paid off. In her recent vertical tasting of an entire Titolo retrospective, acclaimed wine critic Monica Larner for eRobertParker.com didn’t score any of the wines under 90 points. ‘To say I was impressed is an understatement,’ praised Larner. ‘Elena is a beacon of hope and a symbol of the greatness that can be achieved in this forgotten land: The proverbial diamond in the rough. She lays the groundwork for confidence in the longevity of Aglianico del Vulture.’
We offer the 2011 vintage of the Titolo. This received 92 points from Robert Parker.