Aug 18, 2020
In this show we tackle the heel of Italy’s boot (and the area
that covers a part of the calf!): Puglia (pool-YA), or as some in
the English speaking world call it, Apulia. (BTW -- the show
we mention that is hysterical and has a character that says
something often that sounds like pool-YA is called "W1A" and is one of our favorite shows!).
Puglia is spans 500 miles/800 km of the southeast coast of
Italy. It juts out into the Adriatic and Ionian Seas but despite
its proximity to marine air, the viticulture areas are surprisingly
dry with little rain or humidity. Warm, sunny summer months have
historically meant that Puglia is unencumbered by weather issues
faced in more northerly areas.
This could have meant great quality wine, and in Greco-Roman
times, that may have been true but in the modern era, not so much.
The area became a major source for heavy red and white bulk wines
that were shipped to producers in other parts of Italy and in
France to beef up their vintages in years where Mother Nature
provided less than ideal growing conditions.
Today, Puglia is in a transition from a bulk wine area to a
quality wine area, and things are moving quickly. As New World
wines rose to popularity and prominence in the 1990s and 2000s,
Puglia’s producers realized they had more in common with parts of
South Australia than with Veneto or Piedmont. They welcomed help
from New World winemakers and since then the area has been
modernizing and making better wines – the proof is in the new DOCGs
and DOCs (restricted, delimited winegrowing regions) that have been
created in the last 10 years.
The geography of Puglia ranges. Here’s the overview with the
most important grapes:
- The north is hillier, and more like Central Italy in its wine
grapes and styles (Umbria, Tuscany) – Sangiovese and the
Montepulciano grape are used more abundantly.
- In central Puglia in on the east coast, near Barletta, Uva di
Troia/Nero di Troia is emerging as the top indigenous grape, with
Bombino Nero also showing promising signs.
- In Taranto, near the Ionian Sea, Primitivo (Zinfandel)
Sangiovese, and Montepulciano are popular.
- In the south, on the Salento Peninsula, Negro Amaro and
Malvasia Nera are dominant.
Every grape imaginable is grown in Puglia, but the main ones of
interest that are unqiue to the area are:
- Nero di Troia / Uva di Troia (the proper,
- Traditionally used in blends to add acidity and refinement to
wines with bolder flavor
- When made well, wines of this grape taste like: red cherries,
currants, violets, black pepper, tobacco, and are medium weight
with high acid, and smooth tannin
- We mentioned there are two different types:
- A larger berried version that has been used for bulk wine but
also, when grown well, can provide perfume and freshness
- And a smaller berried version that is rarer but considered
higher quality and is being used more often now
- DOC appellations with Nero di Troia in the blend are: Rosso
Barletta, Rosso Cerignola, Rosso Canosa, Cacc'e Mitte di Lucera,
- DOCG appellations using the grape are: Castel del Monte Rosso
Riserva, Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva
- Primitivo (Zinfandel)
- Originally from Croatia, the grape is grown across Puglia and
despite a vine pull financed by the EU that resulted in many old
vines being destroyed, there remains some very old, high quality
vineyards of Primitivo in Puglia
- The Primitivo name signals the early ripening of the grape,
which is one of the first varieties to be harvested in Italy.
- The grape can over-ripen quickly, rise to very high sugar
levels, and is not a very productive vine. It’s wines can suffer
from a lack of pigment, which can be mitigated by oak aging
- When made well, and not permitted to over-ripen wines can have
sour and black cherry aromas with spicy, pepper, licorice, and
garrigue (rosemary, thyme, lavender). Fresher styles are more like
raspberry and can have higher acidity.
- DOCs are: Gioia del Colle, Primitivo di Manduria, Lizzano,
Terra d'Otranto, Gravina
- Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG is for sweet wines
made of the grape
- Negro Amaro
- A black grape variety grown all over Puglia, this thrives in
the southern part in the Salento. The grape can handle heat, and is
thick skinned so it is a very productive and hearty
- The smallish, oval, blue-black berries are packed with
polyphenols, making structured, full-bodied wines
- When well made, the wines of Negro Amaro are medium to full
bodied with black fruit, tobacco, and sometimes tar notes. There
are other versions that are lighter on their feet (especially the
rosato made of this grape), and these area often blended with
Malvasia Nera to make the wine more multidimensional.
- Rosatos are dark in color with good acidity and flavors and
aromas like almonds, strawberries, and oranges
- DOCs using Negro Amaro are: Copertino, Salice Salentino,
Squinzano, Leverano, Lizzano
- Bombino Nero:
- This grape is hard to ripen and often high acidity and low
sugar levels. It is lighter and becoming popular in Puglia as an
alternative to the rich, thick wines of the other red grapes
- Bombino Nero is a preferred grape for rosato, as it bleeds
color without excessive tannin. The evidence: there is a DOCG-
Castel del Monte Bombino Nero for Rosato only
Producers I like: A Mano, Cantele, Due
Palme, Felline, Masseria LiVeli, Masseria Monaci, Taurino,
Tormaresca (part of the Antinori family).
Taste some of these wines and let us know what you
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