Puglia is the historical and current powerhouse of winemaking in Italy: combined with Sicily makes up 35% of Italy's wine production. Not only is there wine, but beaches and seafood to die for and the most natural and simple ingredients in any cuisine in Italy. If you have ever wondered why Italians do not travel for their holidays, Puglia is one of the reasons. Puglia has 25 DOCs and 1 DOCG.

The king of the reds here is Primitivo, but we wonder if Negromaro could eclipse its fame in the years to come. Recently have we noticed wine magazines calling Primitivo the old vine of Zinfandel. Perhaps they should rename Zinfandel the new world Primitivo. Carole Meredith from UC Davis decided she would get to the bottom of who came first and she firmly established Croatia is the origin of the Primitivo. Susumaniello, a curious variety, is becoming more widely planted, Aglianico also does well. Nero di Troia and Montepulciano from the North of Puglia can really dusty and aged delights. For white wines Verdeca and Fiano are the ones to watch but this is a red wine zone.

Try to imagine this: In the Post Phylloxera period, 1860 and onwards, wine was transported in enormous quantities in Bottes (massive barrels) of Slovakian wood to France. Yes, France, to give their wines some power. You will not hear much about that coming from the Bordelaise, but it is still common practice in Italy even today, and completely legal, unofficially only 8% of wine is now taken out of Puglia for bulking up other regions wines. One thing we found brilliant was a tank of wine while enjoying the delightful Lisa of Morella (www.morellavini.com) called Malbek (Salento Spelling of Malbec), I asked why on earth would you have Malbec here then the Puzzle really started to make sense, it was planted here as the French asked for it, demanded it one could say. Lisa is now reintroducing it some ways but it will certainly be bottled and labeled Italian.

Innovation is everywhere in Puglia right now as the drive to quality is so new, only now the winemakers have access to temperature-controlled tanks and ageing in 225L barrels. It was only really in the mid - 1990’s in Puglia that sourcing grapes from single vineyards and making green harvests to reduce yields was tested, which has lead to this huge leap forward in quality.

Puglia has 25 DOC’s. All incredibly distinct, annually producing 20 percent of all wines produced in Italy. As the world’s largest producer of wines you can see how important the wines of Puglia are to Italy.  Lets look at Primitivo in a little more depth.

ORIGINS OF PRIMITIVO In the late 1700’s In the Gioia del Colle area, as the story goes, ‘Francesco Indelicati’, a priest (you are never far away from the church in Italy) named it “Primitivo”, because it ripened early, typically in late August or early September. Primitivo thrives in Puglia’s Mediterranean conditions. Their are basically five different terroirs: Gioia del Colle, Manduria, Salento, Castel del Monte and Locorotondo. All have their divergent styles.

Primitivo is a variety that produces an earthy, full-bodied wine with rich, concentrated flavors. The differences between Gioia del Colle and Manduria are enormous and we will help you discover them.

Only very recently have we noticed wine magazines calling Primitivo ‘old vine Zinfandel’. Perhaps they should rename Zinfandel ‘New World Primitivo’? If you admire Turley wines much as we do, and Ravenswood's Kenwood, Renwood, Rosenblum, Seghesio you are going to be at very at home in Puglia. Wood ageing is also not always needed in the wines; There is often sufficient complexity without it. What is difficult to understand is there is a branch of wineries that are taking Primitivos into the 17 and 18 degree of alcohol, which in itself is not a problem but the problem is the Residual Sugar.This Style of Primitivo is not wanted by serious winemakers in the region and is causing confusion for the consumers.

Thank goodness that Primitivo is not all Puglia has to offer wine wise.  The Negromaro is most important in the Salento area. Historically it has been blended with 20 % of Malvasia Nera, which is where one derives the delicious wines of Salice Salentino but this trend is dying out as winemaking technology improved As far as we are aware there is one American producer of Negroamaro: Chiarito Vineyards in Mendocino County.

Next grape wise we have Nero di Troia; there are approximately 5,000 hectares planted throughout the province. Nero di Troia tends to be from the northern section of Puglia close to Foggia and down as low as Trani. We love this grape and it is one of the favorites  ‘Rasciatano’, close to Trani; it’s an extraordinary Zone. Enzo Scivetti, a revered expert, tells us just 10 years ago there were only 5 or 6 100% varietal examples of Nero di Troia, today there are over 80 different and quality varietals are marketed, progress indeed.

The problem in Puglia is not alcohol, but it’s lack of acidity. We have tasted Chardonnays at 15.5%, which just blew us away in its balance and unctuousness, but do they have a place on an Italians dining table, probably not. What it important to note here is there are 1000's of Acres planted of white varietals one would associate from the North of Italy, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco, why? well they are owned by massive wineries in the North of Italy and they use these wines to bring in concentration and colour to their wines which are not covered by strict DOCG or DOC policies. Its perfectly legal and it is necessary for these northern Wineries when there has been too much rain and too little sun in the months up to the harvest.

OK so we know that Rose wines are having a global renaissance but Puglia has been making rose from Negromaro since the Second World war and this variety does it so well. Must can be kept with skin contact for 12 to 24 hours in cold temperatures to keep fermentation at bay and the grapes are not pressed giving an elegant yet complex wine. Everywhere you look in Puglia Rose wine will be on the restaurant tables and of course the bars where the youth of the south are thankfully enjoying wine and not always beer and spirits.

Below are some of the wineries we like to visit or taste

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Agricole Vallone, Lecce

AGRICOLE VALLONE

Annual production:
516.000
Hectares:
170
Viticulture:
Biodynamic
No. of 3-Star wines, according to Gambero Rosso: 
2

Top Wines:
Graticciaia ’01, ’03
Brindisi Rosso V. Flaminio Ris. ’06

Address:
Via XXV 7
73100 Lecce

Phone number:
+39 0832 308041


E-mail:

[email protected]

Website:
www.agricolevallone.it

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