VINO 2016: Cantina Sampietrana, the Wonderful Wines of Puglia
VINO 2016, Italian Wine Week, is an unforgettable event that occurs once a year around the first part of February. This year VINO 2016 took place at the Hilton Midtown, NYC (February 7-9). It is a festival of Italian wines where producers, importers, retailers, journalists and wine educators gather to learn about Italian wines and sample some of the marvelous vintages that are being produced throughout the 20 regions of Italy. This year there were approximately 125 producers represented and since I cannot get to all of them though I would have liked to, I had “a little help from my friends” who made recommendations.
My friend, wine connoisseur Chris Black, who hails from Hungary, suggested I stop at a exhibitor he enjoyed, Cantina Sampietrana, a cooperative which produces wines from Puglia. The region of Puglia is Italy’s heel and Southwestern most province. Its coastline fronts the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. I have never been to Puglia, but I have tasted delicious Puglian wines and knew I would not be disappointed by the wines from Cantina Sampietrana. Chris was right to send me there as the wines I tasted were superb.
Co-op representative, Stefano Civino who joked that he is “the face of Cantina Sampietrana,” told me that his father is a wine producer and member of the cooperative which was established in 1952. Stefano himself has extensive experience in the wine making business, not only from an international sales and marketing standpoint, but he actually goes into the vineyards. He told me he joins his father in various aspects of vine development; for example, he recently helped to prune the vines. Not only does this exemplify the expert’s desire to remain in touch with the land and vines, it manifests the passion to understand and experience all aspects of expert cultivation which helps to produce top quality wines.
Catina Sampietrana (whose location is the historic centre of San Pietro Vernotico, a little village in between Brindisi and Lecce in Puglia), produces both reds and whites from mostly indigenous varietals. What makes these wines wonderful? The type of cultivation that requires working with the vines by hand as they grow in bushes, and the bio-dynamic growing techniques; the vines are certified organic using NO Monsanto pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. I talked to Stefano at length; he knows a great deal about wellness and eating organic, clean food to promote a strong immune system. Of course drinking clean, delicious wines paired with clean food is an important part of good health.
I tried the Tacco Barocco Negroamaro 2013, which is 100% Negroamaro grapes made from 50-year-old Alberello bush vines. It is deep red with the fragrance of wild berries. Its oak aging from 9-12 months adds a note of spices to the velvet smooth elegance on the palate. The 2013 Salento IGT has a lasting finish; the tannins are mildly present but flavorful. As a red I would drink it with appetizers of Prosciutto di Parma and mild to sharp cheeses. It would go well with pasta and meat sauces, steaks, and grilled meats and vegetables.
Next was the Tacco Barocco Primitivo (meaning early) 2014 which is 100% Primitivo grapes. The 2014 Salento IGT is ruby red. Refined in oak for 9-12 months, it has a deep, rich, spicy nose and is layered and mellow with a hint of deeper texture on the palate. The tannins are not overpowering and give this wine an expressive finish. It would go great with slow cooked roasts, braised, savory meats, quail, wild boar and moderately sharp cheeses.
The Vigna Delle Monache Salice Salentino DOC Riserva 2011, a fuller bodied wine and quite delicious is made from 100% selected Negroamaro grapes. It has a darker ruby red color. Aging in French oak barrels for 12 months and in bottles for two years adds to the stature of the wine. Its bouquet is of black cherry with a scent of pleasant vanilla. The palate is velvety and profound with a lasting finish.This would go great with well-seasoned earthy dishes, roasts, savory game, poultry, pork and spicy salumi or Grana Padano cheese.
When I go to Puglia, I do plan to stop at Cantina Sampietrana and sample the next sequence of these wines vintages and try some of their other wines. They have tastings and if you call before hand (see the website information or contact your tour guide and arrange a visit), you will have a fun time and be assured that all the vineyards you are looking at are cultivated with passion, assiduous care and astute attention to sustainability and zero negative environmental impact.