I am grateful to have received the information supplied by friends who live in Puglia as well as those who love and represent Puglian wines. The more I learn about Puglia, the more my appetite is whetted for a visit. When I do go, I will be prepared to enjoy the province’s delights and spend more than a few weeks there.
The Unique Wine Region
Over 800 kilometers of coastline define the geographic boundaries of the Puglia Region. It is long and narrow. Puglia is composed of Daunia and the High Murgia, Murge, Lower Murgia and Itria Valley, Messapia and Salento. These five territories are well-defined wine districts, strongly anchored to typical grapes that characterize the productions.
A wide ampelography collection makes the difference between Puglia and other Italian or Southern regions. Characterized by a marked mutability of its territory, Puglia can count on a wide variety of terroir that is expressed in a rich bouquet of aromas and flavors unique and unparalleled. It changes from Daunia mountain peaks to the sandy coast of Salento going through large and sunny hill areas.
There are the native grapes and also grown are the many varieties of national and international grapes now permanently inhabiting the region. The wines made here have a very distinctive and impressive structure. Thanks to the passion and experience of wine makers, Puglia’s wines are mostly red, with a strong character and identity.
Daunia and the High Murgia
Bordered by Molise, Campania and Basilicata Regions, this northernmost area of Puglia has a vast array of colors and flavors, and extends from the Sub-Appennine hills and the Gargano promontory right down into the heart of Frederick II’s territories. Wine-growing here is an ancient tradition, and the legend surrounding the origins of wine-growing here is that the king of Daunia invited the mythical Greek hero Diomedes to settle down; he had wandered around the Mediterranean after discovering that his wife was unfaithful and was seeking a new homeland. Diomedes planted the first vines, so that to this day, the vineyards are known as the “fields of Diomedes” and the typical Tremiti Island seagulls are also called “diomedee”, almost as if their sing-song calls tell the story of the hero’s wanderings.
Some vines which have found their ideal habitat in this corner of Puglia are Montepulciano, Bombino (bianco and nero) and the increasingly well-known and appreciated Nero di Troia – the powerful and unmistakable variety common to both Daunia and the Murgia.
Besides wine, olive oil is another symbol of this area of Puglia: the precious “green gold” is mostly identified with the cities of Andria and Corato, and some of the region’s most important olive oil-producing companies are in the surrounding countryside. Finally there is the delightful city of Trani, with its magnificent Cathedral, its Frederician Castle and its delightful sea-front. A glass of Trani’s delicious sweet wine – Moscato di Trani – is the perfect end to a wonderful tour.
Lower Murgia and Itria Valley
A tour of Bari Province’s authentic flavors takes you via Gravina in Puglia – near the border with neighboring Basilicata Region – down towards the Gulf of Taranto, passing through places well-known for their wines, their bread and pastries, and their excellent meats. Altamura is famous for its Dop bread. Santeramo in Colle produces wine and oil, and meat-lovers will be thrilled with its traditional grill-houses. Gioia del Colle has an imposing castle and is home to the Primitivo DOC wine.
The Itria Valley is renowned for its white wines, and no one should miss Alberobello with its world-famous trulli, and its two districts – Monti and Aia Piccola. The town was designated a national monument in 1910 and is a Unesco World Heritage site. The other jewel of the Itria Valley and the area’s wine-making center is Locorotondo. Historically, generations of small farmers have worked the soil. In modern times thousands of wine-growers combine traditional techniques with the new trends of the international wine scene.
Messapia and Salento
The people of the Salento are proud of their past, and at the same time they are very much orientated towards the future. This is the land of three important vines – Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera and Primitivo – which dominate the so-called Great Salento, from Taranto Province to Lecce Province, passing through Brindisi Province. This is the land of the great fortified farmsteads – the masserie – now top-class hotels and resorts which have made Puglia world-famous. This is also the land of wineries.
The roads to the outlying villages are very scenic, like the green road linking Grottaglie to Manduria, the city of Primitivo wine; on every side of the road there are alberello vineyards and monumental olive groves.
On the road to Lecce, it is definitely worth stopping in Guagnano, Novoli, Carmiano and Arnesano, small towns in the Negroamaro Park. This is where some of the region’s important wine-growers are based, and they offer an excellent combination of hospitality and quality products.
Once again the international Vinitaly Tour graced NYC and the turn out despite the snow was huge. Vintners, producers, retailers, distributors, exhibitors wouldn’t miss the largest Italian wine event of the year. Present were key figures for Vinitaly, Stevie Kim, Managing Director at Vinitaly International and Ian D’Agata, Scientific Director of Vinitaly International Academy. Both Stevie Kim and Ian D’Agata were present for a number of the Master Classes and Ian D’Agata’s expertise proved invaluable in relating the notable details about specific wines from the highlighted production regions.
The Master Classes provided by the Vinitaly International Academy are designed to familiarize patrons, American distributors and sommeliers with specific Italian wines. Particularly informative classes were on Barolo’s Cannubi flight presented by Ian D’Agata and his discussion at the tasting of the Amarone family of wines. “Amarone, the velvet underground: treasure to be shared” was a memorable session that garnered applause at the conclusion. Other exceptional Master Classes where on Franciacorta and wines from Puglia.
Friends kept friends who were unable to make it connected via Social. Yangbo Du captured many great pix and snippets on Storify. More stories to follow on this blog.
CIAO and remember to check out the great Italian wines coming your way.