Puglia Italy is a treasure. My cousins visited and added to their travel adventures in this glorious Southern province of Italy that borders the Adriatic Sea and Mediterranean. I was jealous as I have yet to tour the province. However, I have taken a step in the right direction by sampling their delicious wines at a mega tasting event in New York City last week. The event was sponsored by Vinitaly International USA-New York whose spot on International Academy led by Scientific Director, Ian D’Agata, held master classes. One of these was in Puglian Wines; the presentation was by Daniele Cirsone. To further promote their wines and indulge in appetizers and dishes with which they paired well, there was also an event at GD Cucine Showroom held afterward. Both the Master Class held by Consorzio Movimento Turismo del Vino Puglia: “Puglia Land of Opportunity” and the event at GD Cucine Showroom were exceptional.
The wines featured at the Master Class on Puglian wines included the following offerings.
Mottura Vini Del Salento / Le Pitre Negroamaro – Salento IGP (2011)
Vigne & Vini Varvaglione / Papale Oro – Primitivo di Manduria DOP (2011)
Tenute Emera / Anima di Primitivo Primitivo di Manduria DOP (2011)
Azienda Agr. Duca Carlo Guarini / Boemondo -Salento IGP (2010)
Castel Di Salve / Cento su Cento Negroamaro -Salento IGP (2010)
Carvinea / Sierma – Salento IGP (2009)
Rivera S.P.A. / Il Falcone – Castel del Monte DOP Riserva (2007)
The wines at the tasting at GD Cucine included wines from the wineries listed above and the following offerings below.
Albea Winery Il Serlva Locorotondo doc 2012 SRP / Petrarosa Puglia Rosato igp 2012 / Petranera Puglia igp 2009 SRP
Apollonio Salice Salentino Rosso DOC -SRP / Terragnolo Primitivo Salento igt – SRP
Leone de Castris 50 Vendemmia Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOC SRP
Masseria Altemura Fiano Salento igt 2012 / Rosato Salento igt 2012 / Sasseo Salento Igt 2011
Palama Metiusco Salento Rosso igp 2012 / Albarossa Salento Rosso Primitivo igp 2011
Taurino Salice Salentino Riserva Rosso DOC 2009 / Notarpanaro Salento Rosso igp 2006
Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel del Monte DOC 2009 – SRP / Roycello Salento Bianco igt 2011
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.
Vinitaly International Tour has launched the Vinitaly International Academy which is an innovative educational initiative about Italian wines. Master Classes on various Italian wines are being presented so that members of the wine trade can deepen their knowledge of Italian wines for sale, promotion and enjoyment purposes. This initiative was successfully launched at Vinitaly International Tour’s largest wine event in the U.S. in NYC on February 3rd at the Metropolitan Pavilion. And the initiative will continue as Vinitaly International Tour goes around the world to mainland China, Hong Kong, Russia and back to Italy’s largest wine event in Verona, Italy on April 5th.
The first of the Master Classes was on Barolo’s Cannubi. These wines are Italy’s oldest and most famous Grand Cru. This designation taken from the French means great vintages from specific areas, terrains and vineyards. Ian D’Agata, Vinitaly’s Scientific Director of the VIA (Vinitaly International Academy) presented at the tasting of these Barolo Cannubi wines and highlighted which ones were upcoming and which were more established producers. The tastings and information were a great way to find new Italian wines to love and to ask for.
Thsee wines are Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Piedmont and specifically the Barolo region. Some producers add other grapes like Muscatel or San Lorenzo. As for Barolo Cannubi? Cannubi is a long hill with a gradual slope lying in the heart of the Barolo area. The soils are rich in magnesium and maganese carbonate that are enhanced and weathered to richness by the air and unique microclimate. Surrounded by higher hills, Cannubi hill is protected from storms and extreme wind. Soil and exceptional microclimate give Cannubi a completeness and balance melding perfectly the structure and aromas and very elegant tannins making it an imminently drinkable wine.
Many of the wines we tasted were absolutely lovely, full bodied and elegant. deep- some with hints of red cherry others with raspberry notes, others spice. Aged in wood barrels, the spice and wood notes blend beautifully. Garnet-red in color, they cast ruby reflections. D’Agata asserted that the colors vary from a bright red that deepens with aging. The color is never inky black as some would want to claim. They offered a fine nose of penetrating clean scents: roses, vanilla, licorice, spices, toasted oak. Certainly a perfume of graceful power.
The Barolo Cannubi achieves maturity after 6 years from the harvest. As it ages well, it can be enjoyed throughout its life between 6 and 25 years. The prestige of the wines are site specific depending on the vintage and history of the vineyard. The bottles of Barolo Cannubbi can run $100 more at auction than a Barolo, again site specific with the reputation of the vineyard and vintage determining price.
This is a list of the wines presented:
Brezza Giacomo E Figli (Cannubbi)
Cascina Bruciata (Cannubi Muscatel)
Ceretto (Cannubi San Lorenzo)
Chiara Boschis (Cannubi)
Michele Chiarlo (Cannubi)
Scavino Paolo (Cannubi)
Virna (Cannubi Boschis)
If you, like me, are in a gastronomic paradise like New York City, San Francisco or Chicago and are always looking for lovely wines to go with fabulous cuisine, try one of these Cannubis. You can have them with cheeses and with fine (preferably free ranged, humanely slaughtered and anti-biotic free) red meats,like braised short ribs, steak, veal, roasts, game dishes. If you are in the wine trade, then get the word out about Italy’s oldest and finest “Grand Cru.”
Friends had introduced me to Amarone, but frankly it was a few years ago and I was not really informed about the wonderful Amarone wines. My friends were unfamiliar with it beyond being introduced to it at cursory tastings, one of the way wines are introduced but not really known.
Vinitaly International Tour has innovated a better way for wine aficionados to become familiar with lovely Italian wines. This innovation will not only increase familiarity with Italian wines which are gradually becoming known in America. The best benefit will be to further encourage our visits to wineries in Italy where we’ll be able to experience the wines on “their own turf” and spend more time savoring their flavors and understanding the terroir, production and their best years. With that knowledge, we can come back home and demand an increase in the wines’ availability.
The Vinitaly International Academy established this year provided an invaluable exposure to Amarone for those like myself who were familiar but not particularly knowledgeable about Amarone wines. Presented were the Amarone family of wines. Their quality and standards are exceptional because the association of producers has set the highest standards for their Amarone. Because of the popularity of Amarone, vintners have hopped on the train to cash in on the trend. The problem has been a diminution of the offerings and a lowering of quality. To ensure that this beloved and increasingly popular wine is not diminished or diluted in its power of enjoyment the association has adopted strict standards so the Amarone’s beautiful, riches are maintained. The association intends that Amarone’s history of greatness continue and that the wine NOT be treated like a commodity, but more as an appreciation of the art of fine wine making. Assembly line wines and lowered quality? These producers have an important point that few would argue with. What can I say? After the tasting, I was thrilled to add this wine to my list of favorites.
A bit about Amarone. Some is produced in the Valpolicella region which is near Verona. The finest grape growing region is in the hills which can be up to 700 metres high. The better vineyards are in the hilly region; the impoverished wines are in the alluvial plane which is not particularly advantageous to growing the grapes found in the traditional Amarone.
Amarone is composed principally of the Corvina grapes and Corvinone (bigger grape…and unrelated to Corvina). The Corvina grape is an ancient grape used by the Romans. To produce the wines, there is a meld of various percentages of Corvina or Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara and Oseleta grapes. Oseleta has fallen out of favor with vintners because it has a thick skin and little juice, though it is indigenous to the area. There is a much smaller percentage of Oseleta and Molinara, especially Oseleta simply because there is little juice yield. Usually an Amarone will have about 5% of either the Molinara or Oseleta.
Amarone is rich, smooth and depending upon percentages of grapes. there are spicy notes or black cherry savor on the tongue. Most of the wines we tasted had an interesting, memorable or lasting finish. A fine feature of Amarone is that it ages really well and actually benefits from aging.
The below list covers a few of the wines we sampled and my notes and Ian D’Agata’s informative Master Class, “Amarone, the Velvet Underground” are the first step to understanding this wonderful wine if you are not already familiar with it.
Begali / Amarone Classico 2008 The grapes are air dried. There was a subtle 17% alcohol content that was not readily noticeable. Notably rich tasting with 30% Rondinella and the rest of the main Corvina or Corvinone grapes and a small percentage of another grape (not Oseleta).
Brigaldara / Amarone Case Vecie 2008 This hadd a beautiful velvet mouth feel and lovely tannins. Again the grapes are air dried. The vineyard is in the high hills and they are harvested late and dried into February.
Musella / Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 2008 This wine held the usual blend with less rondinella. Interestingly the wine was balanced with a fresh taste. What I liked was that the grapes were organically certified.
Speri / Amarone Classico Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano 2009 This wine from a famous vineyard was delicious. It was composed of 75-80% Corvina and Covinone, 15% Rondinella and the rest from Molinara. It had a spiciness from the Molinara and nice finish. It ages well.
Tommasi Viticoltori / Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2010 This wine is a typical blend with 5% Oseleta. It is a deep, rich red color typical of Amarone. It is imminently drinkable, not opulent, a big red wine. It has an alcoholic strength that is subtle.
At a later date, I will feature the rest of the Amarone we tasted. Look for the article.
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.