Viticulture in Puglia dates back to the Phoenician era, but it was the Romans who were the first to appreciate Apulian wines, the Poet Orazio actually compared them to Falerno, considered the most sought-after wine of the era. Phylloxera however devastated almost the entirety of the vineyards.
However, that period was not without some positives; the producers took advantage of the loss to make qualitative changes in their production system and concentrating on quality with the introduction of Negroamaro and Primitivo grape varieties. The success was so substantial and widespread that even today these vines represent the best Apulian oenology in the world.
Apulia, the heel of Italy is 350 km long, has 2 seas: Ionio and Adriatic and is the second (sometimes third) wine producing region after Veneto and sometimes Sicily.
Puglia - behind the name and climate
The name of the region, A-pluvia actually means lack of rain. In the old days the strong, deep wines of the south helped producers to the north through the crisis of the ‘60 and ‘70 before they discovered how to ripen grapes reliably themselves. Nowadays a small but increasing part of the wine finds its way into bottles.
The Mediterranean climate, mild winters, hot summers, low altitudes, night-time cooling and breezes from seas, mitigate the hot temperatures and produce rich, powerful and spicy wines. Please keep in mind that southern does not necessarily mean sun-baked and many of the Apulian wines exhibit this.
Great and fruity wines
Nowadays, the region is popular for its wines of good value based on indigenous grapes which give ripe, fruity and robust reds based on Primitivo (or Zinfandel), Negroamaro, Nero di Troia, Susumaniello, Bombino Bianco and Bombino Nero. But you can also find international grapes like Chardonnay and Moscato.
The fruit forward red wines from Puglia are a great way to get started with Italian wines as they are affordable, easy to drink, most of the time off-dry, full bodied, fruit forward, juicy and so palatable. Around 3% of Apulia’s production is within the DOC classification. This means that winemakers have a lot of freedom to produce great IGT wines.
History of Primitivo
The history of the 'Primitivo' in Apulia began in the second part of the 18th century when don Filippo Indelicati planted it for the first time in the countryside of Gioia del Colle. The name “Primitivo” reveals the predisposition of this vine to early ripening or “primaticcio”. The similarity with Zinfandel was discovered by chance in 1967, when a Californian professor visiting Puglia, while tasting some Primitivo wine, stated that it reminded him a lot of Zinfandel. Ampelographic studies and more recent DNA analysis have confirmed the grape varieties are the same as with the indigenous grape Crljenak Kastelanskj of the Dalmatian islands
Have you ever tasted the sweet version of the Primitivo di Manduria?
Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG was born in 2011 and it was the first Apulian wine to earn this classification. It is produced with grapes dried directly on the vine, and from these over-ripe grapes they were able to produce a powerful, structured, warm and sweet wine that you will fall in love with.
Primitivo is often a complementary blending partner and helps soften the tannins of Negroamaro. It adds smoothness and body to the wines thanks to its fruit forward spice and with high alcohol content.
Negroamaro, which means “negro = black” and “amaro = bitter” is grown in the hotter areas of Apulia, mostly in the Salento area. It has been described by many connoisseurs as a tannic, deeply coloured wine, which can be rich and smooth if oaked. All its character is dependent on the vintage and proximity to the Ionian Sea’s cooling effects.
The appassimento method
The appassimento method is widespread in Apulia. The grapes are harvested manually in early mid-September or even later dependant on the style of wine desired.
At the end of August, usually, when the grapes have reached perfect ripeness, the producers may use various techniques to dry the grapes: “choking the stalk” where no further nourishment reaches the grapes so the grapes start to dry naturally on the plant or select and harvest the grapes to then drying them on mats in well-aerated lofts - just like in the case of Amarone della Valpolicella and Valtellina, but usually for no more than 1 month.
The resulting wines have an intense ruby red colour, with a complex bouquet reminiscent of cherry, raspberry and plums - tending towards jamminess. Aging in wood adds a pleasant toasted and spicy aroma. The wine is full-bodied, soft and balanced, with hints of wild berries, elegant and velvety tannins with a long and persistent finish. Perfect with roasted red meats, game and hard cheeses.
Amazing rosé comes from Apulia
Puglia is an important source of amazing rosé (or rosato, as it is called locally) mostly from Primitivo and Negroamaro, but can also contain other varieties such as Malvasia Nera, Susumaniello and Nero di Troia. It’s fruit-forward, easy-drinking qualities combined with a roundness on the palate mean it’s great for any occasion from an aperitif to dinner with friends.
Moscato di Trani DOC is another great dessert wine from the northern part of Apulia. It became a DOC in the seventies, but it was famous long before when the venetian merchants used to stop in the area and buy large quantities of this nectar before going home.
Puglia is noteworthy for its bold, full-bodied, rich and warm red wines. But don’t forget to taste from the broad range of rose’ while there, or the appassimento wines and lusciously sweet white Moscato di Trani.What are the most popular grape varieties in Puglia?
Puglia is the promised land for red grapes like Primitivo or Zinfandel, Negroamaro, Nero di Troia,What types of food works well with wines from Puglia?
Light reds: pasta orecchiette with turnip greens Full-bodied reds: meat “bombette” or slowly cooked horse meat. Whites: fresh raw fish, any kind of pasta with shrimps, mussels or salmon.