Puglia is all around me – just to paraphrase the expression “Love is all around us” from the very Christmassy film Love Actually.
Lately, it really feels like I am surrounded by the culture, traditions, food, and wine of Puglia. This is, of course, a positive thing, so I am not complaining. 🙂
Last summer, I went to the Radici del Sud event in Bari which included a press tour in Central and Northern Puglia and Basilicata. Thus, I had the pleasure of visiting several wineries and getting to know many wine producers from southern Italy better. Some of these wine producers, such as D’Araprì, Sertura Vini, and Pietraventosa winery, have then been guests at my #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream during autumn 2017.
Last month, I also wrote about Puglia for the #ItalianFWT group here by focusing on the sparkling wines of D’Araprì winery for the Christmas Feast theme. I paired their different wines with typical Swedish Christmas food.
The funny thing is that I in the same period got an invitation to another press tour in northern Puglia, close to Foggia, that takes place next week. As Girolamo from D’Araprì winery also had asked me to come and visit them again, I will pass by their winery too just before the press tour starts. It will indeed be a week of full immersion in the culture, history, food, and wines of Puglia.
So, as you see, Puglia is all around me…!
This month, January 2018, I will be hosting my first chat for the wine and food writers in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group. The theme this month will be Wine Between Two Seas in Puglia. My initial thought was to have a focus on the Nero di Troia area in northern Puglia, but it would have been difficult to find the wines in the US, therefore, we are doing all of Puglia.
My own contribution this month will look closer on three wineries in Puglia: Apollonio winery, Conti Zecca winery, and D’Alfonso del Sordo winery. In this way, I try to cover both the Nero di Troia area as well as the Salento further south. Apollonio and Conti Zecca are wineries with a fairly large production while D’Alfonso del Sordo is more mid-sized. What unites them is that they all have a long history to lean on.
On Saturday, January 6, you can join us on Twitter at 11amEDT / 17.00 CEST to learn more about food and wine from, as well as travel experiences to Puglia. Just type in the hashtag #ItalianFWT in the search field and click Enter, thereafter, you click Latest which will show you all the live tweets.
The map of Puglia
First out I wanted to show you a map of Puglia so you can better see the areas of the three different wineries I am talking about. On the map below it shows how San Severo is in the north-eastern corner of Puglia while Lecce is in the south-eastern Salento part. Both Apollonio and Conti Zecca are based in the Salento area. Leverano, the location of Conti Zecca winery, is marked out on the map as well.
In the article about D’Araprì winery last month, I talked about San Severo and how it is an area that is very suited for viticulture because it is windy and quite sheltered by the Gargano. D’Alfonso del Sordo is located just outside San Severo and benefits from these favorable conditions just as D’Araprì winery. Uva di Troia is the main grape cultivated at D’Alfonso del Sordo winery. Read more about San Severo in my article Sparkling Wine All Through The Christmas Dinner With D’Araprì Winery.
In the Salento area, the land is mainly flat around Lecce and Brindisi and dominated by the Mediterranean climate with a lot of sun during the long warm summers. The sea breezes blowing in over the vineyards are important to protect the vines against harmful insects. The soil mainly consists of clay, however, there are also areas with calcareous soil as well as more red and pebbly soil that is rich in minerals.
The grape number one in this area is Negroamaro but, of course, also Primitivo and Malvasia Nera are other important red grapes here. When it comes to white grapes we find Malvasia Bianca, as well as Verdeca and Fiano, though in a smaller percentage.
Now let’s get down to talk a bit more about the three wineries.
Three wineries in Puglia
At Radici del Sud last year, I was in the same jury group as Massimiliano Apollonio, who together with his brother Marcello are the present owners of Apollonio winery. We were sitting next to each other while blind tasting I do not remember how many wines during two days. Even though I, in the end, felt tired after several days of winery visits and wine tastings, and started spilling water, wine, and what not all over his placemat, he was very nice about it. LOL
Massimiliano is not only the owner but also the oenologist at their winery and thus deals with the whole winemaking process. He is furthermore the president of Assoenologi (the National Oenologist Association) for Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria.
The history of the winery goes back four generations where it started in 1870 with his great-grandfather Noè Apollonio who started planting a vineyard. The vine and wine experience originate even further back to the early 19th century with Noè’s father and grandfather. The family wine business would develop during the coming century selling Salento wine to clients up north from Tuscany to Piemonte who then bottled the wine. In fact, wine from Puglia has generally been used as a blend by wine producers further north.
It was only in the mid-1970s that Massimiliano’s father Salvatore decided to start bottling the wine himself and to focus on a higher quality production. Massimiliano and his brother Marcello has since their take over 20 years ago developed the family winery on an international level and now export to 35 countries around the world.
They have several different product lines of wine and I am not going to go into detail about all of them here, that will be for a future article. However, the lines are Apollonio, Terre del Grico, Rocca dei Mori, Forte Incanto, and Compagnia Vignaioli. Their focus is on indigenous grapes such as Negroamaro, Primitivo, Malvasia Nera, and Susumaniello but they also do produce wines with international grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon.
Massimiliano was very nice and sent me many different samples. Unfortunately, being away for the Christmas holidays I haven’t been able to taste through them. Therefore, I will only talk about the Mani del Sud Copertino DOP 2014 here. The others will be described in a future article.
Mani del Sud Copertino is made with 70% Negroamaro, 20% Montepulciano, and 10% Malvasia Nera. The wine has matured 6 months in French barrique, 6 months in big barrels, and another 6 months in bottle.
In this wine, you feel the presence of the Salento terroir with its warm climate and sun. Having layn in the bottle for some year already, the notes of fruit, such as dark cherry, are mature and intense, with spicy (tobacco) and a bit earthy undertones. The minerality is also perceivable. On the palate, it is a bit tart in the beginning, but then lovely smooth and rich. The tannins are non-intrusive. I very much liked this red wine.
Conti Zecca winery has a long and impressive history dating back to 1580 when the forefather Francesco Antonio Zecca with Neapolitan origin settled in Leverano. They were important tradesmen of wine all over Europe for several centuries and in 1884 the Zecca family was conferred a noble title by the pope. In 1927, their noble title was acknowledged by the Kingdom of Italy. In the 20th century, they continued to develop to become the important wine estate that they are today.
The Radici del Sud event is ever present in my encounters with these three wineries. I met the very nice and kind director of Conti Zecca, Antonio Romano, at one of the vertical wine tastings organized at the event last year. The wine chosen was Nero IGP Salento Rosso and we tasted six different vintages from 2001 to 2013. This is a 70% Negroamaro and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Generally, the Negroamaro is blended with another grape such as Malvasia Nera or other, and in this case Cabernet Sauvignon. This, because Negroamaro on its own has a bit too high acidity and nervous tannins.
Conti Zecca started experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon already in the early 1980s. It was only in 1998 though, that the first Nero came out after they had better understood how to use the Cabernet Sauvignon and blend it with Negroamaro.
Here, I just wanted to mention some few thoughts about the vintages we tasted, starting with the 2001 which still had a very intense nose of fruit and spices, such as tobacco, that is typical of the Negroamaro. The tannins were still going strong even though not disturbing. It was still a very vibrant and fantastic wine.
The 2004 was fruity, balsamic, and spicy and here you could feel the more herby and green undertones of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Someone at the tasting mentioned the notes of graphite and stressed that they are also typical of the Negroamaro. I do not have enough experience of tasting Negroamaro to be able to say something further about this. In this vintage, the tannins were more present and the wine slightly stringent. Notwithstanding, a very good wine.
The 2005 had intense notes of fruit such as cherry, perhaps a bit of plum. A fresh wine with a good balance between the acidity and the tannins. The spicy notes of licorice followed by more green notes of the Cabernet Sauvignon were present. A well-balanced, structured and elegant wine.
After 2010 this wine line underwent a change which I believe to be a general trend among wineries in Italy. The days of heavy-oaked wines in the more international style were over in favor of lighter wines where you feel the beautiful characteristic notes of the grape variety and the territory.
Conti Zecca produces a wide range of high-quality wines and I will talk more about their wines in a future article.
D’Alfonso Del Sordo
The D’Alfonso Del Sordo winery is the coming together of two families and dates back to the early 19th century. Baron Antonio Del Sordo, who owned a lot of land in the area around San Severo, and the vine grower Ludovico D’Alfonso joined forces. This collaboration has then continued over the years and gave rise to the winery D’Alfonso Del Sordo in the early 20th century.
Their number one grape variety is Nero di Troia but they produce wines also with, for example, Bombino bianco, Trebbiano, Malvasia bianca, Moscato Bianco, and Montepulciano grapes.
Nero di Troia or rather Uva di Troia has many legends attached to its name. Some say it stems from the town Troia which is situated close to Foggia in Puglia. Others say that it comes from the small town Cruja in Albania. A third possibility is a legend about Diomedes, where Uva di Troia is believed to owe its name to him and his grand role in the Trojan War.
In the 19th century, Uva di Troia started being mentioned more officially in documents about wine production in Puglia. Uva di Troia was generally used as a blend in wines such as Rosso Barletta, Rosso Cerignola, and Rosso Canosa to add freshness, elegance, and strength.
One of the stops during the 3 day press tour at #Radicidelsud, was at the winery #dalfonsodelsordo close to San Severo in the north of Puglia. 🚍🍇🥂🍷 The family D’Alfonso di Sordo has a long history as #viticulturists and they started out already in the early 19th century. @radicidelsud … They produce wine with the native #grapevarieties #Bombino bianco and #Neroditroa. We tasted different wines when we visited them the other day, such as Casteldrione #Puglia IGP Rosso. This is a 100% Nero di Troia wine with notes of clove, violet, and red fruit. The tannins are non -intrusive and smooth. 🍇🍇🍷🍷 … Check out my blog soon for an article about Radici del sud. … #grapevineadventures
During the last 20 years, Nero di Troia has become so much more than a grape variety to use as a blend in other local red wines. Now, it is more used to make monovarietal wines and for rosé wines. The main production zones of Nero di Troia are the northern parts of Puglia in the province of Foggia and in the Castel del Monte area.
We tasted several wines when we were visiting this winery, among which the Casteldrione Puglia IGP Rosso 2014 which is a 100% Nero di Troia wine. Here you could feel notes of red fruit such as dark cherry, blueberry, and plum as well as more floral notes. Also, spicy notes, for example, of clove were noticeable. It is a fresh, structured, and very elegant wine. As I am a real fan of Nero di Troia wines, I very much enjoyed the visit to this winery.
Many Wineries and Grape varieties
For this month’s Puglia theme, I chose the three different wineries Apollonio, Conti Zecca, and D’Alfonso Del Sordo. While writing, I learned new things about their history, the grape varieties, and the wines they produce. So, I hope you enjoyed the article and got curious about Puglia.
See what our Italian Food Wine & Travel Enthusiasts have to offer:
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Me, Katarina, at Grapevine Adventures will share the article Wineries with a long History and Tradition in Puglia.