The Daunia area in Northern Puglia, from around Barletta to Castel del Monte and the Gargano, is the land of Nero di Troia. This is a grape that has had an important development during the last 20-30 years in Puglia. It was historically mainly used in blends but has since the early 2000s become a star on its own in monovarietal wines. As the theme in this month’s Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group is Puglia, it seemed only fitting to talk about a wine producer that is focused on Nero di Troia in the Foggia area, namely Borgo Turrito. I visited Luca Scapola at Borgo Turrito last year and had a great day learning more about what they do.
February with the #ItalianFWT – Twitter chat
On Saturday, 4 February the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group are launching the We Are In Puglia theme, where the writers’ articles will look further into the food and wines of Puglia. I will look closer at Borgo Turrito winery and its Nero di Troia wines.
There will not be a Twitter chat as there used to be but the articles will be published by every single blogger/writer. Furthermore, you can still type in the hashtag #ItalianFWT in the search field on Facebook and Twitter to find the articles.
The Power of Nero di Troia in Northern Puglia
The Daunia region in Puglia, the area that the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II so loved, is known for producing high-quality wines with a strong, bold flavor. The region has a long history of winemaking, and its wineries are famous for their use of traditional techniques combined with modern technology. Nero di Troia, or Uva di Troia, is a grape that is very closely connected to the local territory in the Daunia area in Puglia. According to historical sources, it is also a wine that was liked by Frederick II and consumed at his court.
Up until the late 1990s, Uva di Troia had an important function to fill to give more alcohol, color, and body to blends with Primitivo, Negroamaro, Montepulciano, etc in wines such as Barletta DOC, Rosso di Canosa DOC, Rosso di Cerignola DOC, and San Severo DOC. In 2011, the appellations Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva DOCG (min 90% Nero di Troia) and Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva DOCG (min 65% Nero di Troia) were instituted to give an identity to Nero di Troia wines.
Nero di Troia is a grape that in some cases has been called the “crazy horse” because it is very difficult to manage both in the vineyard and in the cellar. This is due to its richness in tannins, the low acidity, and the long time it takes to mature on the plant. These factors in the vineyard then influence the winemaking process in the cellar. Still, it is a grape that gives terroir-driven and elegant wines with long aging potential.
In a previous article, I talked about how they at Rivera winery carried out research with Professor Attilio Scienza some years ago and found that the clone Nero di Troia Canosino (from Canosa) with smaller berries reaches maturation easier. Luca says that the smaller clone is more readily available since the University of Bari better developed it some years back. Earlier, he argues that it was mainly the VCR1 clone of Nero di Troia that was used and sold by the main nursery. However, Luca stresses that it is not only a question of which clone you use but that the exposition is essential too as well as the type of wine you want to produce.
Borgo Turrito, a Young Winery With a Long History
Luca Scapola of Borgo Turrito winery comes from a family of farmers and vine growers that goes back to the 1890s. He decided to take over the family winery in 2006 and has since then slowly made a lot of changes. His father and earlier generations were mainly focused on selling the grapes or making bulk wine, while Luca wanted to change the perspective towards a higher quality-driven production and start to bottle the wine on their own. They are still making bulk wine (about 20 000 liters/year) that they are selling exclusively in their wine shop.
There is indeed a long tradition of quality bulk wine in the south and especially in Puglia. The heart of the production is the 80 000 bottles they make of white, rosé, red, and a few bottles of Moscato aged in oak barrels. Soon they will also launch a passito made with Aleatico and a Nero di Troia rosé sparkling wine made with the champenoise method.
Borgo Turrito is located close to the hamlet of Borgo Incoronata and on the border with the Regional Natural Park of Bosco Incoronata which was instituted in 2006. This district is in the heart of the Tavoliere delle Puglie (the bread basket of Italy) which is the largest lowlands of Italy after the pianura Padana. It is surrounded by the Gargano and the Adriatic Sea to the east, the Daunia mountains to the west, and valleys to the north and south.
The Tavoliere is in this area where Luca Scapola has about 15 hectares of vineyard planted on mainly clay soil. It has a continental-like climate with winters that can be quite cold and very warm and dry summers. The main grape that Luca grows is, of course, Nero di Troia followed by Falanghina, Aleatico, and Moscato bianco.
At Borgo Turrito they believe strongly in sustainability and try to step by step become more protective of the environment. They are not organically certified yet but they are no longer using herbicides and have reduced the use of other chemical products to almost zero. They are using precision farming methods to closely monitor parameters such as humidity levels, temperature, rainfall, etc. to only intervene when necessary and reduce waste.
Other sustainability measures are that they only use FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper for their bottle labels and an electric vehicle charging station at the winery that customers can use for free.
The Wines of Borgo Turrito
Borgo Turrito is in constant development also when it comes to wines often trying new things. They used to produce an Aleatico rosé wine that was a big hit but then Luca decided to rather make two different rosé wines; Calarosa which is 100% Nero di Troia and Terra Cretosa is a blend of Nero di Troia and Primitivo.
When I visited them we had a mini-vertical tasting of three vintages of Calarosa – 2021, 2020, and 2019 – and it was interesting to see the development. In the 2021 and 2020 you felt more freshness, minerality, and fruit-forwardness combined with a herbal undertone while 2019 had evolved to more mature notes of ripe fruit, dried flowers, and an overall roundness.
Let us focus on the red Nero di Troia wines that they produce and that are at the core of the Borgo Turrito identity as a winery. The three wines are
- Terra Cretosa Nero di Troia
- Dodiciventuno, and
- Lingue di Terra.
They all give an expression of the local territory at different levels.
Terra Cretosa is the more easygoing and approachable wine for someone who perhaps has not tried a Nero di Troia wine before, with its freshness, fruity, floral, slightly spicy notes, and smoothness. It has matured for 6 months in tonneaux followed by 3 months in the bottle. I tasted the Terre Cretosa NEro di Troia 2019.
Dodiciventuno and Lingue di Terra are the more complex and full-bodied wines that give a stronger expression to this particular grape variety. I tasted the Dodiciventuno 2019 and Lingue di Terra 2015.
Dodiciventuno has a clear historical bond to the Capitanata, i.e. the Daunia area, with its name as 1221 was the year when Frederick II arrived at the Capitanata and made Foggia his strategic center in the area. It is a more austere wine than Terra Cretosa that slowly opens up with a combination of minerality, earthy and a bit ferrous notes, and darker fruit. The tannins are powerful but velvety and enveloping. If we would romanticize it, I would say that it is a wine worthy of a Norman emperor with its austerity and elegance, yet a bit slow to open up.
Lingue di Terra is a top-tier wine that they only produce in the best vintages and with the best quality grapes specially selected for the purpose. It matures for 18 months in French barriques and then at least two years in the bottle before it is released to the market. Both Dodiciventuno and Lingue di Terra are laid down in the bottle for longer periods to smoothen out the rough ends. It is a more rich and grandiose wine with silky tannins. The ripe fruit, spices, and herby touch in combination with the tertiary notes from the oak make it into a wine for those occasions when you want to celebrate something special.
Read more about Puglia in the articles from fellow writers
Camilla at Culinary Cam sharing a “Killer Pairing: Spaghetti all’Assassina + A Negroamaro from Brindisi
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog sharing “An Unconventional Style of Primitivo – 2020 Produttori Di Manduria Electric Bee Primitivo”
Susannah from Avvinare tells us about “Primitivo from Gioia del Colle, A Revelation”
Jennifer at Vino Travels discusses “A Rare Puglian Grape – Susumaniello”
Gwendolyn the Wine Predator shares “A Family Tradition: Domus Hortae’s organic wines from the heel of Italy”
Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles reveals “Salice Salentino from Puglia with Ciceri e tria”
Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares “Borgo Turrito Focusses on Nero di Troia in Foggia in Puglia”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Octopus with Polenta and a Rosato from Puglia inspired by The Food Club”
And here at Savor the Harvest, Lynn discusses “Negroamaro Three Ways from Puglia + Food Pairings”