Greetings one and all from the Florence of the south, Lecce, in Apulia, which I’m visiting after being invited to take part in the pioneering inaugural event Apulia Wine Identity (#ApuliaWI).
AWI is an ambitious programme where the region is hosting 49 journalists from 21 countries. We’ve been split into 5 groups for the first 2 days, followed by 3 days where where the groups join together to take part in a series of en primeur tastings and discussions surrounding the three main red grape varieties of the region; Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero di Troia.
Baroque Lands: Wine and Culture is the title for my 2-day group, which includes a good mix of people; two Swedes, a French Swiss, a Brazilian, three Italians, a Japanese sommelier based in France and a sommelier from Dublin who works in Apulia.
Last night’s meal at Lecce restaurant Il Vicerè was a typically generous Italian feast partnered with 5 wines – and an evening which gave us a fast-track insight into the enormous diversity of styles, attitudes and quality of wines coming out of Apulia.
We witnessed the same differences when we visited the wineries today. First up was the co-operative Cupertinum, a producer which churns out 50% of the Copertino DOC wines and which still seems to stick to its traditional roots given its reds were pretty oaky and rustic. That said there are (small) signs that modern changes are afoot.
I really enjoyed the visit to the next winery, Schola Sarmenti. It has converted its underground cement vats into the cellar so the red wine has stained the walls to give them this beautiful marbled effect (sorry about the embarrassing quality of the photo btw).
Stained vat walls, now the cellar
As for Sarmenti’s wine style, it’s quite difficult to explain or generalise, because it respects modernity and tradition at the same time. Maybe that explains why it doesn’t have a UK importer, which, given the standard of the wines I found quite surprising to hear. My favourite wine there was the Nero 2006, a blend of 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera and a wine which showed seemed to show class, fruit and restraint all in one go.
The last visit was to Conti Zecca. A large operation that makes mostly IGT wines, but which had a very interesting wine (it labels this wine as an experiment, even though they’ve been growing it for 20 years ) made from Aglianico with a dollop of Primitivo and Negroamaro.
Given this positive Apulia experience with Aglianico, plus the fact that my favourite wine from dinner last night was Castello Monaci’s Malvasia Nera di Lecce 2010, and then my favourite wine from Sarmenti also included Malvasia Nera in the blend, it seems as though the less prolific red varieties show great potential in Apulia, which is food for thought before I head into the en primeur tasting of Apulia’s three main red grapes tomorrow.
A domani! x