Can Puglia deliver?by Barry Smith / June 19, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
In the heel of Italy, a small revolution in wine is taking place: a shift from mass market to small production. The flight to quality has already begun in Puglia. The brilliant light, the olive trees, the white stone and the iron-rich soil have always given this fertile plain an abundance of grapes. At times, perhaps, too great an abundance, for Puglia was known as a region that produced large volumes of wine, very little of which spoke with any distinction of what the soils could do. There were exceptions, like the dry rosé wines: the first to be bottled locally.
The changes in Puglia have come quickly, owing to a recognition that care must be taken to cultivate the abundance wisely. Careful selection and improved technique have led to this surge in quality, and the realisation that fine wines can be made here has led in turn to an influx of winemakers buying land at affordable prices. People are calling Puglia the new California.
Vines have long grown in Puglia’s fertile soil, with the red clay producing the riches and the limestone draining the vines to promise wines with good acidity and grip. And now, with the help of careful winemakers, advanced techniques and much shared knowledge, we are beginning to see the essence of the region and its wines.
Expectations are high. But expectations, like the vines, must be carefully managed. Growing wines that are well made but that show nothing of their origin will do nothing to perpetuate a region and its wine culture. So, as usual in good winemaking, there is the need to balance tradition with innovation.
Tradition resides both in human practice and in the materials fashioned into wines. These include the soils, the vines and the varietals, and in Puglia, as in so many parts of Italy, a wide range of grape varietals is kept alive to express difference and distinction. In this region, negroamaro, primitivo (the progenitor of zinfandel), aglianico, bombino nero and many more varietals thrive. What you find…