Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Puglia Region
The Puglia Wine Region
Main Article Contents
- 1 Wine in Apulia
- 2 The territory and viticulture in Apulia
- 3 The history of viticulture in Apulia
- 4 The grapes of Apulia
- 5 The wine production areas in Apulia
- 6 The Appellations of Origin in Puglia
- 7 The regional cuisine of Puglia
Wine in Apulia
The wine production of Puglia (Apulia) is among the most important in Italy in terms of quantity. For years bulk wine from Puglia took the northern route to other regions and parts of Europe where it was used as to strengthen the local wines, giving color, texture and alcohol. In recent years, however, the situation is changing and the Apulian manufacturers have begun to focus on quality production. Negro Amaro (Negroamaro), Primitivo and Uva di Troia varieties have gained international prominence in recent years, scoring the recovery of wine from Puglia.
The territory and viticulture in Apulia
Puglia territory is about half hilly and half flat. Starting from the north, the first area we encounter is the Gargano, a promontory formed from limestone and igneous rocks with also sometimes steep surfaces covered by Mediterranean vegetation. Next, the flat area of Tavoliere, in the province of Foggia; the Murge is a vast area covering the provinces of Barletta-Andria-Trani, Bari and Brindisi. Last, the Salento with the province of Lecce and part of those of Brindisi and Taranto. The formidable vineyard area of Puglia has been halved from the years of the production boom to around 95,000 hectares in 2010, the vast majority of which is in plain areas. The yearly wine production exceeds 8 million hectoliters (2015). In fact, the region is currently experiencing a period of considerable development in the wine sector, after years of production of bulk wine based on high yields per hectare. Apulian producers are now trying to exploit the territory reaching excellent quality for some wines mainly made from native grapes.
The history of viticulture in Apulia
The vine was probably present in Puglia before the time of Greek colonization, already in the eighth century BC. Some of the varieties now considered native, as the Negro Amaro and the Uva di Troia were just introduced by the Greeks. Greek is also the “sapling” system for training of vines, the most popular method in Puglia. In his monumental work Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elder reported the presence of the black berry Malvasia nera di Brindisi and Malvasia nera di Lecce, Negroamaro and Uva di Troia grapes. Pliny the Elder defined Manduria as viticulosa, that is “full of vines”. With the construction of the port of Brindisi in 244 BC the trade of wine from Puglia experienced a rather flourishing period. In the harbour of Taranto, to facilitate shipping and boarding, huge amounts of wine were kept in special cellars dug into the rock along the coast.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, vine growing and wine production in Apulia underwent a period of crisis and it was only thanks to the monks that those activities continued to thrive in Puglia. The importance of the development of viticulture and the production of wine was well understood by Frederick II of Bourbons who planted thousands of vines in the Castel del Monte area, importing plants from the neighboring Campania region.
During the Renaissance the wines from Puglia began to spread in other parts of Italy and France. In the following periods Puglia was knows for the huge amount of wine production, rather than for its quality. When phylloxera appeared in the vineyards of northern Italy and in Europe, the huge wine production of Puglia was not initially affected and wines from Puglia were exported to France, whose production was insufficient to meet local demands.
Due to the delay in the arrival of phylloxera French entrepreneurs began to produce wine in Puglia for export to France, Germany and Austria. Eventually the phylloxera finally made to Puglia, marking the collapse of what looked like a thriving recovery of wine making industry. This crisis was followed by a restoring of the massive production with little quality, mainly focused on blending wines, intended to provide structure and color to the production of other areas of Italy and Europe. In the 1990s a new awareness for the oenological potential of the region took hold in Puglia, marking the new start of viticolture and winemaking in the area.
The grapes of Apulia
Apulia produces not only red wines and rosés, but also interesting white wines, especially from native grapes, such as Bombino Bianco, Malvasia Bianca, Verdeca, Fiano, Bianco d’Alessano, Moscato bianco e Pampanuto. Chardonnay, although being a grape with no “historical” ties with Puglia is in fact the most cultivated and spread white grape of the region. The grapes with balck berry the most widespread in Puglia are Negro Amaro, Primitivo, Uva di Troia, Malvasia Nera (of Lecce and Brindisi ), Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Aleatico, Bombino Nero, Susumaniello and Ottavianello, name by which Cinsaut is known in Puglia and other international varieties, above all Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite this ampelographic richness, Apulia is mainly famous for Negro Amaro, Primitivo and Uva di Troia, each in their own preferred zones, being for the Negro Amaro the south of the region, in the Salento district, while for Primitivo and Uva di Troia the central part of the region. Uva di Troia is also the most common variety in the north.
The wine production areas in Apulia
In Puglia wine is produced almost anywhere, representing not only an economic asset but also a link with the tradition and culture of these places. The wine production in Puglia is also favored by the climate and by the amount of sunlight earth receives in the year. Sapling is the most widespread training system for vine growing in Puglia because it allows the vine to maximize the resources from the soil, improving the quality of grapes and then of the wine.
The wine area of Salice Salentino takes its name from a village in the province of Lecce. The wine production is here mainly focused on red and rosé wines. Salento is known for being one of the most important Italian wine areas for the production of rosé wines. Precisely in this area the first wine rosé of Italy, the famous Five Roses from the cellar Leone de Castris was bottled in 1943. The red wines and rosés belonging to the Salice Salentino DOC are produced from the vines Negro Amaro and Malvasia Nera. The Salice Salentino White is produced mainly from Chardonnay grapes and Salice Salentino Pinot Bianco ia among the most important local varietal wines. Another interesting wine is the Salice Salentino Aleatico, produced as raisin and fortified wine, containing also small amounts of Negro Amaro, Malvasia Nera and Primitivo grapes.
Primitivo di Manduria
Primitivo is the most common red grape in the central part of Puglia and base for the Primitivo di Manduria DOC, one of the most important appellations in the region. Despite today Primitivo is considered among the indigenous grapes of Apulia, this variety seems to be genetically similar to Plavac Mali from Dalmatia, and in California is known with the name Zinfandel. The Primitivo probably owes its name to the fact that tends to ripe earlier than other varieties. The Primitivo di Manduria wine is produced with grapes Primitivo in purity and matured in oak barrels. Primitivo di Manduria is also produced as sweet natural and fortified wines, the latter in sweet and dry styles.
Other Production Areas
In the northern part of the region mainly grows Uva di Troia grape, also known as Nero di Troia, the main variety for Cacc’e Mmitte Lucera DOC wines. Uva di Troa is also used for the production of red varietal wines. In Puglia white wines are also produced, in Locorotondo and Martina Franca DOC areas, both mainly with the grapes Verdeca and Bianco d’Alessano. Among the white wines it is also to be mentioned the Moscato di Trani, a sweet wine produced with Moscato Bianco grapes. Among the other DOC areas of Puglia are Alezio, Brindisi, Castel del Monte, Copertino, Gioia del Colle, Gravina, Ostuni, San Severo and Squinzano. Of particular interest are the wines belonging to the appellation Salento IGT, especially those produced with Negroamaro and Primitivo.
The Appellations of Origin in Puglia
Starting from the north, in the province of Foggia in an area known as Daunia, the wines of San Severo DOC and Cerignola DOC appellations. In this area the most common grape varieties are Bombino Bianco and Bombino Nero, Sangiovese and Montepulciano, Uva di Trioia and Trebbiano Toscano. Around Bari is the area of Castel del Monte, with the three DOCG wines Castel del Monte Bombino Nero DOCG, Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva DOCG and Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva DOCG. In this area there are also Aglianico and popular international grape varieties. Further downnear Bari the Gravina DOC, the Martinafranca DOC and Locorotondo DOC. This area also produces full bodied white wines with the grapes Verdeca (Gravina DOC), Bianco d’Alessano (Martinafranca DOC) and Malvasia Bianca lunga (Locorotondo DOC). Further down in the Salento peninsula, in addition to the main vine Negro Amaro and Primitivo is the Malvasia Nera di Brindisi. These vines characterize the local DOC wines, among which the Primitivo di Manduria DOC (and Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG) and the wines of Salice Salentino DOC. In the region are therefore 4 DOCG, 3 of which are spun from the previous DOC Castel del Monte, in addition to the aforementioned Primitive Manduria Dolce Natural DOCG. In addition there are 28 DOC and 6 IGT appellations. Of the 8 agricultural PDO appellations, 6 belong to Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one to the Canestrato Pugliese DOP cheese and the other to the famous Pane di Altamura DOP bread. The four agricultural PGI are all attributed to vegetables.
The regional cuisine of Puglia
The Apulian cuisine is characterized by the importance of the basic products, above all meat, fish and vegetables. All ingredients are blended in recipes that enhance the natural taste of food. Fundamental are seasonal vegetables, such as turnip top, kale, peppers, eggplants, artichokes. Although there are some common dishes, the recipes generally vary from province to province and sometimes from city to city. The typical recipes of Taranto, Brindisi and Bari, coastal towns, are different from those in the province of Foggia, more on the hills, and Lecce, further into inland. Pugliese cuisine offers several seasonal dishes, so in spring and summer preference is given to vegetables and seafood, while in winter and fall predominate legumes, pasta made in seasoned home with various sauces, alone or combined with vegetables or fish .
Among the pasta dishes, the most typical is “Orecchiette with horse meat sauce“, whose recipe has spread to all the recipes books, but also well known are the “Orecchiette con cime di rapa” (turnip tops), the “Cavatelli with mussels” or Riso di Bari (rice with potatoes and mussels).
Among the main dishes of Puglia prevail vegetables, legumes and sheep and pork meat. Common cooking way is the grill. Dairy fresh products are also excellent. The fish food is extraordinary, having Puglia a very extensive coastal area. In every recipe the irreplaceable extra virgin olive oil from Puglia. Among the most known recipes we mention the lamb with wild onions, the stuffed mussels with sauce, the borage omelet and the fried olives with burrata.
The Puglia has a long tradition in the sweet desserts. At Christmas the Cartellate, whose name comes from their wrapped shape. The Sassanelli are another typical sweet dish of Murgia area, prepared with cooked wine, orange, cocoa and cinnamon. The Pasticciotto, from Salento, is a pastry covered with custard and baked in the oven. The Scarcella is a sweet typical of the Easter tradition, wheel-shaped and covered with icing.