Monday, June 8, 2009

Puglia Terroir, part 5

Now that you’ve heard my opinion here is a list of wines that I think exhibit the region’s expressive terroir, so that you can see what you think. I said goodbye to a couple friends visiting us from California this morning and it was sad to see them go. During their visit they partied hard at Cantine Aperte, drank - shall we say - copious amounts of vino, and, from what they reported, loved what the winemakers are producing here. Their happiness is just one more reason for me to continue sharing the wines of Apulia with English speakers. I hope you enjoy the following:

Cantele, 2006 (or older) “Teresa Manara” Negroamaro
Leone De Castris, “65th Anniversary Five Roses” rosatto
Taurino, 2003 “Notarpanaro”
Apollonio, 2001 Salice Salentino
Candido, 2005 "Cappello Di Prete"Negroamaro
Torrevento, “Vigna Pedale” Nero Di Troia
Cantine De Falco, 2006 “Bocca Della Verita” Primitivo
Conti Zecca, “CANTALUPI RISERVA” Negroamaro
Conti Zecca, Primitivo
Castel Di Salve, “Santimedici” Negroamaro

As a second part of the post I'd like to offer a series of professional opinions concerning Apulia's terroir. Refining our concepts of words is an endless process, but the best way to deal with tricky terms, such as terroir, is to see how people use them. After all, I’m just one guy trying to describe the indescribable qualities of wine. It’s a big world.

Emilio Pedron, for Wine Business International:

‘Versatility’ is what appeals to many of northern Italy’s producers. As mono-varietals, the southern varieties show greater terroir character. When blended, such as Primitivo with Cabernet Sauvignon, they show more international character. It's the best of both worlds.

Michael Edwards on the Castel Del Monte DOC's terroir:

At altitudes of 1000 to 1400 feet, the soil is deep with ' limestone elements. Further up the slopes it becomes rocky with threads of darker soils, so the vines can find their moisture and protection from heat even in the hottest summer.

Great interview with winemaker Massimiliano Apollonio by Tom Kelly for Small Vineyards Imports:

TK: Ah, yes, what about that soil — with such a dark, brick red color?
MA: It is largely medio impasto (clay) and argila scula —in Puglia the earth is very rich in iron. Also, for the first two meters, the topsoil is very rocky — good for drainage and minerals. In northern Puglia, it’s a very different world — even rockier, so that they can’t even grow grapes. There are places where nothing grows except olives.
TK: What about under the topsoil — what happens down deep?
MA: Underneath the topsoil is a very flaky, porous stone. Like tufo, this stone is extremely soft and workable, sometimes as fine as dust — sometimes, we find huge caves hollowed out underneath the earth!
TK: So, is that what makes dry-farming possible in such an arid environment?
MA: Assolumente. The natural water table lies very deep, but the grape roots can easily navigate the soil (see Vine Training). Also, you would not guess it, but there are lots of rivers and deep wells in Salento; our region’s aqueducts are famous.
TK: Besides the sun, what influences your grapes above ground?
MA: Of course, we have the sea winds — this is very important for keeping the grapes dry. Without it, the humidity is like the Amazon. Years when there’s not enough wind (like 2005), the grapes can literally rot on the vine.
TK: If I didn’t know better, Massi, I’d say you quite enjoy your life.
MA: (grinning): I think, yes. We are lucky. We are very, very lucky.

Antinori’s Renzo Cotarella:

Negroamaro shows the best terroir expression in Salento. Although a difficult varietal, due to its generous yields, it is quite versatile. Witness Antinori’s Fichimori, a refreshing, light red and the cherry flavoured Calafuria rosé.

Mark Tarbull:

To experience earth and sun in perfect balance, look for the 2004 Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva from Apulia, Italy. (NOTE: too bad Mark here doesn't tell us what winery or rosso riserva he's talking about.)

Kristin Kluvers for Small Vineyards Imports:

Because the natural water table in Salento averages about 80 meters deep, grapes roots may have decades of searching to do! The translation: dramatic wines that not only reflect the hot climate with their dense fruit, but also serve as gateways to terroir: leather, tobacco leaf and dusty red brick can often be discerned on both the nose and palate.

Jon Rimmerman Garagiste on 2005 Felline Alberello Rosso Salento IGT:

Alberello lies in Manduria, an emerging area to the west of Lecco in the above mentioned heel of Italy’s boot. One would think this is a torrid climate but you have to keep in mind two factors - the heel is surrounded by sea on three sides and elevation gives a large portion of the land mass a far more moderate climate than 100-200kms to the north where the inland heat can reach 100 on a regular basis. In contrast, Italy’s heel is almost like a Mediterranean island, where sea wind influences the climate as much as the sun.

The first time I tasted this wine was in Italy and it sold for an incredulous $6-7 (or something like that). I was so surprised at the freshness of fruit and lightness of being I actually drank half the bottle (the wine is only 12.5-13.0% alcohol as well). A style such as this is one of the most difficult to pull of as you cannot sacrifice the terroir and history of the indigenous grapes of Puglia (with their round, ripe, juicy qualities) but you also don’t want any heaviness - a very difficult achievement, especially at the $10 level where attention to detail is typically a law of diminishing returns.

The Felline accomplishes all of the above and it represents the lovely, artistic side of Puglia with aplomb - no manipulation, hand picked fruit and a feminine touch that give loads of delicious red berry qualities and flavor to burn - It’s even better with a few hours of air. A breath of fresh air for a region that is on the precipice of reinventing the wheel - all with natural methods and a light hand.

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