Truffle Huntin', Homemade Wine, and My New Column

Puglia just cannot stop celebrating it seems, and almost every week there is a new festival to go to. I've got my dancin' shoes on too, because I've published my first post in my new column, Sipping from the Heel, written for i-Italy Magazine. This first post is mostly Puglia Wine 101 so if you've been following my blog you already know most of it. My new column will be jam packed with interviews with winemakers, wine-country photographs, tasting notes, and winery profiles, and I'll be following the 2009 harvest so keep an eye out.

Two days ago I was pleasantly surprised to find myself truffle hunting with Giuseppe Lolli, head of the The Friends of Truffles Association, in Puglia. I thought we were just going over for an espresso and then he loaded his truck with his dogs and we set out to a nearby olive grove. Walking in the hot day with Kristin and my new friend Ugo, I was surprised to learn that truffles grow year-round in Puglia, and it only took half an hour for Giuseppe's dogs to find eight or nine medium sized truffles. Then, we headed back to drink some homemade wine.

Giuseppe grows Pinot Noir grapes, which is highly unique for Puglia, and creates a damn good rustic red. We drank it in his wine cellar which is, appropriately enough, located underground one of his vineyards. He's a crafty guy, Giuseppe. His vineyards are particularly beautiful because he grows many of his vines seven feet off the ground. As we walked beneath them, I asked him why, and he said, "For parties!" I greatly admired Giuseppe for the way he's made his life suit him. He has a wonderful wife, a wonderful restaurant, wonderful dogs, wondorful vineyards, and he knows how to find truffles. I mean, what else could you ask for?

Drinking his Pinot Noir was a treat. I don't know which harvest it is from and he didn't tell me any of the tricks he used to make it, but I could tell a lot just by tasting it. It tasted so close to the earth that I knew it wasn't aged in barrique. For a Pinot it was quite large in body, so maybe he blended it with Malvasia Nera, but it still had significant typicity. In short, getting to taste a wine like this shows one how important it is to use high quality fruit when making wine: without any bells or whistles, all you've got in your mouth is grape.

Giuseppe was kind enough to send Kristin and Ugo packing with a couple bottles of his sparkling Chardonnay too.


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