After diving headfirst into the wines of southern Puglia and the Salento Peninsula I realize that I haven’t given the north its due, specifically the Castel del Monte growing region. While southern Puglia specializes in Negroamaro, Aleatico, and Primitivo, northern Puglia offers Negroamaro, Aglianico, and Nero di Troia. In general, Nero di Troia creates medium-bodied red wines with strong tannins, making it good for aging. Aglianico is grown throughout southern Italy, particularly the Basilicata region, which borders Puglia to the north, and it creates well-structured, medium to full-bodied reds. Some believe that Aglianico is the father of the noble Nebbiolo grape, which is used to create Barolo.
I decided to sample wines made by north-Puglia wineries Alberto Longo, Torrevento, Grifo, Torre Quarto, and Rivera. I also tried wines made by south-Puglia wineries with grapes sourced from the north: Cantele, Castello Monaci, and Azienda Monaci.
The stand out wines were Alberto Longo’s 2008 Negromaro, and Azienda Monaci’s 2006 Sine Die, made from Aglianico. Alberto Longo’s Negroamaro won for expressiveness, offering a particularly elegant and classy version of Negroamaro for 9 euro. The Sine Die wins all around for impressive dark character, firm structure, and being well-balanced. It costs around 15 euro. Cantele’s Aglianico (a new experiment brought to us by Umberto Cantele), Torrevento's 2005 "Vigna Pedale" Nero di Troia (100% Uva di Troia), Grifo’s 2006 “Augustale Murgia” (100% Nero di Troia) were also excellent.
My overall impressions of wines from northern Puglia are that Aglianico wines are delicious and that Nero di Troia are less versatile; at least, I haven’t tasted one that has been uniquely crafted. The northern terroir is different from the southern because it has more damp earth--rivers and streams--creating dark wines with a good cool juiciness.
One wine is worth mentioning for being especially disappointing: Alberto Longo’s 2004 “Calcara Vecchia” (Cab Franc and Merlot). I don’t think that Cab Franc grapes work well in this climate. With thin structure and one-note cranberry fruit, the wine was not the departure from typical Pugliese grapes that I had hoped for.