Monday, May 31, 2010

A Killer Day and Wine Tasting at Santa Barbara Winery, Puglia

Wintertime in Puglia is a quiet time for wine tasting. It’s down season. The peeps in the export departments hit the road and travel around the world, and the winemakers contemplate the wines they’re working one. The enologists---having supervised and completed the harvest---take a respite while their fields are pruned. In my ongoing attempt to apprehend the Puglia Wine Tasting, I decided to see what Santa Barbara Winery is up to.

Located in San Pietro Vernotico, the winery surprised me. Why? Because it produces a very good Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon is an international grape and uncommon in this region. Cantina Santa Barbara’s 2006 “Ursa Majore” bianco was great, with a nose of pineapple, flavors of mandarin, and a medium body. (10 euro)

But the real reason I visited the winery (besides getting out in the spring air) was Susumaniello (I know it’s a mouthful). Susumaniello is a native grape of Puglia that has been kept alive by Tenute Rubino and Cantina Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara makes a red called Sumanero that is 60% Susu (as I like to call her after two glasses or so) 20% Negroamaro, and 20% Malvasia Nera. All you barbecue freaks pay attention, this wine has the tang and the spice. A very unique offering, it is complex and concentrated. A bomb of chocolate, cigar tobacco, tang of lime, and red cayenne pepper. It might be a little too wild for some palates, but I really liked it. (8 euro).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Guide to Wine-Tasting in Puglia, Part III

From the Brass Tacks Department aka Where Are We and Where the Hell Are We Going

Whereas the last two parts focus on the general wine-tasting situation in Puglia, this part will focus on the specific information needed to effectively plan your own wine-tasting tour around Puglia. First, you will need to choose a region; second, you'll need to choose which wineries you visit and make reservations; third, you'll need to map out your journey.

The best regions to taste wine in Puglia, in my opinion, are Salice Salentino, Manduria, and Castel del Monte. These three regions have some of the best wineries in Puglia. Further, they are small enough as to not require much driving time between wineries.

Salice Salentino

Located in the southern part of Puglia, this region focuses the Negroamaro, Primitivo (the grape whose DNA is identical to California’s Zinfandel on a genetic level), Aleatico, and Malvasia Nera grapes. It is my favorite region in Puglia to taste wine because it has so many incredible wineries in one location. Further, it is easily accessible from Lecce. Salice Salentino is practically the same city as Guagnano, which is home to a few truly great wineries. Here is a list of the wineries that I know welcome visitors:

Apollonio Winery
Via San Pietro in Lama, 7
73047 Monteroni di Lecce (LE)
Tel. + 39 0832 327182

via vincenzo balsam, 12
73100 Guagnano (Le)
tel.: +39 0832 705010

Cantine de Falco
Via Milano, 25
73051 Novoli (Le)
tel.: +39 0832 711597

Cosimo Taurino
Italia S.S. 605
73010 Guagnano
Tel.: +39 832 706490

Feudi di Guagnano
Via Cellino 3
73010 Guagnano (Le)
Tel.: + 39 0832 705 422

Leone de Castris
Click Here For Directions
Tel. + 39 0832/731112-13 e + 39 0832/733608


The land of Primitivo and the famous Primitivo di Manduria DOC, which has been capable of astounding the world-class palates of professionals, the city of Manduria is itself a quiet town. Many wineries that produce the DOC source their grapes from Manduria but are not located in the city. However, in my opinion some of the best producers of the Primitivo di Manduria DOC can be found in and around the city.

Cantina Savese
Via I. Prato, 3
74028 Sava TA

Consorzio Produttori i Vini
(this winery is fabulous yet doesn't export it's wine to the U.S.: A definite must taste)
via Fabio Massimo, 19
74024 Manduria (Ta)
Tel. +39.099.9735332

Via Santo Stasi Primo - Z.I.
Manduria (TA)
Tel: 099 9711660

Castel di Monte

This region is in the north of Puglia and specializes in the Negroamaro, Primitivo, Aglianico, Malvasia Nera, Nero di Troia, and Verdeca grapes. Home to the stunning, octagonally shaped Castel di Monte built by Frederick the Great but never used, the area is one of the most picturesque in Puglia. The countryside is more hilly than the south’s, aka Salento’s, and its soil has more iron.

Alberto Longo
S. Provinciale Pietramontecorvino Km 4
Contrada Padulecchia - Fattoria Cavalli
71036 Lucera (FG)
Casella Postale n. 64
Tel.: 0881 539057

S.S. 170, Km 28
70033 Corato (BA)
Tel. +39 080 8980923 - 080 8980929

Making a Map

Because tourist offices do not provide visitors with detailed maps of roads and winery locations, you have to make your own map. The fact that Google Maps does not accurately represent many winery addresses on its maps makes this a challenge. Cross reference information from the web sites with Google Maps to get the most accurate results. The best option however is to upgrade your rental car so that it has GPS. This combined with asking for directions from each winery that you visit for the next winery, will make your navigating nearly full proof.

This ends this edition of the Guide to Wine Tasting in Puglia. As you may know (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while), I’ll likely return to the subject soon. If you have any questions about wine tasting in Puglia, don’t hesitate to comment or send me an email. Salute!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guide to Wine Tasting in Puglia, Part II

From the What the Tourism Peeps Say Department

Theoretically, tourism boards throughout Puglia want to help foreign travelers experience the local wine tradition. Unfortunately, many basic organizational steps have yet to be taken, and knowing what you cannot find is important when planning a wine-tasting trip in Puglia.

Below I have included one of the best maps I’ve found, which is proof that good road maps with winery locations are impossible to find. The map provides a select few winery locations with decent detail. Unfortunately, this map is both too specific and not specific enough to be very helpful: it only offers a few winery locations and lacks the detail necessary to efficiently navigate Puglia’s roadways. I am currently working on creating a more detailed map and I will announce updates on this blog.

Wine Map
The other thing that most tourist offices are unable to provide, is English-language brochures on Puglia’s wine tradition. I’ve found a few good books in Italian that offer reliable addresses and phone numbers for wineries in Puglia, but none in English. In Part III of Guide to Wine-Tasting in Puglia I will offer winery names, regional information, and phone numbers.

If you are lucky, as I have been in the past, the folks at the tourist office that you visit will make a few phone calls for you, and try to set up a tasting or two. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in Part I, most wineries expect at least a day’s notice to arrange a tasting.

The one thing that the tourism boards have really succeeded in doing is organizing wine-tasting events throughout the year. These events don’t offer the same personal experience as tasting in a quiet winery, but they do showcase great wines in a party-like atmosphere. The major events are below

Cantine Aperte
When: Last Sunday of every May
Where: Throughout Italy
I have written about this event here, here, and here.

Calici di Stelle (Photo above from the event last year)
When: August 10th
Where: Lecce, Italy

Noci’s Novello Wine Tasting, aka
Bacco nelle gnostre
When: October 8, 9, 10
Where: Noci, Italy

Mercatino del Gusto (Photo above is of the festival last year)
When: August 1, 2, 3, 4
Where: Maglie, Italy
I wrote about this event here.

Very little information about these events can be found in English online. Fortunately, every spring, summer, and fall brings a series of festivals in Puglia that showcase local food and culture. These festivals are located in different towns and often there are several in one week, making it possible, with a little luck, to simply stumble upon one. Wine is rarely the focus of the event, but a few wineries are almost always offering tastings.

The next post will provide on the best regions for wine-tasting in Puglia, the wineries that operate in them, and their contact information.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guide to Wine Tasting in Puglia, Part I

From the helpful insights into Southern Italian philosophy department.

In Part I, I’m focusing on the general concept of wine-tasting as it is viewed by the wineries in Puglia. Part II, will focus on what tourism boards are doing to help travelers go wine-tasting in Puglia. After that, I will focus on giving practical information for helping you plan a wine-tasting tour of Puglia.

I’ve researched this issue for a long time, and one thing that I’ve discovered is that the concept of “wine-tasting” is not the same in Puglia as it is in Tuscany or California, the primary difference being that Puglia’s wineries are often viewed as places to buy a household necessity rather a luxury item. Don't get me wrong, I view wine as both, but I'm trying to make a subtle point.

A trip to wine country in say Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley, is often seen as a vacation, even if one of the primary goals is to return with a stash of excellent wines. The primary reason that Puglia does not fit into this concept of “wine-tasting-as-luxury” concept is because wineries in Puglia are rarely open on the weekends. They are open during regular ol’ business hours, Monday through Friday, 8am-1pm in the morning, 4:30pm-8pm at night.

Much of the income earned by wineries in Puglia comes from vino sfuso, or bulk wine, so this is what most people visit the wineries in Puglia for. This doesn’t mean that the wineries won’t be thrilled if you call them up for a tasting, but it means that you’ll have to do so in advance, to ensure that there will be someone available to speak with you. Making the call of course means that you’ll have to know basic Italian (at least enough to make the appointment).

The hospitality of the people I’ve met in Puglia is incredible and unflinching, so it's a pleasure taking tours, seeing the underground storage caves, and tasting the unique native grapes, even if your Italian is weak. Your Italian can't be worse than mine was the first time I went wine-tasting in Puglia! The wineries want you to taste their creations, and, being fair, I do believe that things will become more organized in the near future.

Next post will focus on what the local tourism boards are (and aren't) doing to help visitors go wine-tasting in Puglia.

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