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.