Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guide to Cantine Aperte 2011 in Puglia

From the Guide to Exotic Wine Tasting Department

It's that time of year again. Italy's wineries open their doors and pour their wines for the low price of 10 euros per person. In Puglia, Cantine Aperte kicks off the wine season. It takes place May 29th, 2o11, and you can find a complete list of participating Puglia wineries here. The best part about Cantine Aperte is that you don't have to make any appointments because Puglia's wineries are open to everyone.

Event Overview: 57 wineries across Puglia, mostly free wine tastings, snacks, food pairings for a few euro, live music, and free tours of vineyards.

Here’s what you need to know:

1) Here's a wine map of Puglia with wineries listed. These wine map thingies are incredibly difficult to find!

Wine Map

2) Grab lunch at a winery, that way you can pair your wines with some local grub. Find the participating wineries that serve lunch and make a reservation.

3) Rent a car in advance! They sell out quickly. Also, try to get one with GPS as Puglia's road signs are a mess.

4) Make an itinerary in advance using Google Maps. This is the best way to keep from getting lost. However, once you're in the countryside you'll be surprised by the number of signs advertising Cantine Aperte. They include arrows to the nearest wineries.

5) Note that one or two wineries do charge extra, but only a handful.

6) Here's a list of some of my favorite wineries in Salice Salentino, Manduria, and Castel del Monte with contact information.

7) Enjoy the beautiful day and the heavy pours. I'm sorry to have to sit this one out, but next year I'll be leading a culinary tour through Puglia during Cantine Aperte. Send an email to me or to Edible Authentic Travel to learn more!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 Review

From the Stop Cramping My Style Department

I was recently approached by Stacey Marrs of the web site (I'm not including a link because I do not want to increase their web traffic). She wrote:

I notice that you publish articles and other content that tackle different aspects in the world of wine. Would you be interested in having more wine-related articles for your site? My best writer on staff knows a lot about the subject and extensively writes for our website as well.

From the beginning, something seemed fishy. Why cramp my style? I know I've got a good thing going... why should you get a piece?

Visiting, I found an article on Puglia's wine that is filled with poorly researched (did they do any real research?) and incorrect information. The internet is filling up with what a college buddy once called pocket knowledge, i.e. hearsay. It's getting easier and easier to pass along misinformation. I say it has to stop. When I write articles, I do my research and I list my sources whenever applicable. Writing a blog post once a week or more, we're bound to make mistakes, but took it one step further: They tried to publish their crappy articles on my blog.

For the love of Bacchus, if you're a blogger who received a similar email from Stacy Marrs, don't let her "professional writer" anywhere near your site. Below is a list of the false information published on their site. It's also worth mentioning that Daniel Manu, the "professional writer" of the article Let's Talk About Puglia's Wine, has no online presence as far as I can tell. Further, provides zero contact information on their web site and their About page is blank, leaving one to conclude that there's simply nothing to write about them. If they don't provide a service, such as entertainment or information, do they even exist?

False Information Published in's Article Let's Talk About Puglia's Wine:

"...Puglia is the biggest producer of wine in Italy..."
Puglia was behind the Veneto and Sicily last I knew. The 2010 GAIN report said that Puglia's overall production fell by 7 percent while Sicily's rose 10 percent.

"...The flagship red grape is Primitivo, used to make food wines..."
Roughly 80% of Puglia is planted with the Negroamaro grape. This is a number told to me by multiple winemakers in Puglia. I can't find a reliable source for this online, but one wine producer wrote this. My main point is that you might want to mention the Negroamaro grape somewhere in your article on Puglia's wine.

"But Puglia has a bit of a shameful background. For years it has produced “plonk”. Plonk is a term used to refer to very poor quality wines, the kind of wines that will make you spit in disgust. They would illegally blend this excuse for a wine to create mediocre ones."
No, Puglia winemakers shipped vino sfuso north, then northern wine producers "illegally" blended the wine. Relax: Puglia's vino sfuso can be quite good.

Of the Castel Del Monte DOC: "This delicate wine comes in white, red and rose version. "
Besides good grammar, this sentence leaves out the fact that the wine comes in several versions.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Puglia's Most Important DOC Wines

I don't believe that there's an objective standard for "the most important" DOC wines made in Puglia. Let's judge them anyway. Clearly, the best DOC wines in Puglia are the Salice Salentino Rosso DOC, the Primitivo di Manduria Rosso DOC, and the Castel del Monte Rosso DOC. The rules for making Puglia’s DOC wines can be difficult to track down, but I’ve found several sources that support the rules I’ve provided below.

Below I've included more detailed rules for each DOC, as well as some wine recommendations in case you're interested. The main reason I'm writing this post is that Puglia has many DOCs but few of them matter to U.S. wine lovers. I'd like to hear from anyone who thinks otherwise, especially if you have recommendations. I've heard good things about the Gravina DOC and the Locorotondo DOC but haven't tasted enough of them.

All of the following DOCs, like any good bar story, come in multiple versions. The red wines, as opposed to white or sweet, are by far the most important and are demarcated by the word “rosso” on wine labels. Also, all of the wines below must be produced and bottled in or around their respected towns, viz. Manduria, Salice Salentino, and Castel del Monte.

Watch Out: These rules change somewhat regularly, but the rules for grape percentages, alcohol percentages, and aging should be basically correct. You never know what the central or regional Italian government will whip up. If you have corrections, please send them in, and please include your sources.

Primitivo di Manduria DOC

The city of Manduria is in the western area of Puglia’s Salento peninsula. This DOC comes in dry and sweet versions. The sweet version is called “dolce.” The DOC is rarely made riserva, but a few wineries, principally Soloperto winery, have created a few. You’ll often seen non-DOC primitivo wines at U.S. wine stores, and this means that the wines were not produced or bottled in or around the city of Manduria and that their grapes were not necessarily grown in or around Manduria. These wines do not have to follow the rules outlined below. Primitivo is genetically identical to Zinfandel, but the wines should not be considered identical because of the environmental and other factors that impact flavor.

Rules for Making Primitivo di Manduria Rosso DOC

Grape: 100% Primitivo

Alcohol: at least 14%

Aging: at least 7 months

Recommended Primitivo di Manduria DOC wines:

Racemi “Felline” 14% alcohol

Masseria Pepe “Dunico” 15.8% alcohol

Consorzio Produttori Vini “Lirica” ??%

Consorzio Produttori Vini “Elegia” ??%

Attanasio DOC 16.5% alcohol

Pirro Varone 15% alcohol

Sources of DOC information: Vini del Salento, Puglia DOC

Salice Salentino DOC

The town of Salice Salentino is located 13 miles Lecce, putting it in the center of Puglia’s Salento peninsula. The sea is less than 20 miles on either side. The DOC features Puglia’s most important grape: Negroamaro.

Rules for Making Salice Salentino Rosso DOC

Grape: at least 80% Negroamaro. Malvasia nera di Lecce or Malvasia nera di Brindisi are often used to make up the remainder.

Alcohol: at least 12%


Recommended Salice Salentino Rosso DOC wines:

Apollonio 80 % Negroamaro 10% Malvasia Nera di Lecce 10% Malvasia Nera di Brindisi

Vecchia Torre 90% Negroamaro 10% Malvasia Nera

Cantine de Falco 80% Negroamaro 20% Malvasia Nera

Rules for Making Salice Salentino Rosso DOC Riserva

Grapes: at least 80% Negroamaro. Malvasia nera di Lecce or Malvasia nera di Brindisi are often used to make up the remainder.

Alcohol: at least 12.5%

Aging: at least 2 years

Recommended Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOC wines:

Candido “La Carta” 95% Negroamaro 5% Malvasia Nera

Ionis “Suavitas” ??%

Conti Zecca “Cantalupi Riserva” 80% Negroamaro 20% Malvasia Nera di Lecce

Leone de Castris 90% Negroamaro 10% Malvasia Nera di Lecce

Taurino 80% Negroamaro 20% Malvasia di Lecce

Sources of DOC information: Apulian Wines, Puglia DOC, La Vinium

Castel del Monte DOC

The Castel del Monte DOC comes in a huge number of versions, including a Chardonnay DOC, Sauvignon (Blanc) DOC, and other random grape varieties. Below are the rules for making the red wine Castel del Monte DOC. The red wine can feature one or all of three red grapes, and a single red wine can be 100% of only one of them.

Rules for Making Castel del Monte Rosso DOC

Grapes: At least 65% of the wine is composed of Nero di Troia, Montepulciano, or Aglianico. Any red grape grown in the region can make up the remainder.

Alcohol: at least 12%

Aging: ??

Recommended Castel del Monte DOC Wines:

Tormaresca “Bocco di Lupo” 100% Aglianico

Tormaresca “Trentangeli” 65% Aglianico 25% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Syrah

Rivera “Cappellaccio” 100% Aglianico

Torrevento “Bolonero” 70% Nero di Troia 30% Aglianico

Santa Lucia “Vigna Del Melograno 100% Nero di Troia

Rules for Making Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva DOC

Grape: a At least 65% of the wine is composed of Nero di Troia, Montepulciano, or Aglianico. Any red grape grown in the region can make up the remainder.

Alcohol: at least 12.5%

Aging: at least two years

Recommended Castel del Monte Riserva DOC:

Rivera “Il Falcone” 70% Nero di Troia 30% Montepulciano

Torrevento “Vigna Pedale” 100% Nero di Troia

Santa Lucia “Le More” 100% Nero di Troia

Sources of DOC information: Corriere della Sera, Vini del Salento, Apulian Wines, La Vinium

The white wine Castel del Monte DOC or Castel del Monte Bianco DOC, can feature the white grapes pampanuto or bombino bianco. The rosé is primarily composed of the nero di troia and/or bombino nero grapes.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Gianni Cantele, the Wallstreet Journal, and Puglia

I promise to return to what I started, and my next post will focus on the most important DOCs in Puglia, but first, I have to send a shout out to Gianni Cantele, a wonderful guy and winemaker, who was recently interviewed for an article in the Wallstreet Journal, A Movable Feast in Southern Puglia.

Man, can't the well-paid journalists come up with original titles?

I met Gianni Cantele thanks to his brother Paolo. I was contacting winemakers in Puglia, researching the 2009 Puglia Harvest Report, when Paolo directed me to Gianni. Gianni has a commanding historical perspective, and when his grandfather first came to the Salento Peninsula to begin a winery, the locals spoke a dialect that had more in common with Greek than Latin. Today, some local dialects still have Greek roots, but everyone speaks good ol' Italian, too, which wasn't the case 100 years ago. Gianni also has an eye for the future, and he's one of the first winemakers on the Salento peninsula to begin truly exploring the capabilities of the aglianico grapes grown in northern Puglia around Foggia. Glad to see the heel of the boot rising, I just hope it tilts before it comes down, pouring it's sun-soaked wines so that we'll all be Sipping from the Heel.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Buona Festa della Mamma!

From the All Puglia Cooking All the Time Department

Happy Mother's day everyone! We just completed our mother's day feast. The sky is a mix of rainbow, nuclear-orange haze, thunder clouds, and blue sky, and no I'm not on hallucinogens, I just live in Portland, Oregon.

When we lived in Puglia, my girlfriend and I loved to recreate the dishes we ate in restaurants. To share the incredible traditional cuisine of Puglia, I will feature traditional Pugliese recipes regularly on By The Tun for the next few months. My girlfriend and I run a supper club called Hip Nana, which focuses on Puglia's simple cuisine, and we've collected many recipes that are difficult to find in English (at least we've had a hard time!). Most of the recipes we use have five ingredients of less. Today, we cooked an authentic Pugliesi Sunday dinner (as authentic as you can get without Puglia's salt-wind kissed vegetables) for Kristin's mom. Below are some photos to get your taste buds going. More recipes and photos to come. I hope everyone had a great Festa della Mamma!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Puglia's First DOCG And Why It Doesn't Matter

From the What does DOCG actually mean? Department

As wine writer Alfonso Cevola recently wrote, Puglia was granted its first DOCG wine by the Italian government recently, the Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG. However, I doubt that anyone really cares: this wine is made in the old, peasant style, and it is very sweet even though it is not considered a dessert wine. Puglia's wine tradition is currently divided between "dry" and "sweet" red wines. This is particularly interesting because the changes that are taking place now in Puglia's winemaking style took place in Italy's more famous wine producing regions, such as Piedmont and Tuscany, over a hundred years ago.

(For a general idea of the Italian IGT, DOC, and DOCG wine system, click here).

Can you believe that Barolo was once a sweet wine? In fact, it was sweet up until the French enologist Louis Oudart was invited to the town of Barolo around 1850. Pragmatically, the wine was made sweet to keep it from spoiling, but this technique eventually set the standard for wine in Italy up to the 1800s. This is still the case in Puglia, where sweet wine is served with meals just as often as dry wines (of course, this isn't true in fine dining restaurants, but in households). When Oudart arrived in Barolo, French wine had become the new international standard of fine wine, and he created dry Barolo for the first time. The success of dry Barolo among Turin's royalty gave Barolo the nickname, "the wine of kings, the king of wines." Not everyone was so elated, and I imagine they were probably the local farmers, as I'll get to just in a minute, but first, can you imagine if Barolo was sweet? Jesus.

A sommelier in Puglia once explained to me that sweet wine is an important part of Puglia's history, and that wine was seen as an energy drink more often than a work of art. He'd said:

Before, everyone worked in the fields; everyone was a farmer, and they were very poor and had very little to eat, so wine was used as food. Sometimes, a farmer will wake up very early, work all morning, then have very little to eat for lunch, maybe a few vegetables, but the work day would be just half over. He would need energy to work. For this reason, the wine was made with a lot of sugar to provide energy. He would drink the wine, then he could work for the rest of the day.”

Today, many winemakers in Puglia create both sweet and dry wines. They sell the former vino sfuso style (directly out of giant stainless tanks with gas-pump nozzles); they sell the latter in bottles (usually to foreign markets---indeed, these dry reds aren't even marketed locally).

So, getting back to the Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG thing, the new categorization might help to preserve a traditional style of red wine, which is a good thing for lovers of sweet red wine. However, this new categorization means nothing to U.S. wine lovers, because we just don't like sweet red wines. Why do I harp on it? Well, because it's important to call a spade a spade while reveling in Puglia's magical history. Further, I do believe that the Primitivo di Manduria Rosso DOC category actually means something, which I'll expand upon in my next post.

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