If you’ve seen my post on my top ten Southern Italy factoids (along with interesting anecdotes), then this little section on Puglia may seem familiar:
Puglia is hot Mediterranean with moderating sea breezes, low rainfall, fertile soils, and permitted irrigation—most suitable for high volume production
INTERESTING FACTOID: “Its name derives from the Roman a-pluvia or ‘lack of rain.'” ——Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition). Pretty much confirms the above description. —me (First Edition)
Puglia key grapes:
- Primitivo (Primitivo di Manduira DOC; Gioia del Colle DOC) INTERESTING ANECDOTE: Gioia translates to “joy” in Italian; Colle translates to “glue” in French. Interestingly, Gioia del Colle DOC, despite its reputation for the higher quality grapes grown at elevation, is the one that requires the least amount of Primitivo, allowing blending of other grapes such as Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Negroamara, and even the white wine grape, Malvasia (as well as other local and international varieties)—or “gluing” together to create the “joy” that is the region’s red wines. However, the region was so-named before some monk guy brought over the primitivo grape, which he named prima-tivo because of its early-ripening-ness (prima meaning first or early). —me and my remedial Italian and French (First Edition)
- Negroamaro “Makes sweet-tasting, early-drinking reds and some good rosés on the heel of Italy.” “Wine Grapes” (Robinson, Harding, Vouilamoz) (Salice Salentino Rosso/Riserva DOC)
- Nero di Troia/Uva di Troia “High-quality, flavorful, firm northern Puglian that has declined considerably in the last 40 years.” “Wine Grapes” (Robinson, Harding, Vouilamoz) (Castel del Monte/Riserva DOC/G)
While the WSET has us focusing on Puglian red wine production, I was provided the opportunity to taste through some rosés of the region as well as participate in a master class educating us on these wines and Puglia as a wine producing region in general. I wanted to share with you some of my tasting notes, as well as some of the things I learned from the Italian industry pros.
A note about the wines: According to the winemakers present, all wines are created in a style intended for immediate consumption—light, easy, fruitful. They’re looking to appeal to a broad range of consumers, but are also very keen on introducing non, new, or infrequent wine drinkers into the wine-drinking culture. Unfortunately, none of these wines are available in the US at the moment. All are within a 2 to 5 Euro price point.
A few quick little interesting anecdotes before I jump into my tasting notes and abbreviated quality assessments. While the WSET has us focusing on those three main grapes above, interestingly these wines incorporate some—for us—lesser known varieties. Let’s take a look:
Bombino Bianco—Wine Grapes (Robinson, Harding, Vouilamoz) defines the variety as “Productive Italian white found mainly in the south and only rarely distinguished.” It goes on to say that it is most likely indigenous to Puglia. The word bombino translates to “small bomb,” and the text notes this is probably a reference to the shape of the bunches. It’s noted for being high-yielding, late-ripening with good resistance to most fungal diseases—which is why, I assume, most other references call the grape suitable (and predominantly utilized) for high-volume production of inexpensive wines, most usually for the domestic market. However, it was called out during our tasting that this grape is having a bit of a renaissance with producers now focusing on quality over quantity, with many using either the charmat or the methode tranditionale to produce sparkling wines as well.
Bombino Nero—Wine Grapes notes that this version of the variety is “much less common than its pale namesake,” but points out that Bombino Nero is not the black version of Bombino Bianco, instead suggesting it may be simply “closely related.” Again, it’s noted for being quite vigorous, late-ripening, and high in anthocyanins—thus perfectly suited for rosé production.
Malvasia Nera—Interestingly, our WSET Diploma texts calls out the white wine grape Malvasia (and not the black variant) as one of the blending choices for producers of Primitivo in Gioa del Colle. Also interestingly, a scroll through Wine Grapes shows that there are multiple Malvasia Nera varieties, including Basilicata, Brindisi, and Lunga. I believe the one we’ll be sipping on is Malvasia Nera di Brindisi, also known as Malvasia Nera di Lecce, called “the most common of the two dark-skinned Malvasias of southern Italy, commonly blended with Negroamaro, one of its parents.” It’s noted as a mid to late-ripening variety and for being “slightly aromatic.”
We’ll also be sipping on some Sangiovese rosato as well as Aglianico rosato. These two are major grapes elsewhere in Italy (Aglianico in Basilicata and Campania; Sangiovese, obviously, in Tuscany), but in Puglia are specifically mentioned as “blender” varieties in our text. So it’s interesting to see/taste them in these alternative formats.
Sico 2019 Bombino Bianco
Appearance: pale lemon
Aroma: medium intensity—yellow apple, bosc pear, white blossom, lime leaf, grape, under-ripe to just-ripe white peach and white nectarine
Palate: dry (though I detect there may be a *kiss* of RS,) medium acidity, medium body, medium alcohol, medium flavor intensity, confirming the nose notes above; finish is medium
Conclusion: This is a good wine clearly intended for light, easy drinking as indicated by the fresh fruit primary characteristics of just-ripe citrus, orchard, and stone fruits that take over the aroma and flavor profiles. Simplistic in its execution, this wine could easily pair well with a variety of vegetarian or pescatarian dishes or simply enjoyed on its own. It’s clearly a balanced wine, maintaining a medium characteristic across the board from acidity to body, alcohol, and intensity of flavors through to the medium-length finish.
Tramonto 2019 Bombino Nero Rosato
Appearance: pale pink-orange
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—rose petals, sweet tobacco leaf, strawberry and red cherry candy, orange peel and pith, red apple, baby’s breath
Palate: dry, medium (+) acid, medium body, medium alcohol, no tannins, medium flavor intensity—as above, with the red apple, red cherry and strawberry candy dominating and the florals taking more of a back seat than predicted on the nose; there’s also a bit of a bitter quality, perhaps from a bit of phenolic extraction from pressing (the lighter color indicates this was most likely a direct-to-press rosé).
Finish is medium
Conclusion: This is a good wine that has a high enough acidity to lend to a crisp, refreshing nature that keeps the red-fruited primary characteristics fresh and vivacious from start to finish. While the nose had overt floral aromas, I found these characteristics to be more subtle on the palate, but the wine still had a good level of intensity both on the nose and the palate, providing a good concentration. As noted above, there’s a bit of bitterness that coats the tongue about mid-palate and stays there following the finish, which I detect is from perhaps a harder/firmer press faction during the winemaking process (which I suspect, based on color as well as texture was the direct-to-press method). The finish is a medium length—though the dominant red apple flavor does carry through for longer, it’s that harmony of multiple aromas and flavors that would really push this wine from good to very good. But, as noted, the wine has overall good balance and intensity and, like the above wine, its the simplistic nature of the wine that lends itself well to enjoyable drinking. I could see this wine going well with a slightly spice-ful charcuterie board, a delicate salmon salad, or a summer sunset out on the patio.
Fun Fact: Tramonto translates to sunset and the label art is meant to be representative of that name. Further, the dots you see on that label are 3-D—actually, it’s braille, so seeing impaired consumers can participate in the wine experience. “It’s very important to us, this idea of inclusivity because wine is for everyone, not just for a specific people,” says winemaker Maria Viola Petroni. “Wine is not a luxury drink. It is more important to say the wine is about a moment to share with other people and to be free.”
Selva della Rocca Nero di Troia Rosata
Appearance: deep pink
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—red roses, white blossoms, wild strawberry, red raspberry, wet stone/mineral, lavender (maybe some herbs d’provence), cranberry
Palate: dry (again I may detect just a *kiss* of RS), medium (+) acid, medium (+) body (smooth, almost glycerin texture), no tannin, medium alcohol, medium (+) flavor intensity
Conclusion: This is another good wine that has a vivacious floral aroma and a more red fruit-dominant palate. There’s a high enough acidity to cut through these ripe, rich expressions of strawberry, raspberry and cranberry. There’s a wonderful combination of primary characteristics that carry over into the more earthy (wet stone/mineral) and herbaceous (lavender, herbs d’provence) categories—all seamlessly integrated. The texture has a roundness, almost a glycerin-feel to it. This could be from the *kiss* of RS or perhaps the nature of the winemaking method (I suspect saignée here), which is conducive to a fuller, rounder mouthfeel and higher weighted wine. And yet the wine is still light and lively, another easy-drinker that I think could even pair well with heartier dishes given the strong concentration of aromas and flavors. Again, the finish is just of a medium length and beyond the primary characteristics, there’s not a whole lot of depth, thus the wine is not any higher than good. But it is a good wine indeed.
Puro Malvesia Nera Rosato
Appearance: pale pink-orange
Aroma: medium intensity—red strawberry, red raspberry, cranberry, pink rose petals, blood orange juice and skin, orange blossom, honey suckle
Palate: dry, high acid, medium alcohol, medium body, medium flavor intensity—confirms the nose
Finish is medium (+)
Conclusion: This is a good wine with a racy acidity that keeps both fresh fruits and florals alive and vibrant from start to finish. While one could call the wine simple, I do appreciate the integration of those primary characteristics that carry through to the medium (+) finish—the longest finish thus far. The body is medium, but there’s a lightness and crispness to it that entices the tastebuds to sip and sip again. This is a wine that needs no food (though it could easily be enjoyed with a wide variety of dishes—complementing something just as light and fresh or contrasting and cutting through a more hearty/heavy dish).
Cattedrale Rosé of Sangiovese
Appearance: deep pink
Aroma: dry, medium intensity—ripe strawberry, red roses, baby’s breath, ripe red cherry and raspberry, hints of fresh basil, lavender
Palate: dry, medium acid, medium alcohol, medium body, medium (+) intensity—confirms the nose, but more intensely comes through a candied red cherry, candied watermelon and candied red strawberry characteristic
Finish is medium (-)
Conclusion: This wine is completely acceptable. With its bright candy red fruits, floral notes, medium level of alcohol and medium body, it is clearly a fun, easy-drinking wine intended for fun, easy-drinking times. Had the acid been a bit higher, the fruits a bit fresher (less candy-like) in quality, I think it could easily have made the bump up to good. It’s interesting how even through those candy-like expressions I can sense a bit of an herbal note (that basil, baby’s breath, and lavender) so there is a certain amount of complexity in flavor/aroma expression.
Fun Fact: The label for this wine is based on a stain glass window on a cathedral—or catterdale—local to the winery.
Pezza Galitta 2019 Rosato (70% Bombino Nero; 30% Aglianico)
Appearance: deep pink
Aroma: medium intensity—red strawberry, red raspberry, red cherry (fresh, ripe), red roses, baby’s breath, chamomile, tomato leaf
Palate: dry (sensing a *kiss* of RS), medium (+) acid, medium body (slight phenolic grip), medium alcohol, medium flavor intensity—confirming the nose
Finish is medium
Conclusion: Once again, this is a good quality wine. There is a high enough level of acidity to keep the fruits fresh and alive from start to finish and a wonderful integration of fruits and florals as well as a hint of herbal quality (tomato leaf) that flow seamlessly together through the length as well. Again, not overly complex in execution, this wine is another one intended for easy drinking and immediate consumption.
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