The stiletto heel of the Italian Peninsula
Puglia: heartwarming reds and characterful rosè
Whitewashed towns, century-old olive groves, sandy beaches and secluded rocky bays, luxury resorts in rural houses (“masserie”), and alberello-trained vineyards enclosed within dry-stone walls. This is the idyllic image of the heel of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula: Puglia is a Mediterranean paradise, so it comes as no surprise that it became one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations.
Do the wines live up to its lofty reputation? Well, for sure they play a significant role in the Italian wine scene. In fact, Puglia is the second largest wine-producing region in the country, with a viticultural heritage dating back to 600 BC.
Unfortunately, though, Puglia has long been a prominent source of bulk wine used to reinforce the lighter wines of Northern Italy and France. To this day, a large proportion of the regional output continues ending up in other regions. Even DOC wines are frequently bottled by national wine merchants who then sell them abroad, focusing on alcoholic strength, smoothing residual sugar, and aggressive pricing strategies to please the crowds.
As a result, Puglia doesn’t really enjoy a great reputation among educated consumers. Even so, the number of quality producers in the region has grown considerably in the last twenty years: both large players and small wineries have put considerable effort in defying stereotypes, and some of their top labels have garnered international accolades.
Primitivo di Manduria is the region’s best-known DOC wine: while it still offers inconsistent quality, the best versions boast world-class potential – by all means opulent and sensually Mediterranean but not overdone. Negroamaro del Salento, Primitivo di Gioia del Colle and Nero di Troia are the other reds worth seeking out, and Puglian rosè wine also rank among Italy’s finest.