Wine Culture and Information - Volume 13
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  ABC Wine Issue 51, April 2007   
ApuliaApulia  Contents 
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Apulia

Primitivo, Negroamaro and Uva di Troia are just three of the grapes which have contributed to the rebirth of Apulian enology, a success made of red wines and a lot of sun

 The bond Apulia has with wine, and therefore with the vine, has very ancient origins, a bond which has always characterized - together with olive oil and olive trees - the culture and the tradition of this region. Wine production in Apulia is - in terms of quantity - among the first ones in Italy, a characteristic which made the region become the “wine tank”, not only of Italy, but also of Europe. For many years the wine from Apulia was shipped to the north and to the other Italian regions, as well as to some areas of Europe, in order to be used for the blending with local wines, therefore giving color, body and alcohol. In recent years - finally - the enological situation of Apulia is changing, finally aware of the great wine potentials of the region, Apulian producers are now focusing on quality production. After all, Apulia is rich of autochthonous grapes having great potentials, such as Negroamaro, Primitivo and Uva di Troia, which in the last years have become more and more popular, therefore contributing the the rebirth of Apulian wines.


The main wine areas of Apulia
The main wine areas of Apulia

 The history of vine in Apulia has very ancient origins and it is believed this plant has always been present in the territory of the region. Vine was probably present in Apulia before the times of Greek colonization - in the eighth century BC - however some of the varieties today considered autochthonous of this region were introduced by ancient Greeks, such as Negroamaro and Uva di Troia. From Greece was also introduced the “alberello” cultivation method, the most common one in Apulia. With the advent of the dominion of ancient Romans - after the victory against Pyrrho in 275 BC - the production and trading of wine were particularly vivid and wines from Apulia begun to be found - as well as appreciated - in the tables of Rome. In his monumental work Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elder, in listing the varieties of Greek grapes, mentioned in Apulia were present Malvasia Nera di Brindisi and Lecce, Negroamaro and Uva di Troia.

 Pliny the Elder, Livy and Tibullus have left witnesses in their writings about the techniques used for the cultivation of the vine and the production of wine in Apulia at the times of ancient Romans, also praising - in particular - color, aromas and taste of Apulian wines. Pliny the Elder defined Manduria - the most representative territory for the production of Primitivo in Apulia - as viticulosae, that is “full of vines”. Manduria was not the only place to deserve the name viticulosae: also Mesagne, Aletium (Alezio) and Sava were defined with the same name by other authors. Other illustrious authors of those times - such as Martial - praised in their writings the quality of Apulian wines. With the construction of the seaport of Brindisi - in 244 BC - the trade of Apulian wine has a very flourishing period and Taranto, in order to facilitate shipping, was keeping huge quantities of wine in specific cellars dug in the rocks along the coast.


 

 Since those times Apulia become an important “deposit” of wine, a land which will made of wine, and of olive oil, two products strongly associated to its tradition and culture. However the bond with wine will be characterized by huge quantities instead of quality. Despite of this, quality wine will leave a indelible mark in the culture of Apulia: from merum, which in Latin language means “pure wine” or “genuine wine”, derives in fact the term mjere, which in Apulian dialect means “wine”. After the fall of the Roman empire, viticulture and wine production in Apulia faced a period of crisis and it will be only because of the job of monasteries and monks the two activities will be kept and continued to characterize Apulia. In the Middle Age, Apulia is still known to produce huge quantities of wine: it is not by chance Dante Alighieri, in his verses, described Apulia as «a beautiful land where the sun becomes wine». The importance and development of viticulture and wine production was well understood by Frederick II who - despite he was an abstainer - he ordered to plant thousands of vines in the area of Castel del Monte, by importing plants from the neighboring Campania.

 The wine gets a strategical role for Apulian economy and, in 1362, Giovanna I d'Angiò issues a law which forbade the introduction of wine in the territory produced outside the borders of the region. It will be only in the Renaissance wines from Apulia become more and more popular in other Italian areas and in some French areas, Apulian wines are found in the tables of nobles. Andrea Bacci, one of the most renowned wine authors of those times, mentioned in his work De naturali vinorum historia that in the areas of Lecce, Brindisi and Bari are being produced wines of “very good quality”, whereas as for the red from Foggia and of Gargano he will write they are wines of “average strength however genuine in their substance as they can be kept even for three years and also more”. According to Andrea Bacci, the best wines of Apulia at those times were the ones produced in Manfredonia. In later times - in the 1700s and 1800s - Apulia will be still characterized by the production of huge quantities of wines, never for its quality, and the excessive production becomes a serious problem, although representing a profit.

 When phylloxera arrived in the vineyards of north Italy and in Europe, the huge quantities of wine produced in Apulia were useful in diminishing the effects of this flagella, also arriving in France to fill the glasses of transalpine countries, when the production was not enough to satisfy local demand. The delay of phylloxera will favor the arrive of French businessmen in Apulia who here started making wine and exported it in France, Germany and Austria. When phylloxera finally arrive in Apulia, it will determine the fall of what seemed to be the rebirth of Apulian enology. In the following years, when everyone was trying to recover Apulian enology, in the region will be introduced other grape varieties which will progressively replace local ones and the advent of social wineries will favor a massive production of wine without any quality criteria. The production of Apulia will be mainly focused on wines destined to blending, destined to give body and color to the production of other areas in Italy and in Europe. In the years following World War Two, some stubborn and significative producers will begin to concentrate their efforts in quality, however it will be only in the 1990s, when Apulian producers will become aware of the wine making potentials of the regions and, last but not the least, from wineries coming from other regions of Italy.

 

Classification of Apulia

 Wines of Apulia are classified according to the quality system in use in Italy. The lowest rank is reserved to Vini da Tavola (Table Wines), followed by Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT, Geographical Typical Indication), then Denominazione d'Origine Controllata (DOC, Denomination of Controlled Origin) and finally Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG, Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin), the highest rank in this system. No wine area of Apulia is classified as DOCG, however in the region are defined 25 Denomination of Controlled Origin areas and precisely: Aleatico di Puglia, Alezio, Brindisi, Cacc'e Mmitte di Lucera, Castel del Monte, Copertino, Galatina, Gioia del Colle, Gravina, Leverano, Lizzano, Locorotondo, Martina o Martina Franca, Matino, Moscato di Trani, Nardò, Orta Nova, Ostuni, Primitivo di Manduria, Rosso Barletta, Rosso di Canosa, Rosso di Cerignola, Salice Salentino, San Severo and Squinzano.

 

Production Areas

 Vine and olive trees are the two plants which mainly characterize the landscapes of Apulia. In this region the wine is virtually produced everywhere, not only a resource associated to the tradition and culture of these places, but also an important economic resource. Wine production of Apulia is influenced by an extremely particular climate and by the quantity of sun rays the soil receives in the course of the year: Apulia is in fact among the most sunny regions of Italy and Europe. Ideally located in the “heel of the boot” of Italian peninsula, Apulian climate is influenced by the effects of the sea: the region is surrounded by more than 800 kilometers of sea coasts (about 500 miles) and the coasts of Ionian sea and Adriatic sea are divided by an average distance of 50 kilometers (about 30 miles). And then there is the sun, a lot of sun like in no other place of Italy, capable of reaching, in summertime, temperatures of 45° C (113° F). Alberello is the most common viticultural method in Apulia as it allows the vine to better benefit from the resources of the soil - including water - therefore improving the quality of grapes and of wine.

 The wines mainly representing Apulia are reds and roses, however in the region are also produced interesting white wines, also with autochthonous grapes. The most common white grapes in Apulia are: Bombino Bianco, Malvasia Bianca, Verdeca, Fiano, Bianco d'Alessano, Muscat Blanc and Pampanuto. The case of Chardonnay is pretty singular because - despite it is a grape having no historical connection with Apulia - it is, as a matter of fact, the most common and cultivated white berried grape of the region. The most common red berried grapes in Apulia are: Negroamaro, Primitivo, Uva di Troia, Malvasia Nera, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Aleatico, Bombino Nero, Susumaniello and Ottavianello, name with which it is known in the region the Cinsaut grape. In Apulia are also cultivated international varieties, in particular Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite of this ampelographic richness, Apulia is mainly famous for three grapes: Negroamaro, Primitivo and Uva di Troia, each of them being characteristic of specific areas. In the south part of the region - the Salento area - the most common grape is Negroamaro, the central part is the land of Primitivo, whereas Uva di Troia is the most common grape in the northern areas.

 

Salice Salentino

 Among the most representative wines of Apulia, the ones produced in the Salento area, and in particular in the wine area of Salice Salentino, are among the most famous ones. The wine area of Salice Salentino takes its name from the homonymous city in the province of Lecce, and here wine production is mainly about reds and roses. Salento is one of the most important wine areas of Italy for the production of rose wines and it is right in this area was bottled, in 1943, the first rose wine of Italy: the renowned Five Roses of Leone de Castris. Red and rose wines belonging to the Salice Salentino DOC area are produced with Negroamaro - the real protagonist of vineyards in Salento - and Malvasia Nera. In the Salice Salentino area are also produced two white wines: Salice Salentino Bianco - mainly made from Chardonnay grape - and Salice Salentino Pinot Bianco. Another interesting wine is the Salice Salentino Aleatico, produced in the sweet and fortified styles, in which can be added small quantities of Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera and Primitivo grapes.

 

Primitivo di Manduria

 Primitivo is the most common grape of the central part of Apulia and with which is produced the famous Primitivo di Manduria, one of the most famous DOC areas of this region. Despite today Primitivo is considered one of the many autochthonous grapes of Apulia, it is believed this varieties is genetically similar to Plavac Mali, a grape from Dalmatia and which is also known in California as Zinfandel. It is very likely Primitivo was introduced in Apulia in the 1700s and it takes its name from the fact it tends to ripe in advance than the other varieties. For this reason it was called primativus - or primaticcio - from which derived the modern Primitivo. The famous wine of Manduria - which is also among the most famous wines of Apulia - is produced with 100% Primitivo aged in cask or in barrique. Primitivo di Manduria is also produced in the dolce naturale (naturally sweet) and liquoroso (fortified) style, the latter being produced in the sweet and dry styles.

 

Other Production Areas

 Going towards the northern part of the region, in vineyards is mainly found Uva di Troia - also known as Nero di Troia - the main variety in the Cacc'e Mmitte di Lucera DOC wines. Uva di Troia is also used alone for the production of interesting red wines. Despite Apulia is mainly known for its red wines, in this region are also produced white wines and some denomination of controlled origin areas make this style of wine only. It is the case of Locorotondo and Martina Franca areas - both produced with Verdeca and Bianco d'Alessano grapes - and Gravina, whose wines are produced with Malvasia del Chianti, Greco Bianco and Bianco d'Alessano. Among the white wines is mentioned Moscato di Trani, a sweet wine produced with Muscat Blanc. Among other DOC areas of Apulia are mentioned Alezio, Brindisi, Castel del Monte, Copertino, Gioia del Colle, Gravina, Ostuni, San Severo and Squinzano. Finally, of particular interest, are the wines belonging to the Salento IGT appellation, in particular the wines produced with Negroamaro and Primitivo grapes.

 




 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 51, April 2007   
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