Story and photos by Dwight Casimere
Salento, Italy—Puglia wine region in Italy’s idyllic southeastern corner is one of the country’s most fertile wine growing regions. Flying into the modest airport at Bari, one is struck by the landscape, which is virtually covered with vineyards. On the ground, the visual impression is even more striking; mile after mile of vineyards dotted with olive trees, fruit tre
es and other forms of produce and vegetation. Puglia, or Apulia as it is known in Italian, is not just a place where winemaking is an industry, it is a passion and a way of life.
Puglia Best Wine Consortium is the official body established for the promotion and exportation of quality wines from the region and Apulia Wine Identity 2012 is its official calling card to the world. Assembling the world’s top wine writers, industry experts and educators in the town of Lecce near the Adriatic Sea for a series of focused tastings, vineyard explorations and one-on-one consultations with winemakers, in which this reporter represented the U.S., brought forth awareness of the high quality and standards of excellence established through decades of dedication and hard work. Winemaking is an alchemy of science and art. The winemakers of Apulia are both its artisans and its ambassadors.
Apulia’s most famous and appealing wines are its Rose’s. The wines, made from indigenous Negroamaro, Primitivo and Nero di Troia grapes are the most typical of the region, displaying an intense variety of flavors and palate textures while displaying a distinctively light and appealing color and delicate floral aromas. The wines are among the most versatile of all Italian wines. Because they are made from red grapes with intense soil characteristics. They can be served throughout the meal; from aperitif through the first and second courses of salads, seafoods and pastas, through fish, poultry and meat dishes. A few, sweeter renditions, are also delightful with dessert or as a dessert within themselves.
A wine tasting session of some 30 Apulian Rose’ wines at the Apulia Wine Identity revealed a dazzling array of terrific wines that marked a series of starling discoveries!
All of the wines tasted represent a fantastic value in relation to flavor and quality. All of the wines are in the $10-$20 range with variations in retail price based on local taxation.
“Rose wines are becoming fashionable, not just in Italy, but around the world,” declared Liogi Rubino, a winemaker and President of the Puglia Best Wine Consortium. “The wines are versatile, flexible, and are particularly applicable to ethnic and international foods. The wines are ideal for any occasion. I would call them “immediate” wines that are easy to drink and easy to enjoy.”
The secret to creating great Rose’ wines is having the right grapes and having the right climate to grow them. “Luckily, Puglia has both!” Rubino declared. From the start of the Apuglia Wine Identity tasting, the wines proved themselves over and over again. Some of the outstanding tastes and values I experienced are as follows:
- Accademia Dei Racemi – Vigna Rosa 2011, Salento Rosato, 100% Negramaro ($20) . This wine represents the most historical reason for Rose’. It has great personality without being too light. It is closer to a Red wine with a great deal of strength that makes it an ideal partner with food. Puglia is a region with a great deal of pasta, vegetable and seafood dishes, sometimes blending all three elements together, such as a spectacular dish I had at the closing luncheon at the MUST art museum, which combined Benedetto Lasagna pasta sheets (available at Whole Foods in Chicago and nationally and at EATALY in New York-about $7) that are wrapped around cooked white beans and squared in a sushi roll type of mat and then grilled to give them a firm outer texture. The pasta rolls or REPOSATA (resting pasta) tubes are then sliced and served in a soup made with local mussels, octopus, tomato paste, basil aioli and mashed beans and a bit of sun-dried tomato. Served with a glass of Rose’, this is one of the supreme delights of Salento cuisine. Abondanza!
- Conte Spagnoletti Zeuli- Mezzana 2011, DOC Castel Del Monte Rosato, a blend of nero di Troia and montepulciano grapes. ($18). This is an elegant wine with a complex flavor profile and an unusually firm structure for a Rose’ wine. This is a perfect wine to serve with lamb or ham. It also stands up to strong cheeses. I had it with a dish that included monkfish in a rich tomato sauce. It worked perfectly. I tasted this wine with the owner and learned that he also makes outstanding olive oils. I can imagine pouring a bit of his virgin olive oil over a plate of pasta a flavored with bits of local sardine or monkfish in tomato sauce with fresh basil or arugula. This combination would be heaven!
- Schola Sarmenti-Masserei 2011, Nardo Rosato DOC, 100% Negromano ($20). This is a complex wine that bends more to the sweeter side, but don’t let that fool you. It is intense, with a great deal of structure. This wine lends itself to the true definition of “identity.”
“The Market is betting on Rose’,” Consortium President Rubino declared. “The wine gives great value compared to its price and has a wide acceptability among people who may not even be wine drinkers! I think this wine has the best of both worlds; it has the lightness and nimble character of a white, with the strength and structure of a red. It can be drunk cold, or drunk warm. It goes with fish and it also goes with meat. It is the perfect wine for all cuisines and all palates. This, to me, is the meaning of “Identity” and makes the case for Puglia/Salento as a key component on the world’s dining tables.”
Reposata made with Benedetto pasta (available at Whole Foods nationally and at EATALY in New York and Rome
The Rose wines of Puglia/Salento
The bell tower at the Church of St. Croix