Puglia: Wine Travel


Puglia is in the heel of the boot when referring to its location in Italy. The coastline of Puglia from the Ionian to the Adriatic seas makes for some great exploration. You will find many small fishing towns with fantastic fresh seafood restaurants all with incredibly affordable prices.

Puglia has been growing grapes for centuries but has sold most of them in bulk. They are in the process of converting themselves from grape growers to wine producers. With fine-wine production being a relatively new art, you can find some great bargains while discovering some excellent wines which pair well with Italian food. To explore this region is to get off the beaten path, discovering a region while they discover themselves. Traveling around in this area is easy, but you will need to call ahead for wine tasting appointments.

With Puglia's warm climate and fertile soil, it is a bountiful agricultural region, and most of the countryside is flat with endless vegetation growing throughout. Many of its local dishes highlight its abundance of vegetables and the area produces more olive oil than any other in Italy. For wine production combining this fertile soil and plenty of sunshine with Mediterranean breezes to help moderate vineyard temperatures, it provides some pretty great grape growing conditions.

Negroamaro is the primary grape of the region and is referred to as the black bitter. Wines made with this grape will usually lead with an abundance of fruit, although full-bodied they are not tannic or acidic, and tend to make for easy drinking wine. The other principal grape is Primitivo, similar to California's Zinfandel. The name originates from "primi" which means "early" as it is the first grape to ripen. These grapes tend to grow in bushes, and the wines are full-bodied with lots of dark fruit.

Most of the wineries are found in the middle of the Salintino peninsula in the Salice Salentino DOC. One of the oldest and historic wineries in the region is Leone de Castris, and a particular favorite wine was their Five Roses Rosé made from the Negromaro grape. Here they will share the history of the family and the traditions that are carried on today. We also enjoyed a lovely visit to Masseria Altemura where you will have a private visit with antipasto to accompany their range of wines; sparkling Rosamaro brut, Fiano, Negromaro, Primitivo and Aglianico.

A couple of wineries where we enjoyed the Primativo grape were Cantelle, and Antico Palmento, a small family run winery and an intimate experience. Both wineries can be found in the Primitivo di Manduria DOC.

The Baroque town of Lecce has friendly locals, and plenty of wine bars; it makes for a great home base to explore the Salintino Peninsula. Day tripping north you should discover the whitewashed villages; Locorotondo is a beautiful example. From there you can explore the Trulli area. This is where you'll find these traditional circular stone houses with conical roofs, the center of which is Alberobello a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Heading further up the coast a must stop is the Grotta Palazzese restaurant in Polignano di Mare to dine in a cave. It is a truly unique setting which sets it apart from any other dining experience; it's worth the extra you'll pay in food for the view.

We stayed in the seaside town of Trani to explore the Castel del Monte wine region. But there are many lovely resorts in the area including the one where Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were married.

Castel del Monte is in the north of Puglia and another primary DOC. It sits on a plateau, and the historic castle is a focal point of the region. Here you will find the Uva di Troia or Nero di Troia grapes as well as grapes known in southern and central Italy such as Aglianico, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano. One of the major producers in this area is Tormaresca, an Antinori family investment, where you can sample many of these grape varieties.