The last weekend in May is an important date in the calendar for the Italian wine industry as it plays host to Cantine Aperte, the largest wine tourism event of the year. The event is now in its 24th year and saw (if I counted correctly!) 663 wineries across the country open their cellars to the public. In Puglia we had 55 wineries taking part in the event (only Lombardy, Marche and Veneto could boast more), so our first task was to determine our itinerary! This was not an easy job as nearly 60% of the wineries were within an hour’s drive of Masseria Giulio.
After plenty of debate, we decided that this year we were going to focus on the wines of Magna Grecia which is, roughly speaking, the region between Manduria and Taranto. Having collected our guests from various local towns and villages, our first stop (barring a brief traffic jam caused by a large flock of sheep and goats!) was FELLINE on the outskirts of Manduria. Felline is part of the Accademia dei Racemi project started 20 years ago by Gregory Perrucci with a focus on developing several of Puglia’s indigenous grape varieties. There were some excellent wines to taste, including Sum (made from sussumaniello grapes) and Sinfarosa (made from Californian zinfandel grapes – which is a very close cousin of the local primitivo variety, so close some people argue that they are one and the same) which has just been awarded the prestigious Tre Bicchieri standard. However, I was most fascinated by the differences between Primitivo di Manduria, Giravolta and Dunico – all of which are produced from similar primitivo grapes and aged in oak barrels. However, the vines are grown in very different soil conditions; red soil, black soil and sand respectively. My personal preference was Giravolta – but it was a close call.
After a brief stop for a lunch of local antipasti in Sava, we continued our tour at TRULLO DI PEZZA, near Torricella. Here we were treated to a tour of the small estate centred around a gloriously restored masseria. It is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful wine buildings I’ve visited – the attention to detail is incredible, everything serves a purpose and yet for all the immaculate design, no part of it feels fake or twee at all. We were shown around the estate with the family owners who took great pride and pleasure in telling us about the history of the winery, their biological production process (they will hopefully soon be able to classify their wine as organic too) and their aspirations for the future. I have to confess that this was a new estate to me – but their wines are now well and truly on my radar. My particular favourites were Mezza Pezza (primitivo) and Scarfoglio (aglianico) which both, thankfully, lived up to the standard of the buildings and the friendliness of the welcome we received. I will most definitely be back!
Our next visit was just around the corner at ANTICA MASSERIA JORCHE. And the similarities to the previous winery didn’t end with the location. This was another example of a winery who used to produce high yield grapes and wine that was “sold” to other wineries primarily in Northern Italy for blending. However, the new generation (as above two daughters) have now taken over and changed the philosophy of the business to focus on producing a premium product, under its own brand, and selling it directly to a highly targeted market (90% of their wine is now exported across Europe, America and the Far East). The highlight of our tour here was undoubtedly the stunning, purpose built cellar / ageing room. The two wines I tasted Caleido (negroamaro) and Soltema (primitivo) were both very good – although I would have liked to have tried their highly rated Riserva, Sweet Primitivo or Sparkling wine. They will have to stay on my list for another day.
Our penultimate visit saw us almost within sight of the sea at TENUTE EMERA. This vineyard is part of Claudio Quarta‘s Gruppo Magistravini. We missed out on the tour of the estate as by now legs were beginning to get tired! I started off with the Qu.Ale – simply described as red wine from Salento – which was very pleasant. However, I also managed to sneak in a taste of the Anima di Negroamaro – which was delicious. Definitely feel that I need to explore the full Anima range as it promises good things.
Last up was a return visit to Feudo di Santa Croce, part of the Tinazzi group, which is a winery we reviewed earlier in the year. Once again Serena and Claudio extended us a warm welcome and we were able to re-start our discussions as to whether Celebration LXXIV (primitivo) or Megale (negroamaro) is our favoured wine. I think that with an extended group this time around, the votes for Celebration increased – so maybe now I should back down and concede defeat! Or maybe I just need to arrange another tasting just so that we can re-verify the result! It is difficult to mention Celebration without noting that it is one of a very select few wines to have made it onto Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year in both 2014 and 2015.
In summary, Cantine Aperte is a fantastic event, providing a great opportunity to visit some of the best vineyards and wineries in Italy. It is also a great excuse to start drinking (I mean tasting!) red wine before the sun gets anywhere near the yardarm!
Many thanks to Patrizio for driving our group around all day, to all the wineries and their staff for looking after us and to all our friends and guests who made the day what it was. Now we just need to start thinking about which wineries to visit next year….