Masseria Li Veli

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We start the count down to Cantine Aperte 2017 with a review of the first of the cantina that we will be visiting on our fully inclusive tour.

Situated in the countryside just outside Cellino San Marco, Masseria Li Veli was purpose built as a winery in the mid/late nineteenth century.  After being abandoned for many years, it was bought in 1999 and renovated by the Falvo family.  One of their objectives was to rediscover some of Puglia’s ancient grape varieties – some of which had almost disappeared less than 40 years ago.

20170424_123555We booked in on their tour, tasting and lunch package – which I can highly recommend.  Our host for the day was the fantastic Chiara, who guided us around the cellars, production facilities and vineyard and provided us with a wealth of information.  I was particularly interested in the “settonce” planting layout based on an old Roman military formation (wine and history – what a brilliant combination!).

After the tour, we adjourned to the dining room and were treated to a delicious three course lunch that embodied everything that I love about Puglian cuisine – simple, local, seasonal ingredients prepared with skill and love.  Every plate (and there were lots of them!) was delicious – although I have to say that the peppers and the cauliflower pettole were particularly good.

Over lunch we tasted some of the winery’s fantastic wines from their “Askos” 20170424_124911(Greek for wine jar – an acknowledgement of Puglia’s long history of wine making) range. First up was the Verdeca (from vines in the Itria Valley) which was a huge surprise to me.  I’m not a big white wine person but this was excellent – the plentiful citrus / grapefruit aromas were matched by the fruity flavours and a nice little acidic bite in the aftertaste.  Chiara said that it was a wine best served with food – but I’d be quite happy with a few glasses of this by the pool on a summer’s afternoon!  It’s very rare indeed that I rate a white wine higher than 80 points so hats off to everyone involved for achieving that!

We then moved onto the reds.  First up was the Susumaniello which had an enticing red berry and slightly smokey aroma with a smooth cherry and raspberry taste.  20170424_134108This was very popular with a number of our party – particularly amongst those who generally prefer white wines.  This was followed by the Primitivo which had a big, intense aroma that was matched by the big flavours that pack your mouth when tasting.  A really fantastic wine which is now high up my list of favourites.  I thought that would be tough to beat – but our final red wine of the tasting did just that.  The “MLV” is a blend of roughly 70% negroamaro and 30% cabernet sauvignon which delivers a delicious blend of dark fruits, spice and tobacco.  My tasting notes were brief and to the point “Wow! Seriously delish!!” and it smashed through my 90 point barrier.  I will most definitely be drinking again very soon!  We completed our tasting with the Aliatico dessert wine which, with its dried apricot aroma and taste, was perfectly paired with our delicious homemade cake.  However, I have to confess that my mind and taste buds were still full of the MLV!

Overall this was a fantastic trip and my thanks go out to everyone involved for making us all feel so welcome (including the two dogs who kept my daughters entertained!).  Highly recommended both in terms of the visit and the wine.  I am already looking forward to returning next month as part of our Cantine Aperte tour and am sure that you will love the wines, the history and the welcoming atmosphere.

Contact us to reserve your place for Sunday 28th May!

Cantine Aperte 2017 – Sunday 28th May

cantine aperte logoAfter plenty of discussion (and under a lot of pressure to live up to the success of last year) we are delighted to announce our planned itinerary for Cantine Aperte 2017!!

This year we have decided to head east and focus on the wines to the south of Brindisi.  We have selected four fantastic vineyards / wineries to visit and will reveal a bit more about each in the lead up to the event.  Our tour also includes a stop for lunch and transport from Ceglie, San Michele, San Vito and Latiano – which means that you can sit back, relax and sample some delicious wine without having to worry about driving!

If you are interested in joining us, please fill in the form below.

CA2017

Wine Tasting – 18th November

Yesterday evening witnessed a special wine tasting event, organised by our partner Puglian Pleasures, at the fabulous Enoteca Argentieri.  The focus of the evening’s event was the wine made by the Tinazzi family who we first came across last year at their Feudo di Santa Croce vineyard.  The family own estates in both Puglia and Veneto and this evening was billed as a Nord vs Sud battle.  From the South we tasted three wines from the estate at Feudo Croce.  Whilst the North was represented by two wines from the Ca’ de’ Rocchi line and one from Tenuta Valleselle.  Who would win this epic battle?

We opened proceedings with the first wine from the South: Montease, a fresh, vibrant chardonnay with a crisp, slightly acidic, green apple taste.  This was especially well received by the Italian members of the party (who actually scored it as the best wine of the evening!) although I have to say that I personally prefer Alea (malvasia bianca) produced by the same estate.  This was followed by the first offering from the North: Campo Delle Rose which, as its name suggests, is a rosato; a salmon pink Bardolino Chiaretto (blended from the corvina, rondinella and molinara grape varieties) with a long raspberry finish.

Round two saw us move onto the first of the reds.  First up for the South: Malnera, a blend of merlot and malvasia near grapes, rich in colour and loaded with red fruits.  It is a very good wine, especially given the price (the cheapest of the evening’s reds by a fair distance) that would really come into its own with a good steak and kidney pie with extra gravy!   We followed this with the North’s response: Monterè, a Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso (another blend of corvina, rondinella and molinara grapes) which was quite spectacular.  This is the wine that comfy leather armchairs were invented for – just sit back, relax and enjoy!

We entered the final round with North and South neck and neck – the air was thick with tension, which region would win???  The South pulled out its joker: Imperio LXXIV (recently rebranded from Celebration LXXIV) which, as I mention all the time(!), has the honour of having been selected in Wine Spectator magazine’s Top 100 wines of the world in 2014 and 2015.  It is a great primitivo full of matured, almost jammy, fruits with a hint of balsamic.  The North needed a strong response: Aureum Acinum,  an Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (corvina, corvinone, rondinella & molinara grapes) weighing in at a hefty 15% and the most expensive of the wines we tasted during the evening.  It hit all the right notes as the different layers of taste released themselves – dark berries, followed by cherry and ending in dark chocolate.

The bout would go to a judge’s decision.  As the scorecards for the individual wines came in it was clear that the decision was going to be close and that also there was some discrepancy between the views of the Italian and the British tasters.  However, to keep the suspense going a little, first up here is the list of the individual wines in order of preference (left to right in the picture below): 6th – Campo delle Rose; 4th equal – Malnera & Montease; 3rd – Imperio; 2nd – Aureum Acinum and 1st – Monterè.

You might be forgiven for thinking that by occupying the first two spots this would mean that an easy victory for the North was assured.  However, we actually had a split decision.  the Italian voters scored the battle 53-50 in favour of Sud!  Whilst the Brits scored it 70-66.5 in favour of the North.  In the end the result came down to a difference of just 0.5 points, with the final score being 120-119.5 in favour of…..THE NORTH!!!!

It was a brilliant evening, enjoyed by all, many thanks indeed to our hosts at the wine shop, our superb sommelier for the evening, Val for organising and of course to the Tinazzi family for putting together such a great selection of wines!

Wine Tour – 4th July

DSC_0103Where in the world can you be enjoying a delicious glass of red wine when an 86 year old local introduces himself to your group, starts serenading you with local traditional songs and then insists on dancing with everyone in the party – well the ladies anyway?  Puglia of course!  A region where complete strangers will still come up and talk to you (in a mixture of Italian and local dialect) about the area, its history and traditions.  The only surprise was that this gentleman didn’t invite us all back to his house to meet his family!!  A truly Puglian end to a great day exploring this region!

Our tour departed from Masseria Giulio and took our guests on a pleasant route through Puglia’s beautiful countryside dominated by olive groves and vDSC_0001ineyards.  Having skirted the medieval towns of Francavilla Fontana and Oria, we arrived at our first stop in Manduria – the home of the famous Primitivo di Manduria grape.  Our destination was the city’s Consorzio Produttori Vini, one of the oldest wine co-operatives in Puglia dating back to 1928 (officially taking the CP Vini name in 1932).  Here we experienced a fascinating tour of the museum dedicated to the history of the co-operative and rural / agricultural Puglian life over the centuries.  The exhibitions are laid out below the floor of the main building in what used to be the concrete cellars where the wine was stored before DSC_0020being sent to Northern Italy and France for “blending” into their wines to add colour, taste and alcohol (due to the hot Puglian climate most local wines are around 13-15%).  As you wander around the rooms stained a deep purple by years of storing wine, you can still smell the aromas of dark fruit – although it is slightly odd seeing 12 people sniffing the walls!  After the tour of the museum we were able to taste four of the co-operatives wines.  We started with Amoroso, a rosato (rose) wine made from the primitive grape which positively oozed strawberries.  We then moved on to Abatemasi which is a new label and is made from grapes that are right on the edge of the primitivo region.  It is a pretty special way to introduce people to Puglian red wine!  Next up was Elegia which I have to say is my favourite wine produced by the co-operative (even better in my opinion than their flagship Sonetto wine) which is quite simply stunning.  We finished with Madrigale which is a naturally sweet primitivo that went superbly with the almond paste biscuits / sweets (freshly delivered from a local bakery) that it was served with.

Having loaded our coach up with as much wine as our guests could carry, we headed off to our second destination.  Located almost within sight of the Ionian Sea, Trullo di Pezzo is a DSC_0061relatively new family run vineyard which started in 1998 producing wine for blending elsewhere.  It is now run by two sisters, Simona and Marika, who have started to build their own premium brand of organic wines using local grape varieties.  We were escorted on a tour of the estate by the ever enthusiastic Valentina and Simona’s husband Piero.  Val and I love this place and so we were delighted to see the impression it made on our guests too!  After the tour we sat down in the beautiful tasting room to sample some of the wines over an incredible lunch featuring local cheeses, taralli, olives, homemade vegetable dishes (prepared using organic vegetables grown by the family and their own organic extra virgin olive oil) and fish caught again by the family.  DSC_0041However, at the risk of starting a family feud – the winner for me was mamma’s apricot tart – words are failing me it was so good!  The first wine we tasted was 10 Grana – a delicious white made from fiano grapes which smells of freshly cut grass and I thought had a slight taste of kiwi fruit.  This was followed by Mezza Pezza made from primitivo grapes (primitivo gets its name from the fact that it is one of the first grape varieties to mature and be harvested – starting from as early as mid-August) which is my personal favourite.  We finished with Scarfoglio made from aglianico grapes which has a nice spicy undertone.  I think we could easily have spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the company of the family but we had a schedule to keep!

Our final stop of the tour was Cantine San Marzano, another co-operative that started in 1962 with just 19 members from local wine making families.  Today it has over 1,200 DSC_0068members and is one of the largest wine making concerns in Puglia.  However, quantity does definitely not trump quality and San Marzano is renowned for producing some excellent wines that have won multiple awards – including the prized Tre Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso (which in 2015 was only awarded to 421 wines in the whole of Italy).  During our tour of the cantine I was struck mainly by two things: (1) the size of the aluminium vats used for storing the wine – apparently the only way they could be transported from where they were made in Northern Italy was by helicopter! and (2) how young most of the staff on site seemed to be – which is hopefully really good news for the local economy and the future of wine making in the region.  DSC_0084Our tasting started with Talo Verdeca which was big on vanilla and split opinion within our group.  We followed this with Estella Moscato which had a lovely smell of tropical fruit, especially pineapple.  Next up were the primitivo wines – first up was Talo Primitivo (which is the Tre Bicchieri winner) which was followed by the Il Pumo label.  Again opinion amongst our group was split almost 50/50 between the two with some preferring a slightly rounder finish and others the slightly more “rustic” taste of the latter.  Finally, I was allowed a quick taste of the Talo Negroamaro and I have to say that for me that was the winner!  However, our day was yet to end as this was when the gentleman mentioned at the start of this piece made his entrance and gave us one last fantastic memory to look back on with a happy smile.

Cantine Aperte 2016

cantine aperte logoThe 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.

DSC_0010After 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.

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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….

Vinitaly 2016: Fall in love with Wine

Wine and beer tasting at VinitalyHaving friends in the wine business has many advantages, not least the opportunity to buy exceptional wine at cost, but it also opens up many other doors to exceptional experiences. Vinitaly was one such experience, that I will not forget in a long time! This annual event which takes place in Verona, Northern Italy, celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. So, this was one event I just couldn’t miss! And it certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, it way exceeded my expectations! The Expo was for 3 days only from 11th – 13th April.

It’s difficult to comprehend the enormity of the arena, with over a 100,000m² of exhibition space, it is the largest arena in the world!!! Actual figures of people passing through the turnstiles on a daily basis have not been published, however, Vinitaly reported that nearly 50,000 international people attend the Expo and that there was in excess of 4100 exhibitors. Needless to say, I didn’t get to see everything!

With so many people attending the Expo I thought it would be crowded, but once inside I wondered where everyone had gone! There were vast open spaces in between cabins (when say cabin, I mean huge airport sized hangers really, they were huge!). Each cabin represented a region of Italy, although some of the smaller wine producing regions were incorporated into other regions. But this gigantic event was mainly aimed at b2b (business to business), it was a platform for wine producers to showcase their wines, promote their vineyard and to attract new customers in the food and wine business. But it wasn’t just about wine, there was a large area dedicated to ‘artigianale’ (artesian) food and beer. In fact I was amazed to see an advertisement for a beer which was brewed in my home town of Blackburn, Lancashire, Northern England, ‘Thwaites’. Sadly they didn’t have any on offer!

Thawaties beer at VinitalyAmongst the wines producers, promoters, members of Slow Food, Sol&Agrifood, artesian food and beer, there were food demonstrations, wine competitions, bloggers, critics, reporters and those who are just passionate about wine.

Puglian Wines in VenetoSurprisingly, after 10+ hours of driving from Puglia to Verona, we arrived feeling pumped and ready to sample our first wine at the Expo! It was late in the day, and the hordes of people were already inside. After a long walk around to the other side of the arena, I was greeted my friend, Luigi, who owns a small restaurant in my home town, in Puglia, La Locanda di Nonna Mena. Luigi was busy in the kitchen preparing food for the Slow Food exhibit but took a moment to offer me a refreshing beverage! A cool, crisp white wine from Locoratondo, Puglia, obviously! This was a welcome sight and tasted absolutely amazing after the long drive!!! Wine had never tasted soooooo good!!! He quickly introduced me to the president of Slow Food, where I had the opportunity to explain what I’m doing to promote Puglia, its food, wine and cultural. Unfortunately, the greeting was cut short as they both had to return work.

Vinitaly wine tastingFeeling refreshed, revitalised, and ready to explore the Expo, I went in search of my friends. Easier said than done! We eventually were reunited in the Veneto cabin, where I was introduced to my friend’s friends, who own a large ‘enoteca’ (wineshop) in a nearby town close to where I live. After the long hike from the Puglia cabin to Veneto cabin, my reward was a very large pink sparkling rose, Gran Couve by Montagner. Now that really did hit the spot and I have to say it was one of my favourite pink sparkling wines I tasted during my visit. Arriving so late in the afternoon meant we only had a couple of hours in the Expo, so after a leisurely stop at Montagner, we moved on to sample a few more wines from the Veneto region.

Passing through the various regions, sampling wine and networking with various vendors was a lot of fun! And we made many friends along the way; including Giovanni and Michele from Bonollo, promoting their Grappa and various liquors.

Day 2 started with the masses, queuing to get into the Expo and unlike the conventional queuing system of the UK and America, which tends to be linear in fashion, the Italian method of surging to the front in a freestyle manner, until the rope was unleashed and ‘x’ amount of people were permitted to enter the area where the turnstiles were located, worked surprisingly well and it wasn’t too long before we in!

received_10153342896767364Where to start, where to start? Puglia of course! I only had a quick drink there yesterday with my friend Luigi, so it seemed like an obvious choice. It was great to see many familiar wineries, and yes, many of which I have already sampled! Tenute Rubino were there with a beautiful background of Puglia, Polvanera , Due Palme , Castello Monaci , Primitivo di Manduria co-operative, Menhir Salento, Botrugno, Schiena Vini, Feudo di Santa Croce along with their partners, Tinazzi from Vento, to name just a few! After sampling a few of these wines, the names of the other wineries were lost on me! But we did make it to Sicily, Tuscany, and the International wine cabin where I fell in love with a mouth-watering Sauvignon Blanc by Captain Drake, New Zealand and another equally amazing Sauvignon Blanc by Cape Dreams, South Africa, oh, and a couple of big bold reds from Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz from Midnight’s Promise.

After a quick bite to eat, we headed towards to ‘artiginale’ cabin and swapped wine for beer and homemade treats before deciding to call it a day. After all we had a party to attend!

Private party at Le ValleselleMore wine connections meant we had a personal invite to a private party in the hills of Lake Garda, at the beautiful wine estate of Le Valleselle which is part of the Tinazzi group, which also included 2 Puglian Wineries, Feudo di Santa Croce and San Giorgio.

We were courteously greeted by the president of the winery Gian Andrea Tinazzi, who then invited us to make our way to the wine bar to choose from a selection of their finest wines. ‘Perchè no!’ Why not! I thought to myself (actually this is my favourite Italian phrase which, I use, most often!). Bubbles to start?…..perchè no! There was a lovely spread of food on offer and as we tucked in, the unmistakeable sound of Pizzica music caught our attention, and two enchanting dancers entertained us while we ate. Amazing! The hills of Bardolino were alive with Puglian music and dancing, it was quite surreal!

Fed, ‘watered’ and entertained, it was time for the DJ to do his thing. Playing all my favourite tunes, I was itching to get up and dance, and even though we had been on our feet all day, I’m never too tired to boogie! Sadly my friends were. So, subtly bopping away on my own, I made a new friend, who was just as keen as I was to ‘get this party started’. I asked her if they could dim the brightly lit lighting, crank-up the volume and invite others to join us on the dancefloor! She did! First up and last to leave, all-in-all a bl**dy good night!

Thanks to the Tinazzi family for welcoming us into their estate. I hope to meet again, sometime soon!

Primitivo Wine Tour Day

DSC_0046Today we had the pleasure of attending a special event to discuss options for promoting wine, food and cultural tourism in and around Manduria.  The event was hosted by Cantina Produttori Vini a Manduria and provided a great opportunity to meet other people promoting this region and to discuss ideas / potential collaborations.  We certainly left feeling inspired and full of thought about future possibilities!

As part of the event we were able to sample some of the offerings for visitors to the Cantina including; a tour of the cantina to understand the processes they follow to turn grapes into wine; a visit to the Museo della Civilta del Vino Primitivo; a delicious five-course lunch of traditional Pugliese dishes accompanied by some of the cantina’s fantastic wines and a choice of afternoon guided tours in and around the town.

The list of wines produced by the cantina is very impressive and covers the main traditional grape varieties of this part of Puglia (fiano, negroamaro and malvasia nera).  However, needless to say it is dominated by wines made from the Primitivo di Manduria grape, with four fabulous options (Memoria, Lirica, Elegia and Sonetto), six when you include their rosato and Madrigale, which is a sweet wine great with dessert.  Elegia is amongst my all time favourites red wines – it really showcases the unique characteristics of the primitivo grape.  I love it!

One of the highlights of visiting the cantina (if you can drag yourself away from the tasting area and the stunning main room!) is a visit to its museum.  The museum is situated beneath the main building in what used to be the concrete / stone vats used to store the wine in the past.  As you move between rooms you can tell which were used to store red or white wine based on the colours of the stained walls.  The museum gives a fascinating insight into some of the history of wine making in this region but also into rural life in the south of Italy.  It is a real gem.

Feudo di Santa Croce

WP_20160223_006This week we had the pleasure of visiting Cantine San Giorgio to sample some of their fantastic regional wines under the Feudo di Santa Croce label.  We arrived at the beautiful masseria, surrounded by typical Puglian countryside of olive groves and vineyards, and met our hosts Claudio and Serena.  They explained some of the history of the estate as we wandered around the masseria and vineyards and shared some of their excitement about the rise of Puglian wine in recent years and its future.

Following the tour, we retired to the tasting room where a fine spread of local cured meats and cheeses awaited us – along with a selection of their wines made from indigenous Puglian grape varieties.  First up was 2015 Alea – a crisp, fresh, straw coloured Malvasia Bianca that tasted of soft summer fruits with a slightly nutty finish.  This was followed by 2014 Malnera – a rich, ruby red blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera grapes (70-30 for this vintage although the exact proportions fluctuate each year) that packed a powerful aroma and contained a big hit of red fruit with a nice peppercorn undercurrent.  Third on the list was a 2014 Megale – an absolutely amazingly deep red coloured Negroamaro with an aroma that was a bit like opening a packet of Bassett’s Allsorts whilst making plum jam in a coffee shop (not that I have done that very often – but if I did this is what it would smell of!).  Our penultimate wine was a 2013 Byzantium – a deep, ruby red Primitivo di Manduria that tasted of forest fruits and cherry licquer.  We finished with a 2013 Celebration LXXIV (74 for those struggling with Roman numerals in honour of the year when Primitivo was awarded its DOP status) – another Primitivo di Manduria but harvested from slightly older vines than the previous Byzantium, as a result of which the alcohol content was slightly higher and the fruits slightly more jammy in flavour.  This wine has been included in Wine Spectator magazine’s Top 100 Wines (globally) in both 2014 and 2015 – so here is hoping that the hat-trick is completed this year!!

What a collection of wines!  All were excellent and showcased just how unique, interesting and delicious the local grape varieties are – they just tasted of long, hot Puglian summers!  We had a long discussion / argument over our favourite – in the end Celebration LXXIV did win, just ahead of Malnera and Megale.  However, the fact that all 5 wines got at least an 8/10 rating is an incredible achievement and we’d be more than happy to sit down with a bottle of any of them!

Absolutely fantastic trip – can’t wait for an excuse to go back and try them all again!  Thanks again to Claudio and Serena for hosting us and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Bolonero – Torre Vento

boloneroName: Bolonero

Producer: Torre Vento

Grape Variety: Nero di Troia (70%), Aglianico (30%)

Vintage: 2012

We were recommended this wine today at a lovely restaurant in nearby Ceglie Messapica.  The owner assured me that it was an exceptional wine and pointed out that in 2015 it was awarded Tre Bicchiere by Gambero Rosso (which is their highest rating for wine, awarded to only 423 Italian wines last year).

Nero di Troia is almost exclusively grown in Puglia and is most commonly associated with the Castel del Monte region.  The wine has a dark ruby colour and an enticing, fruity aroma – it reminded Lucy and I of scrabbling around in hedgerows in the UK gathering fruit for a lovely homemade crumble!  Taste wise it appealed to both of us – it was light enough for Lucy to enjoy but with enough character and ‘interest’ for me.  I really liked the almost peppercorn finish – maybe all my Scottish relatives who insist of having pepper served with their strawberries are not mad after all!!

This is most definitely a wine that I will seek out again in the future and at around €6 (less than £5) a bottle it represents fantastic value for money.  I definitely feel the need to investigate the grape varieties further…

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