The Italian wine region of Puglia is one that remains under the radar but represents extraordinary value as well as an opportunity for regional exploration beyond the usual suspects like Tuscany and Piedmont. Puglia lies on Italy’s eastern coast along the Adriatic Sea, with its Salento peninsula forming the “heel of the boot.” Puglia is diverse as a region, but where most of the region’s vineyards are planted is a hot, flat plain that is one of the country’s major agricultural drivers, responsible for much of Italy’s pasta, olive oil as well as fruit and vegetable production. As a wine producing region Puglia’s quality and reputation are on the rise.
For many years Puglia’s wines had served to augment production in other parts of Italy and even France. The region’s reliably warm climate has long grown wines that were destined to be bottled under other designations throughout Italy and beyond. Today Puglia has twenty nine DOCs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), and four regions designated as the more prestigious DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). The wines of IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) Salento are also enjoying upward trends.
These days Puglia’s identity is fast becoming synonymous with reliable quality and extraordinary value. As new generations of winemakers and winery owners look to grow the region, their focus is on its distinguishing characteristics and developing a sense of place. Puglia produces several indigenous wine varieties and perhaps is most famous for Negro Amaro, as well as Susumaniello, which is only grown in the region surrounding the town of Brindisi, and the more widely known Primitivo.
Tenute Rubino in Salento is one of a number of wineries riding the surging tide of Puglian wine. Owners Luigi Rubino and Romina Leopardi have designs on crafting wines that express the terroir of the IGT Salento as well as single vineyard wines that speak to Puglia’s tradition and potential to make unique Puglian wine. As the wines are a celebration of place, the winery has designs on further developing Salento and Brindisi into an Italian wine destination.
2012 Tenute Rubino Oltremé Susumaniello $17
Even the most experienced wine drinkers have not had the pleasure of drinking Susumaniello, which translates to “black donkey.” This wine is bright and vibrant with great acidity and a palate marked by fresh ripe fruit flavors and minerality. The use of steel tanks as opposed to oak barrel fermentation places an emphasis on fruit, acidity and vibrance. The result is a unique red wine unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced.
Pairing Picks: The wines freshness asks to be paired against hearty Italian stews or robust and meaty sauces over pasta.
2013 Marmorelle Bianco $17
A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Malvasia Bianca results in a crisp, snappy white wine. Effusive aromatics of tropical and citrus fruits mix with floral notes. Thepalate zips with white stone fruit, citrus and wet stone.
Pairing Picks: Fresh and full of zip, pair this white wine with spicy Asian cuisine, or hearty home made fare like roasted chicken or white fish dishes with heavy sauces.
2012 Punta Aquila Primitivo $17
A rich, ripe and opulent wine from this close cousin to Zinfandel. Primitivo is an Italian wine that has become synonymous with Puglia. Ripe dark fruit aromatics of plum, dried fig and black currant mix with tobacco and anise. A full, rounded palate with dusty tannin, rich fruit flavors with a velvety oak influence.
Pairing Picks: This rich ripe wine is a perfect pairing for grilled meats, rich sauces, stews, steak or roast lamb.
Article provided by ‘Best wines under €20 and written by Clive Pursehouse.