Summer has arrived in Puglia and as things start to hot up here, the tourists begin to arrive. They come here for a new Italian experience, to get away from the overcrowded tourist areas of Northern Italy and to discover the many charms that Puglia has managed to keep a secret, well, up until now! One great allure for me was the outstanding wines produced here which is why when I moved here in 2010, and after getting to grips with the lingo (which took several years!), I formed a partnership with La Pruina vineyard and we have been offering a unique wine experience ever since.
This week we had the great pleasure of hosting 5 British guests from Basingstoke, Hampshire and Locksheath near Southampton on our first Puglian Pleasures wine tour for 2017. This year we wanted to offer our guests something extra, therefore we teamed up with another fabulous, family run vineyard, Nigro. They, like many other vineyards in Puglia realised that the grapes grown in this region are of a superior quality, flavour and substance and rather than sell their grapes to producers in the North of Italy, they decided to dedicate their lives to learning about viniculture and produce their own wines instead. This small boutique vineyard produces 4 exceptional wines; Don Giovanni, a blend of Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nero, Inno allo Gioia, Primitivo di Manduria, Mosso Rosso, a naturally sparkling rosè made from Negroamaro grapes, and Allegro a naturally sparkling white made from a blend of Bianco d’Alessano, Verdeca and Fiano grapes.
Upon arrival, the guests were greeted by the two vineyards owners at the Nigro estate and offered a welcome drink of Mosso Rosè to wet their appetites and commence the tour of the vineyard, Whilst sipping on the delicate pink bubbly, the guests walked through the vineyards and listened fascinatingly to the experts, as they explained the various training systems used for each type of vine and the importance of the soil and how this changes the characteristics of the same grape variety. After a short walk, in the late afternoon sun, the guest retreated to the beautifully prepared table of homemade focaccia and bruschetta, all made from Kamut flour which is grown on the estate. To accompany the homemade breads, Nigro sparkling white; Allegro was served. This received many accolades from the guests and was one of their favourite, a fresh delicate wine; perfect for summer. Next wine was a new white wine from La Pruina, Malvasia Bianco. The lively bouquet immediately aroused my senses and the fresh, florally, fruity finish certainly didn’t disappoint.
Shortly afterwards, the two ‘Mammas’ from both vineyards took centre stage and demonstrated how to make the various shapes of pasta; orecchiette, cavatelli, tagliatelle, penne to name just a few. The guests were very keen to get stuck in, and under the supervision of mamma, they all had a go. One of guest was so enthusiastic about his new found skill that he took over from mamma and explained to his friend how to create perfect penne. It’s all about applying the right pressure to the pasta with the palm of your hands, whilst rocking the pasta back and forth on a metal skewer.
After the fun of making the pasta, it was time to sample another wine from the Nigro estate. We adjourned to the alfresco dining table and was immediately served their Don Giovanni red wine, which I have to say was outstanding; full body, with balanced tannins and although it was high in alcohol, 13% it wasn’t too heavy. The smooth fruity finish made a huge impression on me and our guests. A lavish ‘apericena’ was served to accompany the meal of; freshly prepared orecchiette with home-grown tomatoes, basil, cheese and a good glug of the estates’ premium extra virgin olive oil. Next a selection of antipasti; pureed ceci, parmigiana, fresh figs, then a selection of local fruits served with the another new red wine from La pruina, their premium Primitivo di Manduria; Morante, a heavy duty red, with bold characteristics and long lingering after taste. Finally, dessert, by this time the guests were fit for bursting but couldn’t resist sampling mamma’s homemade ‘dolce’. This was also made from Kamut flour and resembled apple crumble but contained mixed berries, from the estate, obviously…..delicious!
At the end of the Puglian Pleasures wine experience, the guests couldn’t thank me and my team enough, they thoroughly enjoyed it said that they would highly recommend it to any visitor to Puglia. There kind words left me feeling elated and reinforced why I love my job so much. When guests leave Puglia I want them to feel like they got a taste of the real Puglian hostitality and that they take away many wonderful memories of this beautiful region.
Thank you, Ann, Graham, Carol, Ian and Owen so much for choosing Puglian Pleasures. We hope to see you back in Puglia very soon!