The Puglia that I am familiar with is that of Alberobello with its white trulli houses, Zoo Safari amusement Park, and La Grotta del Castellano. A Puglia where rusty red iron rich soil hosts wheat fields and olive trees as far as the eye can see. And vineyards….vineyards…vineyards. Negroamaro…Primitivo…guyot and freestanding training systems. It is a Puglia that I visited a couple of summers ago. Puglia…a region that I wanted a deeper understanding of, so during Vinitaly, I decided to try some wines from this sizzling southern Italian region. And that is where Vincenzo Mercurio came in.
It wasn’t easy keeping up with Mercurio as we left Pavilion B and headed towards a crowded Pavilion 7B, but I did my best. We found a quiet table in the corner of stand F3 where Vincenzo introduced me to an anima, a spirit of Puglia - Tenuta di Eméra. A winery located in Southern Puglia-Salento to be exact. From my sommelier course, I was already familiar with some of the types of grapes grown in this area, so I was ready as he poured our first glass, Fiano. A glass of Amure IGT 2010. Mercurio quickly pointed out two important facts. 1) That in Puglia, it is very difficult to conserve the freshness of this grape because the climate is very hot. So he adds Chardonnay. 2) This particular glass was a sample from the vat. Their 2010 was not quite ready yet. Already white fruit and floral aromas were wavering from our glass. But more time was needed so that it could present itself as fresh and smooth with a touch of fruit towards the end.
Rose 2010…the next glass was a rosé. A wine made with negro amaro. I couldn’t help but admire the pink color that a quick kiss by the dark –almost black, nero-grapeskins gave to this light, delicate, fresh and flavorful wine. And the strawberry aromas. Negro amaro is a popular grape in southern Puglia. A grape that would show me another side as Mercurio poured our 3rd wine: Anima di Negroamaro 2010. 100 % Negro amaro, showing its spirit, its anima, in the glass. A glass that had the typical characteristics of this grape such as a dark ruby red coloring. Mercurio noted that the dark colors that I saw that afternoon would lighten slightly as the wine got older. I was curious then about the fruit flavors, then. Only 10% of the grapes for this wine see any wood, so the currants and blackberries were fresh, but not hidden by spices.
As warm as it was in Verona that day, I wanted to continue with Puglia’s reds, so the next wine in our glass was Nero di Troia 2010 Roso IGT. Uva di Troia, one of Puglia’s oldest grapes, believed to be brought to Gargano by Diomedes from Troy. Another sample from the vat…another which was not ready for the mass public yet, but one that Mercurio wanted to have me try. 15% of this wine spends time in wood. He wanted me to note the characteristics of this wine…this grape. Balsamic…red fruits…Then it was on to our next grape, on to our next wine.
Primitivo. Anima di Primitivo DOC 2010. 100% Primitivo di Manduria; the grape in Puglia. Grapes that come in large bunches. Grapes that have a tendency to dry and sweeten on the vine, Mercurio tells me, thanks to the warm winds of the region. Winds that give this wine engaging mature fruit aromas and a beautiful dark purple color.
There was one more wine that Vincenzo Mercurio wanted to talk about. One more that he wanted me to try. A blend of Negro Amaro and Malvasia Nera. He wanted me to see what they two grapes were like together. So he poured a glass of Salice Salentino Rosso IGT 2010. Maybe he wanted to end our time in Puglia by showing me how negro amaro could make malvasia nero smoother. Maybe. By showing me a complete anima, an entire spirit of a region in the short time that we had together.
I thought about this for awhile, then, it was time to leave Puglia.
It would be great to see a side of Campania I’m not familiar with, I thought…
How about Cilento, Vincenzo?
It wasn’t easy keeping up with Mercurio as we left Pavilion 7B and headed back towards a crowded Pavilion B, but I did my best….