Chapter 15th – Puglia and Salento
To continue the footwear analogy that we involved last week when talking about Calabria, a symbology which is often used to illustrate Italy’s shape, Puglia runs from the very point of the heel to just below mid-calf height, where the ‘spur’ of the Gargano Peninsula juts out into the Adriatic Sea.
The heel (the Salento Peninsula) occupies the southern half of the region, and is of great significance to Puglia’s identity. Not only are there cultural and geographical differences when compared to northern Puglia, but the wines are also different. Where the north is slightly hillier and more connected to the customs and winemaking practices of central Italy, the south is almost entirely flat and retains a strong connection with its Greco-Roman past.
Images from Canva library
The one factor which unites northern and southern Puglia is the choice of crops grown: olives and grapes, in that order. The region is responsible for almost half of Italy’s total olive-oil production and has a long-held reputation as a prolific source of (mostly red) wine.
Salento IGT encompasses Puglia’s three southernmost provinces, Taranto (also covered by the Tarantino IGT title), Brindisi and Lecce. Thus, the viticultural area covered by the Salento IGT title stretches 180 kilometers (100 miles) north to south. It runs from the white beaches of Leuca, past the port town of Taranto, past the Gravina di Laterza canyon and right up to the border with the Basilicata region.
One point in common with Calabria region (and most southern Italian regions) it’s an unfortunate recent wine reputation. Indeed both Puglia and Calabria were sources for most red grapes to blend other famous Italian wines and vermouth. That especially because the production in those times was based mostly on high yields that were enough to support local and external productions. As the world began to demand higher-quality wines, the mass-produced blending wines in which Puglia specialized lost their value. Now the area has begun to shake off its reputation for flat, highly alcoholic blending wines, Puglia has an opportunity to seduce the wine world with concentrated, inky reds to rival the best from Australia and South America.
In terms of terroir, Puglia has a formidable array of natural tools to help encourage prolific vine growth. The hot Mediterranean climate, persistent sunshine and occasional sea breezes make for a near-perfect environment for viticulture.
The region’s geology shows a bias towards cretaceous limestone under layers of iron-rich quaternary deposits.
L’Archetipo, located in Castellaneta, at the base of the Murgia plateau, is one of the most fascinating artisanal realities of Apulian enology. Today we will be tasting their Fiano, Salento IGT 2018.
The name Murgia, from the Latin murex, meaning ‘rock’, denotes the extensive karstic (limestone) plateau that dominates the area’s geology and topography. It was the Oscan peoples, who occupied this area in ancient (pre-Roman) times, who chose this name.
The winery is family-run and the property was inherited in 2010 by his son, Valentino Dibenedetto. Back in the 1980s, Valentino, on the strength of his studies in agronomy, decided to convert viticulture to organic. A few years later he was fascinated by Stainer’s ideas on biodynamic agriculture, to the point of transforming them into the pivots of the production philosophy of the following 5 years. At the end of these, he lets himself be influenced by the thought about the synergistic forces of the nature of Fukoaka. Understanding this ideology radically changes his way of conceiving viticulture. He prohibits any form of human intervention in order to ensure an ecosystem capable of self-regenerating and recreating what the plant really needs: humus.
The current winery is built in tuff, a magmatic rock, and is surrounded by 23 hectares planted with local varieties including: Aglianico, Fiano Minutolo, Primitivo, Negroamaro and Greco Bianco. The word Archetype was not chosen by chance, but represents the idea of returning to the primordial stage, to natural forms. Valentino tells it this way: “Returning to archetypes, that is to the natural shape of something, is the only way forward in every aspect of our existence”. The origin is the cornerstone of the discourse, to which the synergies of nature, at the basis of the growth and development of each plant, are traced back.
If all synthetic chemistry is eliminated in the vineyard, the same procedure is also done in the cellar. Alcoholic fermentation is spontaneous, activated by indigenous yeasts, and the wine is not stabilized, filtered or even clarified. The wines are straightforward, pure and sincere, they tell of the Apulian land and the synergistic balance of the ecosystem
The Fiano embodies a splendid combination of fruit and minerality, at the same time endowed with personality and irresistible drink. It is not easy to come across convivial wines capable of showing off character strength and typicality, but undoubtedly this wine is one of the exceptions.
The white Fiano is obtained from pure grapes of the vine of the same name, coming from vines that rest on clayey-calcareous soils. In the vineyard, the precepts of organic farming are followed, integrating them with some biodynamic practices, and therefore excluding the use of chemical or synthetic substances. In the cellar it continues with soft pressing and spontaneous alcoholic fermentation through pied de cuve in steel tanks for 2 months. The liquid does not undergo filtration or additions of sulfur before bottling.
L’Archetipo Fiano, Salento IGT 2018
Colour – pale lemon, golden shades, bright
Nose – tropical fruits, candied citrus, hay, mineral
Palate – crisp acidity, citrus aromas
The wine in the glass shows a rather delicate straw yellow color. The nose is very aromatic but never baroque, which unravels between references to exotic fruit, hay, wildflower honey and a clear note of flint that broadens the olfactory profile. When tasted, the wine is slender and juicy, as well as extremely enjoyable, also thanks to a biting acidity, that gives a citrus sensation at the aftertaste.
The wine is the perfect choice for a refreshing aperitivo before your meal and it is an absolute perfect match with the Focaccia Barese, a focaccia made with riced potatoes and topped with cherry tomatoes and olives which is delicious.
Carlotta’s food story
One of my favorite regions in Italy for a multitude of reasons, from its crystal-clear beaches to its beautiful Baroque whitewashed towns and, obviously, its food. Orecchiette with cime di rapa, fave e cicoria, cavatelli, octopus, Altamura bread and so on, the list could really go on forever! The region is rich with countless gastronomic products, some which have been awarded DOP appellations by the E.U. such as extra virgin olive oil from Terra di Bari and Collina di Brindisi and many citrus fruits: arancia del Gargano, limone femminello del Gargano and clementine from the Gulf of Taranto.
Multiple are the enogastronomic products in Puglia that are Slow Food Presidiums, from Polignano’s multi colored carrots to Sospiri from Bisceglie, delicious traditional desserts made from sponge cake covered with icing.
Street food is almost synonymous with Puglia as much of its cuisine can be consumed “on the go”, think about Bombette Pugliesi, crunchy cheese filled meat involtini or the infamous panzerotti, fried pizza dough filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Focaccia is another street food widespread throughout the whole region, which you can find with different toppings and shapes. My personal favorite – and, you guess it – the recipe I’m going to be sharing today is Focaccia Barese, a focaccia made with riced potatoes and topped with cherry tomatoes and olives which is delicious.
To see the full recipe visit @lapanzapiena website here !