Vinitaly Tastings: Vigne Rare From Pirro Varone in Apulia

During my stay at Vinitaly, I had the occasion to try numerous wines. Like old and new friends, each time you seem them things are slightly different. This trip to the fair I found myself in the Apulia building tasting at specific stands. Last year I was tasting through a specific grape variety, Aleatico, but this year I was looking a bit farther a field. Thanks to a friend Ugo, I tasted wines made by a very particular gentleman who owns a winery near Taranto called Pirro Varone. I had already tasted the Primitivo di Manduria in New York on a prior occasion but this time around, I had the chance to try two wines from his VIgne Rare line, both indigenous grapes that I had seldom heard mentioned, Fiano Minutolo for the white wines and Grisola for the reds. I read a piece by Franco Ziliani on his excellent blog Vino al Vino about Fiano Minutolo a few months ago but I had never tasted one. Doing a little research, I found the grape mentioned both by Kyle Phillips, La Vinium and at Winesurf.

The grapes’ history is not totally clear but what seems to be certain is that it is not related to Fiano d’Avellino. In other parts of Apulia it is called Greco Aromatico or Greco Bianco.

This one was a beautiful white wine that reminded me of a wine from Alsace. It was floral and fresh with good acidity and elegance. The Grisola is a red variety which was fruity and interesting. Of the two, I preferred the Fiano Minutolo.

Pirro Varone also makes other delcious wines including Grecale and Scirocco from Negroamaro, a grape I love. The rose’ that they make from Negroamaro is basically a Saignee where the grapes have no skin contact once they are pressed. I loved the strawberry, raspberry flavors that came through, a burst of Spring in a glass.

I was told that one of the big issues for people in this part of Apulia is the wind. In July, the wind from Africa known as lo Scirocco and in August the wind from the North called La Tramontana can create problems. When I lived in Italy, I used to go sailing a lot and I knew all the names of the winds. It’s been a while but the Scirocco is one you never forget. In the morning, cars would be covered with a light dusting of sand. This hot wind can create problems for the grapes but keeps parasites away as well. It is a drying wind so the grapes are not affected by humidity.

Pirro Varone’s Primitivo di Manduria is also delicious. Big and luscious with good acidity and red fruit aromas. He doesn’t use wood and doesn’t believe that Primitivo should be aged but that it should be drunk young. I wholeheartedly agree with him. I once did a podcast with Terry Hughes of Domenico Selections about aging wines. If memory serves, Terry believes that most wines are not meant for aging. I agree with him.

Pirro Varone is an organically certified winery. In Italy this means that they only use Zolfo and Rame or Sulfur and Copper to fight pests. The nine hectare winery has two main soil types, one a calcareous shallow soil with lots of minerals and iron while the other is an alluvial soil with good drainage and some clay.

The winery also makes two sweet wines: a white and a red. The more interesting of the two is the Primitivo Dolce called Tocy. I have had one other Primitivo Dolce in my life. I like them and they could be a nice alternative to Port but there isn’t a big market for dessert wines here in the USA, unfortunately. I am a huge fan of these gems and would always rather drink my dessert than eat it.

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