This week’s wine of the week is from Tenute Girolamo. I met Piero Girolamo some three and a half years ago at a Vinitaly show in New York City. I have followed the family winery throughout the years and always make a point of stopping by when I am at Vinitaly. Harried as I often am at that large show, running from appointment to appointment, the Puglia pavilion always brings me a sense of calm. The same was true this year when I stopped by to try the Conte Giangirolamo. The person who served me designs the packaging for the company. He looked me in the eye and said, “relax. We’re from Puglia. You know the sun, the sea. I had to laugh because he was right and my wine experience, despite the inherent chaos at Vinitaly was all the better.
Their winery is located in the Valle d’Itria, the heart of the area with the famed Trulli. The Trulli are stone houses with round thatched roofs which are unique to Puglia. The Trulli and the town of Alberobello were declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1996. The winery is located in Martina Franca, a town founded around 1000 A.D. The winery was started in 2001 and they own 40 hectares spread among eight vineyards. The vineyards are all located at between 350-450 meters above sea level. Their winemaker is Benedetto Lorusso.
This wine, Conte Giangirolamo, is made from a blend of Primitivo 50% and Negroamaro 50%, two signature red varieties from this region. The grapes grow in a vineyard at 450 meters above sea level in calcareous clay. The wine ferments for 15-20 days at controlled temperatures. It is subjected to both pumping over and delestage and then stored in 10,000 liter oak casks where malolactic fermentation takes place. It then ages in barriques for 18-24 months and in the bottle for a further six months before being released.
It was opaque in color with aromas and flavors of spice and red and black fruit. It was full-bodied and rich on the palate with rich, sweet juicy tannins that were enveloping. It also had quite a noticeable amount of minerality and sapidity or marine flavors. I thought it was a harmonious and elegant wine. The oak was not overwhelming either.
It would have been a nice complement to a traditional Easter meal as well. As today is Pasquetta (Easter Monday) and people are generally on a picnic “fuori porta” which literally translates to outside of the city walls but means somewhere outside of your home, this wine came to mind as a possible one to accompany a picnic with hearty fare. I gained three kilograms on a vacation in Puglia in one week a number of years ago, almost seven pounds, so I never think of their food as particularly light but maybe it was the company I was keeping and the hours at which they ate.
Giangirolamo is the name of a local legend who was responsible for bringing the Trulli to the Itria Valley and good governance to the land. The wine and its label pay tribute to this figure and to Puglia, made with the typical red grape varieties grown locally.