Tag Archives: Apulia

Wine Wednesday: Primitivo di Gioia del Colle Muro Sant’Angelo-Contrada Barbatto 2013

My wine of the week for wine Wednesday is from Apulia, from Tenuta Chiaromonte. It is a Primitivo from Acquaviva delle Fonti in La Murgia which is near Bari in Apulia. The winery started in the 1800s with 3 hectares and now has 32 hectares. I tried this wine at the Gambero Rosso tasting earlier this year. It had won the award for best red wine of 2017 and the owner, Nicola Chiaromonte was happily pouring this big, bold wine. At 16.5% alcohol, it didn’t fit into what I consider my typical wine style. Moreover, I am always hard pressed when it comes to Primitivo to find one I really enjoy but this one won me over. It had all of the juicy red and black fruits, spice and pepper, and garigue or Macchia Mediterranea notes one would expect from a wine from Southern Italy. However it didn’t have the oak treatment that I have found to be very common in that part of Italy. What you got in that glass was pure primitivo made on Calcareous soils in Southern Italy. I found it offered in California on Wine-searcher but I believe they also have a New York importer, Masanois.

According to the winery website, Primitivo can also called Primativo or Primaticcio. This last because it is an early ripening grape. The Phoenicians were already selling Primitivo in their day. Apparently a priest from Gioia del Colle, Don Filippo Indellicati, started the first monocolture of this variety.

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Recovering After Italian Wine Week

Boats in the sea off the coast of portovenere

I’d like to be on a boat overlooking Portovenere in Liguria today as I recover from an intense Italian Wine Week in New York. Slow Wine which took place last Wednesday feels like a year ago although it was only one week. I have seen so many people from the Italian wine world this week and tasted so many great wines that it needs to settle in my mind before I can begin to write about all the wonderful old and new experiences.

Today is Wine Wednesday though and I therefore have to write about one wine and it’s going to be the Primitivo from Gianfranco Fino that I tasted the other night at dinner. I had the pleasure of meeting Gianfranco Fino and Simona and tasting his wine L’Es for the first time at VinoVip in Cortina in 2013. I was lucky enough to see them again a few years ago at Operawine during Vinitaly. Apparently, L’Es is quite the cult wine in Italy. I found both Gianfranco and Simona very engaging but was dubious if I would like the wine that first time. Primitivo is a very powerful grape and often the wines produced with it knock my socks off, literally, so it isn’t a wine I order very often.


Gianfranco’s wine though was very different than what I had imagined. Yes it was powerful and concentrated as most are but additionally, it had great minerality which I really appreciated. The wine is made from 100% Primitivo di Manduria (Taranto). It is made from very old vines, over 60 years on average, that are bushed trained and grow in red earth. The grapes are slightly dried on the vine and then picked. They undergo a long fermentation on the skins, three to four weeks, and are then aged in barriques for 10 months. The wine isn’t filtered or fined and ages in the bottle an additional six months before the wine is released into the market. It was a great wine to pair with a big roast or important cheese.

The other night I was lucky enough to have dinner with Simona Fino , thanks to my client, Angela Velenosi, and I had their wines. L’Es I paired with a tagliata di manzo, a nice cut of meat. Angela is the only producer I know who doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight and she nicely brought Simona along during a dinner with journalists. I can’t write about Angela’s wines because I represent them but luckily, many others do write about them so you can read what they think.

I also had the good fortune to try his passito of this wine, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale D.O.C.G, once again. I loved it. I am a huge fan of sweet wines. He only has made this wine twice since 2004. According to Fino, he only makes it in perfect years, 2008 and 2012. It also spends one year in barriques and one in the bottle before being released into the market. It was deep ruby red in color, and had a rich and sweet bouquet of floral notes, herbs, nuts and fruit. It also had the minerality and acidity I found in the Primitivo di Manduria D.O.C. The wine was balanced and harmonious, never over the top, and had a long beautiful finish of fine tannins and chocolate.

The winery is somewhat recent and was established in 2004. Fino bought an existing vineyard because of the 50 year old vines. He later bought another vineyard planted with 40 year old vines of Negroamaro, an indigenous grape I really like. Fino is very attentive to his agricultural and pruning practices. He’s had great critical acclaim in Italy for his products which I found interesting. I imagine the same will be true in the States in the near term. Tanto di cappello to you both! (hat’s off…)

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Wine of the Week: Marzagaglia Primitivo Gioia del Colle


This week’s wine of the wine is from Tenuta Patruno Perniola located in the Murgia pugliese, in the town of Gioia del Colle, which is between the provinces of Bari and Taranto. The family has owned the property since the 1800s. It is focused exclusively on Primitivo which they make in a number of different versions, oaked, aged in stainless steel and sweet. The vineyards are located at 350 meters above sea level with constant breezes, good thermal excursion and rich soils filed with minerals that give the earth a red color and the nickname “red earth.”

I tried a number of their Primitivos at Vino 2015 and the one that I preferred was that made in a neutral vessel. Not a huge fan of the grape, I was surprised at how elegant and refined it was without being over the top. According to the winery’s website, their goal is to let the grape speak for itself and neither to make a big oaky version nor one that is a fruit bomb. I think they were successful in their efforts and I quite enjoyed the wine, much to my surprise. I worked at the Puglia tasting that day and tried a number of other wines made with this grape that were very interesting, albeit a bit too alcoholic for my taste. I’d love to go back to Puglia to taste these wines in situ, one of the loveliest of Italian regions, and that is certainly saying something.

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Filed under Apulia, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Travel

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Bombino Bianco From Apulia, Bombino Nero From Basilicata

Thursday is indigenous grape variety day here at Avvinare. This week’s grape is Bombino Bianco, a white grape variety which grows in Apulia and some other regions surrounding that part of the Italian boot. Bombino Bianco is cultivated both in the area around the city of Bari as well as the Salento, lower down in Apulia near the city of Lecce. This grape variety has many names and is often erroneously called Trebbiano, the most widely planted white grape in Italy. Trebbiano is a distinct grape variety. In fact, sometimes, Bombino Bianco is blended with Trebbiano such as in the San Severo Bianco made by the lovely producer Alberto Longo.

I looked high and wide but could not find an monovarietal wines made from Bombino Bianco to try. I know that some producers do make them but I have never had one. A winery called Cantine Teanum makes one apparently.

There is also a Bombino Nero, which is a red grape variety that grows in the region of Basilicata principally and a bit around the city of Bari in Apulia. Bombino Nero is almost never vinified along but is used as a blending grape with Uva di Troia, Malvasia Nera and Montepulciano. Both of these grapes have no clear origin but some say at least the white comes from Spain initially. Both are extremely productive as well and are sometimes used as table grapes.

Both of these regions are close to my heart. In fact, Basilicata for me was something of a jumping off point or better, an arrival. I always said I couldn’t leave Italy until I visited Basilicata. Then I went and still didn’t leave for three more years. I will have to scan my photos of that beautiful region but suffice it to say that it is still very much as it was centuries ago. There is a great movie that takes place in Basilicata that came out last year called “Basilicata Coast to Coast.” I loved it although some said it was a bit sentimental. The again, so I am.


Filed under Basilicata, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Puglia

Red Wine & Peaches – A Real Summer Treat

People always ask me if I miss Italy and of course, the answer is yes, who wouldn’t. What is so hard to describe are the moments that encompass what Italy means to me. The little things. I had a sense memory of Italy some 20 years ago yesterday walking down Broadway. It was 1990 and I was in Italy for the Summer studying Italian. I met a man who made my heart sing in silly ways but I think what made me find him so appealing was watching him peel peaches and put them in red wine.

Needless to say, I was hooked. That and the way he stirred his coffee, trivial items but sensuous ones nonetheless. I digress. Anyway, back to the peaches. Try it sometime.
Peaches cut into red wine is a delicious summer dessert, easy to make, easy to digest and easy to find. The red wine can be anything but of course you don’t want to use any wine that is too heavy or prestigious. We were in Tuscany so I assume the wine was from that region but he was Pugliese so it might have been from there but I don’t think so. In any event, it has been many years since I have had peaches and wine but you can bet I will be trying some later today. I just noticed a recipe for peaches and wine on a new blog I discovered called Bleeding Espresso. Like the blog, like the recipe. Check it out. And yes, I do miss it in big and small ways every day of my life but being in New York allows me to have a little piece of Italy every day. Non e la stessa cosa pero’ va bene lo stesso…per ora.

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Italian Olive Oil: Cazzetta from the Salento

Today is Raffaele Cazzetta’s birthday. Happy Birthday Raffa70. I thought on this occasion I would write up the interview that I did with him during the Fancy Food show last month.

I met Raffaele in Apulia earlier this year during a trip to the Salento. The Salento is the very tip of Apulia which is the tip of the Italian Peninsula or the heel. I love Apulia. I must have 30 guidebooks to the area and went on a beautiful trip there in 2002 with friends.

We drove all over the Salento for 10 days. I remember swimming in the water and feeling as though I was swimming in an Emerald. The water there is actually a brillant green. I had thought that the photos were touched up when I saw them in my guides but truth to be told, the water was that color. I went all over to Gallipoli, Ciolo, Lecce, Otranto, Castro and many places in between.

This trip I was staying in beautiful home near the Duomo of Lecce. What a gorgeous city. They say that Lecce is the Paris of the South and I can certainly see why. It is all made with a warm yellow stone called Pietra Lecchese. Raffaele’s lovely wife Georgia owns a huge quarry of this stone and her family is quite important in the stone sector. Pietra Lecchese is a favorite building material of many of the world’s architects and Georgia it seems has worked with them all.

The Cazzetta family is a historical one in this part of the Salento, starting their olive farm in 1899. Raffaele told me that he grew up following his grandfather into the olive groves in an open chariot when he was small. Raffaele eventually became the head of the family property and has been working in the business ever since. They have 300 hectares covered with olive trees. Raffaele is the fourth generation to run the farm.

The two indigenous varieties used in his olive oils are Ogliarola Salentina and Cellina di Nardo’. The olives are all pressed within 24 hours of harvesting. They are cold pressed at a controlled temperature in stainless steel storage tanks.

Cazzetta makes four types of oil: Prezioso-an extra virgin olive oil, Masseria Quattromacine-also an extra virgin olive oil, Spontaneo – the first press extra virgin olive oil, and an organic olive oil. The firm can make up to three million liters of olive oil a year but only bottles about 300,000. The rest of the olive oil is sold to other firms.

Prezioso is somewhat fruity while Masseria Quattromacine is a blend of olives from different producers and the family farm. Spontaneo is the purest of the olive oils and doesn’t go through any filtration but is obtained by squeezing the fresh olives directly.

All of the olives that go into the organic bottle have been hand harvested,

The Cazzetta family is also able to guarantee traceability and has a hand in all phases of the production process from tree to bottle.

Raffaele told me that he had always loved the family farm. He has many 100 year old trees and is thinking of creating a program to have people adopt an olive tree. “There’s just nothing like looking at the silver of an olive tree against the blue background of the sea,” he told me. I tend to agree with him. His olive grove was among the largest and most beautiful I have seen.

Raffaele told me that this area of the Salento was very lucky because it had a great microclimate thanks to its proximity to the sea and the drying effect of the prevailing winds such as the Scirocco and the Tramontana. The Scirocco hails from Africa and brings humidity the Tramontana from the North blows in and dries out the humidity. If there’s too much Scirocco, they use copper spray to protect the plants.

“We are moving towards certification for all of our property in terms of organics,” he added. He was quite optimistic about the growth of his product in the United States. “Thus far only 3% of consumers use olive oil here. The other 97% still remain to be captured or captivated by olive oil, he said with a gleam in his eye.


Filed under Italian Delicacies, Italian regions, italy, olive oil, wines

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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