A Breath of Fresh (Wine) Air Blowing into Puglia

When calls the heart…ehm, rather, when Puglia and Radici del sud calls, you go…and, even more so when there is wine to taste. The opportunity to go for three days to Puglia is, of course, even more, precious in this period of pandemic longue durée (see more about my discussion of longue durée in the article A Year in Need of Sparkling Wine Surprises). Therefore, the Radici del sud wine competition this weekend has been like a fresh breath for all of us in the small wine jury. Add to that a visit to Gravina and Botromagno winery.

Gravina

As Maurizio Gabriele, a fellow wine writer and judge in my tasting group just wrote there were about 300 wines participating in the wine competition, and tomorrow they will announce the winners via an award ceremony broadcasted live.

The Excitement of Native Grapes

Tasting indigenous grapes that you have never tasted before is always exciting, or rather it is so for me. It is also just as thrilling when you taste wines where the typicity of the indigenous grapes is thriving. Saturday morning I got my fix while tasting through the red wines. Especially, wines from Sardegna, Sicily, Campania, Calabria, and Puglia were standing out here.

The monovarietal Cannonau wines were of very good quality and in a more modern ‘grape forward’ style, but it was another more obscure grape that caught my attention. I am thinking of the grape variety Caricagiola that is mostly grown in the Gallura area on Sardinia. It seems like the first mention of this grape was on Corsica, even though it is considered native to Sardinia. It is also grown on Maddalena island. I am curious to see tomorrow if the wines made with the grape in a blend made it up on the award podium.

The wines made with Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese, and Nero d’Avola were linear and of high quality. The style here was also more contemporary with lighter and more expressive wines where the grape variety shines through better. We all agreed in our group, I think, that the wines had a good dose of typicity.

White wines tasted at Radici del sud, Puglia

On the first tasting day, Friday afternoon, we had some good flights of Fiano and Greco from Campania with a compelling typicity factor. Sunday morning we then tasted a couple of flights of Aglianico, mostly from the Benevento area I believe, where there were some examples with quite typical Aglianico traits. The other Aglianico samples we tasted were mainly from Basilicata and Puglia. All in all, it was interesting to get an understanding of the differences and similarities in Aglianico wines from different wine regions.

There were very few red wines from Calabria in the competition but the Greco Nero and Magliocco Canino wines we did get to taste were very well worth it. The Magliocco grape gives rise to elegant wines with quite good aging potential. It is a grape that is cultivated mainly along the Tyrrhenian coast as well as in the Cosenza and Catanzaro areas.

Red wines tasted at Radici del sud, Puglia

What would a wine competition in Puglia be without Nero di Troia? This grape has really become a favorite of mine during the last few years. We all agreed that the quality overall was balanced and unswerving. A positive thing for this grape that often can be hard to tame and that sometimes is called a ‘crazy horse’, as Francesco Mazzone of Mazzone winery said the other week at my WinesOfItaly LiveStream.

The perfect cherry on the top on Saturday evening was the visit to Botromagno winery where we, among other wines, got to taste a Pier delle Vigne — their flagship wine — of the vintage 2006. A wine where the aging has made all the complex notes come together in a structured and elegant form. The mature fruit, the spices, a hint of licorice, cinnamon, deep chocolate, shrub herbs, it all comes together.

Today, Monday 1 March, we will get the results and see who won the awards in the different categories of the wine competition in a live stream.

PhD, Wine Writer, Sommelier, Social Media Strategist for Wineries, Translator, founder of #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream-every Wedn 19.00CET/10amPT-Football fan