If big bold reds rock your world, then Puglia is your place.
It’s pronounced ‘Pu-lee-ah’ (the ‘g’ is silent) and it is the calf muscle and heel of the Italian boot.
The English call it Apulia but I like the Italian name for this 350 kilometre long region because it’s so quintessentially different to better known wine regions with English names.
Fun fact: the name Puglia comes from the original Roman word, a-pluvia, which means “lack of rain” and is an accurate description of the incredibly dry climate there. It’s also why the region is home to most of Italy’s durum wheat for pasta and an enormous number of olive trees to make olive oil and bottled olives for eating. But we’re here to talk wine and there’s plenty of it from Puglia, which is second only to Sicily when it comes to the quantity of wine made.
The region is home to 107,000 hectares of vines (that’s more than three times the hectares planted with grapes in New Zealand). There were even more vines growing in Puglia in the 1980s but many growers took EU subsidies to pull out their vines used to produce bulk wine for distillation. It’s good on the whole because the region is moving away from bulk wine production towards high quality wines, often at seemingly ridiculously low prices. The only shame being that many of the vines pulled out were in fact old bush vines; the best type for making great wine from hot climates around the Mediterranean. Still, the shrinkage of bulk and growth in quality bottled wines continues to grow and, along with it, the knowledge of delicious wines made from interesting indigenous grapes. These grapes range from well known Primitivo to barely known Negroamaro, Nero di Troia, Malvasia Nero and Susumaniello, to name but a few.
There are so many appealingly tasty, full bodied dry reds made with the word Puglia or Primitivo on the bottle that at least half a dozen should make their way into any self respecting red wine lover’s glass this year.
Joelle Thomson is a wine writer, journalist and author. She’s an avid lover of wine and currently writes for Capital magazine, Good magazine, NZ Winegrower, Drinksbiz, and her own site,www.joellethomson.com.
She also teaches, works in radio, and more, so we've enlisted her help to sniff out our amazing value wines!