Young Innovators Are Raising Puglian Wines' Quality and Image
Gaetano Marangelli and his family are among Puglia's young winemaking innovators.
Read any commentary on the wines of Puglia on the heel of Italy and you’ll mostly find comments like “emerging wine region” and “still focused on bulk wine.” The most recent edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine sniffs that, “what Puglia urgently needs is to ensure the survival of its centenarian bush vines and most interesting indigenous varieties, and, ideally, a viticultural in winemaking institute . . . to shape its future.”
There is some truth to that statement, except its about ten years out of date. Young vintners and new plantings in this, the most southern of Italian wine region, have quickly moved to improve both the wines and their image. Since Puglia, Southern Italy’s wealthiest region, produces the largest amount of the country’s wines—17%--and the impetus to produce better wines is now paramount, despite controversial Italian wine laws that deny producers a D.O.C. appellation if they want to try something innovative; instead those producers must label their wines under the I.G.T tag, which basically means simple table wine.
At Cantine Menhir Salento traditional grapes of Puglia include Negroamaro and Primitivo.
One of the leading innovators in Puglia today, along with wineries like Carvenea, Feudo di San Croce, Polvanera and others, is Gaetano Marangelli, owner and founder, in 2005, of Cantine Menhir Salento in the southeastern part of Salento. Here he works with traditional varietals like Primitivo (called Zinfandel in California), Negroamaro, a white grape called Minutolo, Ottavianello (Cinsault in France) and the unusual Susumaniello.
Pietra Rosato is a wine made by Cantine Menhir Salento are made from red wine grapes fermented in stainless steel.
Over dinner in New York with Marangelli, I was not just impressed with the quality of the four wines he brought but by their distinctive flavors of a kind I’ve rarely encountered among Puglian bottlings. His Pietra Rosato ($15-$18) had an enchanting flowery bouquet and more body than most rosé wines, made from 85% Negroamaro and 15% Susumaniello, at 12.5% alcohol. His white wine, Pass-O ($15-$18) is 100 percent Fiano Bianco, at 14% alcohol, also expressing fragrance, a slight fruity sweetness and a refined amount of acid. This last virtue is not that easy to achieve in a very hot climate like Puglia’s.
“Our vineyards are very far east and I plant on north northeastern hillsides, which keeps the wines cooler, so that the acids develop along with the sugars,” he told me. The Sirocco winds from North Africa further help keep the intense heat at bay, and the rocky soil drains very well. Marangeli has also committed himself to being fully certified organic by 2019.
Source: www.forbes.com by John Mariani