In a period that Roman historians term as Magna Graecia, expansionist Greeks
crossed the westward seas to establish a ring of thriving colonies around the
perimeter of this distinctive land spit; in the modern age it became whimsically
known as either stiletto or heel of the boot. Jutting downwards from mainland
Italy, the southern peninsula of Puglia acts as a geographic divide between the
sheltered Gulf of Taranto and the Otranto Strait of the Adriatic Sea. Throughout
thousands of years in antiquity through to the middle ages, this was a strategic
crossroad of trade and target of conquest for many Mediterranean civilizations.
As a cumulative result, 800km of coast and the parallel line of inland mountains
now serve to frame a hybrid culture; unique within the broad diversity of regional
Italian identities. Though early colonizers seem to have been warlike Spartans,
by the 5th century BCE, it was philosophy that had become the preoccupation in
Greco-Italian centers of learning such as the city of Elea (now Velia). Notably, this
was home to visionary thinker and mentor Parmenides; credited with laying an
influential foundation for Aristotle, Plato and young Socrates. Unsurprisingly, the
wealth of clay Amphorae unearthed from archeological excavation also reveals
that the making of wines and their sea-borne export were well underway!
With naturally fertile reddish-brown soils, Puglia’s flat plains and valleys host a
proverbial abundance of wild rose and berries, rosemary and thyme; punctuated
by stands of stalwart maritime pine. As for the mixed agricultural landscape, the
widespread grain farming and groves of ulivi secolari (centuries-old olive trees)
yields an impressive 50% of Italy’s total pasta and olive oil production. Artichoke,
tomatoes, sheep herding, fish and seafood, and of course grapevines, round out
the bountiful output here.
Curiously, in spite of being so prolific, Puglia remains one of the less-well-known
Italian regions. In its middle and southern provinces, the hot and dry climate is
perfect for cultivating fulsome grapes such as Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera and
Primitivo. With a name derived from several Latin terms loosely translating as
‘the first to ripen’, Primitivo has traditionally been a reliable blending component.
More recently, the variety has gained increased profile as a stand-alone varietal
wine, due in part to the burgeoning popularity of Zinfandel; a clonal relative that
flourishes in Californian vineyards and North American marketplaces. Local lore
suggests that this Italian variant of a Croatian parent grape was discovered by
a 17th century Benedictine monk, Francesco Primicerius, as a wild vine growing
in his monastery gardens. Gradually, cultivars of Primitivo were then proliferated
throughout Puglia, finally rooting in Taranto Province 100 years later.
Home to this week’s DéClassé featured bottle from the Montanaro winemaking
family, the town of Crispiano and surrounding vineyards are proudly becoming
an agrotourism destination in their own right. So much so that these vintners
engaged a landscape architect, Fernando Caruncho, to oversee development of
the property as a garden-vineyard; wherein the undulating waves of vines are
interspersed with 24 islands of 800-year-old olive trees. Compelling aesthetics
aside, their Amastuola Organic Primitivo is a plush, pleasingly rounded example
of how expert that Taranto’s vintners have become in fashioning their local wine.
Budget allowing–half a case would be hard to hold in your cellar for very long!
AMASTUOLA ORGANIC PRIMITIVO 2011
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #300004 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
Sugar Content Descriptor: D
Made in Puglia, Italy
By: Amastuola Societa’S Agricola S.S.
Release Date: October 17, 2015
A very fruity palate typical of the grape style with aromas of mixed berries, plum,
spice and vanilla. Try with some classic, cool-weather comfort foods like braised
beef brisket, veal scaloppini, pasta Bolognese or eggplant Parmigiano.