Puglia Wine | A Place of Quality and Value

Harry Lambourne
8th December 2023

The Puglia Wine region is perhaps one of the lesser known Italian wine regions. It may not garner as much attention and acclaim as places like Piedmont and Tuscany, but it is prolific and in recent years, has often produced more wines than similarly prolific regions of Veneto and Abruzzo.

Yet, it is a place of which you should be aware. Glorious weather conditions make viticulture a dream and aid the winemakers in producing richly complex wines at an affordable price.

This article can serve as a guide to the Puglia wine region. This will include the climate and terroir, the key regions and the main grape varieties. All of this information will give you what you need to find a top-tier wine that delivers real bang for your buck.

Puglia Wine – The Terroir

Puglia Wine Region
Puglia, Italy

The Puglia wine region, (sometimes referred to as ‘Apulia‘), is a flat, sun-drenched strip of land. It is home to intensely fertile vines which stretch along the Adriatic from the spur to the heel of Italy’s famous boot.

As we mentioned, Puglia wine is prolific and they have regularly led Italy in terms of production. Though the Puglia wine region does not just have a penchant for vino, it is also responsible for almost half of Italy’s olive oil, (MacNeil 415).

This fertility caused Puglia to be somewhat pigeon-holed. Fertility often leads to everyday, unexciting table wines. This became a speciality of Puglia wine. It was cheap, mass-produced wines for which the region was known.

Gradually, discerning wine lovers, (like yourself), have opted instead for high quality. This meant that the local winemakers were forced to change their methods.

They introduced new restrictions which sought to limit yields. Limiting the yields of grapes tends to mean you get far more structured and flavourful wines. Similar attempts to inhibit yields are practised in regions such as Beaujolais, where the Gamay grapes can produce thin and lacklustre if the vines are left to grow as much as they want.

Now, the region is still wonderfully sunny and a haven for viticulture, but the wines are getting better! Prices remain lower, thanks to the cost of land being cheaper than many of wine regions, but the quality has risen. Now, you can expect to find concentrated concoctions with a deep flavour intensity. This is particularly true for the inky-coloured red wines for which the region is best known.

Let’s take a look at some of the key areas in Puglia wine.

Puglia Wine – The Regions

The first region which we will touch upon is Manduria. This region is known for Primitivo wines, (known in California and the rest of the USA as Zinfandel), which you’ll see labelled as Primitivo di Manduria DOC. It sits on the coast and is typical of the Puglia wine region. Gentle sloping plains sit in the hot, dry sun. Expect boozy creations, as Primitivo di Manduria requires a minimum of 13.5% ABV, (Alcohol By Volume). This is the highest minimum alcohol level of any appellation for dry, unfortified wine.

Another one to watch is Gioia del Colle. This has a slightly different arrangement of natural factors which impact the wine. It is still exceptionally hot, but here winemakers opt to plant the vines in the hills at a slight altitude. This allows for a greater diurnal range, (this refers to the difference between night and daytime temperatures), which preserves acidity and creates fresher wines. They’re still tannic and powerful but a touch crisper than other Puglia wines. Primitivo must make up at least 50% of the blends, but other Italian staples such as Negroamaro, Sangiovese and Montepulciano will regularly make an appearance.

Now, we move onto Salice Salentino. It is hot and landlocked, but benefits from cool breezes from the Adriatic. You can find small amounts of white, rosé, sparkling and fortified wines, but red wine is king here and no grape is more revered than Negroamaro. These wines are deep, spicy and earthy wines with powerful tannins.

Another Puglia wine region which has established a reputation for red wine is Nero di Troia. They were quick to latch onto low yielding vines and has led to them producing high-quality and full bodied wines with a touch of acidity. Expect to experience red and black berry flavours, with aromas of liquorice and spice.

Now, Puglia wine is not all about the red wines. Indeed, some regions are more well-known for white and rosé. A regional speciality is Verdeca, with Puglia accounting for 97% of the global production. It is aromatic and can boast a range of flavours from herbal to heavily citrus.

Ostuni, Puglia

Our last pick for a Puglia wine region to watch is Ostuni Ottavianello DOC. Again, red wines are produced here, but they’re exceptionally light. Yet, the really interesting thing that we suggest you search out are the rosé wines. These wines depart from Italy and are made up from at least 85% of the French grape Cinsault. This can lead them to be reminiscent of Languedoc style rosé wines.

Puglia Wine – The Grapes

We’ve mentioned a few of the key grapes of this region, but there are two which stand above all others. These are the grapes which we will discuss here.

First of all, Primitivo. It is very dark-skinned and produces these thick, inky and heavily tannic wines. Puglia can be considered the cultural homeland for this grape variety, but in fact it appears to have originated in Croatia. In Croatia, it is known as Crljenak Kaštelanski. This is slightly harder to pronounce when reading on a wine list though, which may explain why the names of Primitivo and Zinfandel have caught on.

Common tasting notes include blackberry, strawberry, cooked fruits, cinnamon, dark chocolate and tobacco. If you like big and booming red wines, then this is certainly a grape variety of which you should be aware.

The second key grape variety is the Salice Salentino speciality. A southern Italian superstar. Meet Negroamaro. The name translates to ‘black and bitter‘ which is a nod to the dark colour and savoury flavours of this grape variety.

You will still get fruit flavours with Negroamaro, particularly dark berries and currants. Yet, savoury, spicy and medicinal qualities will often dominate these wines. Look out for aniseed, liquorice, clove, cinnamon, allspice, forest floor and gamey qualities.

Primitivo Vines
Primitivo Vines In Puglia

This is our quick and easy guide to Puglia wine. Seek out some Salice Salentino. Pick up a Primitivo di Manduria. Be overcome by Ostuni Ottavianello. The Puglia wine region has a lot to offer and it often offers it for a great price!

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Works Cited

MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. Workman Publishing Company, 2015.

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