If Italy is one of the largest producer of wine in the world, it is because of Puglia, which produces more than any other Italian region, roughly around 17%-20% of the total
Viticulture is deeply rooted in local traditions but until 20 or so years a large proportion of Puglia’s grapes were used to beef up wines produced in the rest of Italy and France. Thankfully this is no longer the case and Puglia now boasts 25 different DOC areas with a string of excellent vintages
The most widely grown grape variety is Negroamaro (literally ‘black bitter’). Almost exclusively cultivated in Puglia, Negroamaro is used to produce some of the region’s best wines, including Salice Salentino. The summit of the most famous grape, however, goes to Primitivo, whose wines, including the Primitivo di Manduria, are generally high in alcohol content and full in body. Interesting, the Primitivo grape shares its genetic make-up with California’s Zinfandel varietal.
White wines in Puglia count for less than 20% of the overall production but are gradually growing in importance. Local grapes such as Bombino Bianco, Bianco d’Alessano and Verdeca go together with international varieties including Chardonnay and Sauvignon to produce some excellent results.
The Wines of Rivera
Rivera was founded by De Corato family in the late 1940’s. Sebastiano de Corato wanted to realize the enormous viticultural potential of the Castel del Monte area. This is one of the most exceptional wine growing areas of Puglia. It covers the entire municipal territory of Minervino Murge, and sections of the municipal territories of Palo del Colle, Andria, Corato, Trani, Ruvo di Puglia, Terlizzi, Bitonto, Toritto and Binetto. The area received its DOC designation in 1971 and the DOCG in 2011.
In the Castel del Monte D0CG there grows a different array of grapes than those used along the flat Salento peninsula. Aglianico and Montepulciano grow here with some notable results, but neither shines itself like the local Nero di Troia ( Uva di Troia), which probably refers to the local town of Troia more so than to Ancient Troy as is occasionally speculated. The DOCG is a bit perplexing these days as it allows a range of monovarietal wines including sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot nero (very strange in a warmer climate like this) as well as the better established local varieties such as the white pampanino, bombino bianco,the red bombino nero, and the famous aglianico.
The vineyards of Rivera are situated in sites which cover two different terroirs. The Torre di Bocca and Coppa parcels at 200-230 above sea leves.The soils consist of deep tufa-limestone that yield white wines with firm acidities and the reds of good elegance and structure.
I had a chance to taste the wines of Rivera at the recent Grandi Marchi tasting in Montreal.
Violante 2011 Nero di Troia Castel del Monte D.O.C. SAQ Code: 11451923. Price: $18.25
( 100 % Nero di Troia. Aging: 12 months in glass-lined cement vats and 3 months in the bottle)
Beautiful red fruit aromas with spices and a chalky mineral profile. Silky Mouthfeel with a good acidity. Very fresh finale. 90\100
Il Falcone 2008, Castel del Monte D.O.C. Riserva. SAQ Code: 10675466. Price: $24.75
( Varieties: 70% Nero di Troia – 30% Other local grapes. Aging: 14 months, 50% in French oak barriques and 50% in 30-hl French oak; 12 months in the bottle)
On the nose, dark black fruits with figs. On the mouth, full body with grippy tannins. Wonderful elegance to it. 93\100
Cappellaccio 2008, Aglianico Castel del Monte D.O.C Riserva. SAQ Code: 11580127. Price: $20.70.
( Variety: 100% Aglianico. Aging: 14 months, 50% in French oak barriques and 50% in 30-hl French oak botti; 12 months in the bottle)
On the nose a black fruit core profile. On the mouth, dense and elegant with beautiful minerality to it. Wonderful retronasal aromas of prunes. Very elegant. 92\100