Wines of Puglia: a wine guide for the traveler
Puglia Wine Guide

Wines of Puglia: a wine guide for the traveler

I hope you’re reading this article before you travel to Puglia — not just one of Italy’s regions, but where quality wines are created and where Wine Spectator’s rating recommended going back in 2013.

If there is a trip to a cafe in the evening or it is necessary to pick up a bottle for an adequate price, and the local language is not familiar, the novice amateur only needs to be guided by the grape variety, wine classification and producer.

For those who want the best and most exclusive wines, I highlighted the Tre Bicchieri points: these are the best Puglian wines that received the 2019 Gambero Rosso 2019 catalog’s highest mark, Italy’s Michelin equivalent.

How to choose Puglian wine?

The high quality of wines from Puglia is influenced by the mineral soil, the sea air and the difference between day and night temperatures. Thanks to these conditions, the grapes ripen all year round. The berries grow tart, with a bright hue and intense flavor. By the way, these properties are highly appreciated by French winemakers: Puglian grapes are blended with French grapes to add aroma, color and taste to the wine.

For a long time, Puglia’s winemakers took quantity without improving the quality of wine. At the end of the 20th century, Europe introduced a system of categories (IGT, DOP, IGP, DOC, DOCG, STG), which Puglian winemakers were unprepared for, and local production lost its position for a while. To raise the level, local wineries changed their approach to production, and today Puglian wine is praised for its balanced sweetness, acidity, density and alcohol content.

Puglia’s best red wines and producers

The leading red varieties are Negroamaro, Sangiovese, Nero di Troia and Malvasia Nero. They are mainly used to make dry wines.

The sweet varieties for Puglia wines are Muscat (Moscato) and Aleatico (Aleatico). They are suitable for dessert wines with an alcohol content of 15 to 17%.

The world-famous Primitivo variety is used to make both dry and semi-sweet wines.

25 terroirs have received the DOC quality label (19 produce red wine), 4 — DOCG, but IGT wines are not inferior to them in taste and aromatics. A non-expert is unlikely to notice the difference.

The best red wines are produced in Salento, Leverano, Copertino, Nardo, Matino, Galatina, Squinzano and Alezio.

Negroamaro of Puglia (Negroamaro di Puglia)

Puglia’s famous negro amaro variety is grown mainly in Salento. The name comes from «negro» — black and «amaro» — bitter. The wine is dark, almost black, and the flavor is intense. Cherry, plum, coffee, bitter chocolate are felt. Negroamaro is used to make wines with 100% of the variety, sometimes blended with other varieties.

It is possible to find rosé wines from Negroamaro, such as Codici Rosato Puglia. This wine combines two grape varieties at once: Negroamaro and Sangiovese. The legendary Tormaresca company blends Negroamaro and Cabernet Sauvignon to produce Pajaro Rosso Puglia.

  • Average price: 11—13 €.
  • Manufacturers: EnoItalia, Botter, Racemi, Cantina Sampletrana, Tormaresca.
  • Tre Bicchieri: Orfeo Negroamaro '16 (Cantine Paolo Leo)
Negroamaro of Puglia
Negroamaro of Puglia

Sangiovese from Puglia (Sangiovese di Puglia)

The red grape variety gets its name from Sangius Jovis — «Blood of Jupiter». It is widespread all over the world, so the cost of the wine is low, but each region imposes its own imprint. Sangiovese from Puglia is distinguished by the taste of raspberries and cherries, soft and pleasant aroma.

A prime example is the red semi-dry wine Terre Allegre Sangiovese from the producer Chelo e Terra. This wine is light and pleasant, but it is better to drink it young. The date of release on the label should not exceed 2 years.

  • Average price: 5—7 €.
  • Producers: Villa degli Olmi, Caldirola, Cielo e Terra.

Primitivo di Puglia (Primitivo of Puglia)

Puglia’s most famous variety is Primitivo («first»). It blooms early and ripens early. In the early days it was used for assemblage (combination of several varieties). Puglian winemakers were able to isolate the best qualities and learned to create red and rosé wines, as well as dry and semi-sweet wines with aromas of fruit and spices.

A popular wine from Primitivo is «Es» from Gianfranco Fino. Equally popular are the products from Morella. The owners hand pick grapes from old vines growing in the form of alberello (crooked and branchy bushes that were brought to Puglia by the Greeks). This shape allows the vines to get more sun and avoid excess moisture. The grapes harvested from the alberello bush are the hallmark of Primitivo’s high quality.

Puglian primitivo makes it into all the wine rankings year after year. If you can’t find a bottle from the year listed under «Tre Bicchieri», feel free to take a bottle from the same producers from any other year.

  • Price: 5—20 €.
  • Manufacturers: Conti Spumanti, Castellani, Morella, Racemi, Lucarelli, Tormaresca, Polvanera, Giuliani.
  • Tre Bicchieri: Gioia del Colle Primitivo 16 Vign. San Benedetto '15 (Polvanera); Gioia del Colle Primitivo Baronaggio Ris. '15 (Vito Donato Giuliani); Gioia del Colle Primitivo Marpione Ris. '15 (Tenuta Viglione); Gioia del Colle Primitivo Muro Sant’Angelo Contrada Barbatto '15 (Tenute Chiaromonte); Gioia del Colle Primitivo Senatore '15 (Coppi); Primitivo di Manduria Raccontami '16 (Vespa-Vignaioli per Passione); Primitivo di Manduria Sessantanni '15 (Cantine San Marzano); Primitivo di Manduria Zinfandel Sinfarosa Terra Nera '16 (Felline).
Variants of Primitivo from Puglia on the shelf of the wine cellar
Variants of Primitivo from Puglia on the shelf of the wine cellar
Primitivo can also be pink
Primitivo can also be pink

Nero di troia.

It is an autochthonous grape variety (another name is Uva di Troia), that is, it originated in the region. It grows around the towns of Bari and Barletta. It used to be used in assemblage to give color and body to other wines, but the producers of Puglia have been able to highlight its best qualities: aromas of spices, cherries and even roasted nuts.

  • Average price: 10—15 €.
  • Producers: Farnese, Masseria San Magno, Torrevento, Barbanera.

Best Puglia white wines and producers

White wines account for about 20% of all wines produced in Puglia. The most common varieties are Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco. Verdeca is sometimes found.

Trebbiano of Puglia (Trebbiano di Puglia)

Under this name, you can find several types of grapes with different flavors. Some give a delicate and light fruit flavor (citrus, apple, apricot). Others have a floral aroma and almond flavor. There are a total of 7 varieties of this variety listed in the Italian register. Several varieties are produced in Puglia.

Trebbiano is prized because it produces a large yield and is easy to turn into wine. Therefore, the wine is inexpensive, but it must be drunk within two years of release. The most popular product is Terre Allegre Trebbiano from Cielo e Terra.

  • Average price: 5—7 €.
  • Manufacturers: Cielo e Terra.

Chardonnay from Puglia.

In Puglia, this variety is not as popular as others, but there are wineries that work with it. For example, the winery Tarmoresca, located between Bari and Brindisi, has been using Chardonnay for their wines since 1998. Even though they opened not so long ago, they have achieved universal recognition in the world of winemaking.

Chardonnay has a rich, fruity flavor with a slight acidity. It is softer when blended with Bambino.

  • Average price: 10—15 €.
  • Manufacturers: Tormaresca, Paiara, Paololeo, Terre al Sole.

What else should I try?

When you consider that Puglia produces up to 75% of all Italian wines and up to 10% of all wines in Europe, it becomes obvious that it is impossible to cover all varieties and brands in one article or on one trip. What else is worth paying attention to:

  • Castel del Monte. A large winemaking area around the castle of the same name, a Unesco heritage site. It produces still and sparkling wines from the varieties of Aglianico, Montepulciano, Bombino Nero, Nero di Troia, Pampanuto, Chardonnay and others. The valuable Tre Bicchieri badge was awarded to the wine Castel del Monte Rosso v. Pedale Ris. '15 (Torrevento).
  • Aleatico. Between Bari and Taranto, Aleatico produces mainly sweet wines.
  • Barletta. The area north of Bari includes the towns of Barletta, Trani and Andria. Dry red, white and rosé wines are produced here, with much use of nero di troia.
  • Brindisi. An area south of Bari where red, white and rosé wines are produced mainly from negroamaro, malvasia, sangiovese and chardonnay.
  • Salice Salentino. A zone in the very south of the Apulian heel where the traditional wine is a blend of Negroamaro (minimum 80%) and Malvasia Nero (maximum 15%). The Tre Bicchieri label marks the Salice Salentino Rosso Selvarossa Ris. '15 (Cantine Due Palme).
Expensive Puglian wines: 18-30 €
Expensive Puglian wines: 18—30 €