Wine from Puglia (from “Apulia” — ‘without rain’) is considered honest because of its unpretentious, undemanding ability to thrive in a hot, dry, often difficult environment. Puglia is one of Italy’s consistently hottest and driest regions. This region occupies the lower end of Italy, from the ‘spur’ to the ‘heel.’ as it were, divided into six provinces.
According to Lonely Planet, “Puglia is comprised of sun-bleached landscapes, silver olive groves, picturesque seascapes, and memorable hilltop and coastal towns. It is a lush, largely flat farming region, skirted by a long coast that alternates between glittering limestone precipices and long sandy beaches… In a land where the cuisine is all-important, Puglia’s cucina povera (peasant cooking) is legendary. Olive oil, grapes, tomatoes, eggplants, artichokes, peppers, salami, mushrooms, olives and fresh seafood strain its table.”
Wine from Puglia: Aleatico
The featured Puglian red varietal I chose is Aleatico, a member of the Muscat family. Although the grape’s origin is arguably either native to Puglia or a Greek import (Bari, Puglia’s most famous port, is a straight shot across from Athens), Aleatico is international today. It is grown in many places, including Australia, Chile, and most famously the Tuscan island of Napoleon’s exile, Elba.
Because the sugars develop more in Puglia’s heat and dryness, Italian Aleatico tends to be produced as a sweeter wine, and is often fortified with grain alcohol.
In its youth, Aleatico’s predominant flavors are rose and lychee. After aging for 10 to 15 years, the wine’s sweet richness continues to develop, as the more delicate early notes decrease.
Aleatico pairs beautifully with traditional Italian desserts such as walnuts, pears and goat cheese drizzled with honey.
Wine from Puglia: Bombino Bianco
A native Puglian wine with many personalities is Bombino Bianco (“little white bomb”), a high yielding, sturdy grape that is resistant to many plagues deadly to other vines.
Bombino Bianco is one white wine with many faces. Because Bombino is a fairly neutral varietal, you may liken it to your favorite supporting actor — the one that always makes the star look good. Bombino Bianco can be found as a blending grape in many wines, as part of vermouth, or in sweet, semi-sweet or dry sparkling wines. It is particularly welcome in Germany where it’s used in their less expensive sparkler, Sekt.
While there are not many standalone Bombino wines, if you do find one, don’t expect a bomb (in either the good or bad sense of the word). Instead, expect a youthful wine with subtle citrus tones.
This wine would pair nicely with a white fish or creamy potato dish. As pleasant as it may be, Bombino is not recommended for aging, or even as a “next day” wine. According to Fringe Wine, the flavors will deteriorate even overnight. So drink it up the moment you get it.