Seekers of all things Italian often have an inevitable tendency to focus their admiration on the country’s usual suspects: Tuscany, Northern Italy, Amalfi Coast, and even the island of Sicily. But when was the last time you overheard someone gabbing away about all of the wonderful things they love about Puglia? Fair enough, much of this particularly flat region can be as barren as the landscape on Mars. It also doesn’t help that there is no major Italian city for hours. But believe it or not, where the aquamarine waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet along this bright limestone coast are some of Italy’s most stunning beaches, delicious seafood, and archaeologically rich history. And the region’s blessings don’t end there. There is wine…darn good wine.
Although formerly a major source of bulk wine used to make Vermouth in Northern Italy or to “fatten” up wines in France, in recent years Puglia’s wine production has undergone a substantial makeover to focus more on quality and less on quantity. The region’s rising stars feature reds from three traditional grape varieties: the rustic and earthy Negroamaro, the ripe and lush Primitivo (a much earlier version of Zinfandel), and the more elegant Uva di Troia. Those adventurous enough to visit the area will find it sporadically freckled with lush vineyards where they can meet these boutique producers, taste fantastic wine, and finish the afternoon sipping on coffee prepared in a moka pot. So before you overlook Puglia and write it off as ‘The Wasteland of Italy,’ give this humble yet charming state a chance to prove just how much it can offer. Just keep an eye out for snakes!
—Julie Albin is an American wine connoisseur currently residing in San Francisco. Her far-flung travels have taken her from Tibet to Tanzania, and she has visited wine producers in France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, South Africa, and Australia. She is the former Wine Specialist and Marketing Director of the San Francisco Wine Center and also writes for Connoisseur.