By Mark Gauert
I have never been to Puglia, but I’ve tasted it.
For those about to tap a Google map, Puglia (pronounced POOL-ya) is on the heel of Italy. I’ve never set a heel of my own there, but I have seen photos of its ancient vineyards creeping up to a rocky coastline falling into Adriatic blue.
It is only a postcard image, of course. For all I know, Puglia is the asphalt capital of Italy.
But I don’t think so, because when I sip wines from Puglia, I do not taste asphalt. I taste mint, sage, thyme, orange peel, black cherry and other red fruits. Flavors, generally speaking, that do not grow between the cracks of parking lots.
It’s been three years since I last recommended wines from Puglia. At the time, it seemed a little risky – the wines were relatively unknown in South Florida, muscled out by better-known cousins from Tuscany, Abruzzo and the Piedmont, among others.
I’m happy to report these scrappy wines are holding their own on wine lists now. At least, I no longer stump the waiter if I ask if there’s NePriCa Puglia in the house. Well, mostly.
I can also report the 2008 wines I recommended from Tormaresca (owned by the Antinori family) have been equaled – and, in a couple of cases, exceeded – by vintages now entering the market.
The 2011 Chardonnay Puglia IGT, a floral bouquet in a glass, and a steal at $12. The family from France, visiting us recently at the table, compared it favorably to more expensive white Burgundy wine. (Beaune? Bon.)
The 2010 Torcicoda Salento IGT ($22). Proudly 100 percent Primitivo – all fig and plum and licoricey – this is a fine wine for drinking now. And I mean right now if you happen to have some bleu cheese and crusty French bread to serve with it. Sublime.
The 2011 Roycello Fiano Salento IGT rated a solid three out of five stars at our table, but only because it was a bit too sweet. Call it three stars plus, though, when paired with prosciutto di parmi.
And that’s the way we imagined they drink in Puglia, pairing these fine wines with smoky meats and fresh seafood pulled from the seas off that rocky coastline.
Of course, none of us around the table has ever been to Puglia. But we ended our evenings convinced we’d tasted it.