The beautiful south

Southern Italy makes twice as much wine as Australia

The Greeks called southern Italy's sun-drenched Garden of Eden Enotria, the land of wine. Although native grapes such as greco and aglianico still echo across civilisations, the south today is little more than a blending vat supplying northern European wine merchants with a warming boost of alcohol.

Despite chronic overproduction and underachievement, however, pockets of quality wine exist. And they demonstrate forcefully that the South's heritage of quality native Italian grapes - aglianico in Basilicata, negroamaro, primitivo and greco in Puglia, and gaglioppo in Calabria - can yet be harnessed.

Puglia, the 360-kilometre-long heel of the Italian boot, produces twice as much wine as Australia, but according to Severino Garofano, the region's leading winemaker, "there's no real tradition of bottled wine here". When Garofano was lured here as a 22-year-old by the firm of Candido 40 years ago, the only wine even to get close to a bottle was rose.

After his stint at Candido, Garofano's tenure at the Cantine Sociale di Copertino ushered in a new era for Puglia's main grape variety, the negroamaro. The mainstay of the increasingly fashionable DOCs of Copertino and Salice Salentino, negroamaro produces a dark, rich, almost raisined wine with a refreshingly bitter twist (negro means black, amaro, bitter).

One of his clients is Vallone, a family firm based in the sumptuous baroque city of Lecce. Old labels - moscato, aleatico, rosso, bianco, vino rosato and cognac - testify to a 150-year history of vino da taglio, wine made for blending. Owned by two bright-eyed sisters,Vittoria and Maria-Teresa, the vineyards in the bountiful 660-hectare estate of artichokes, olives, fruit and vegetables, are planted mostly to negroamaro in the traditional bush vine, or alberello, system. Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot, are a more recent development.

In Calabria, Garofano works with Librandi to produce barolo-style reds from the local gaglioppo grape and a crisp, seafood-friendly chardonnay- based blend. In partnership with Librandi, he has just set up Masseria Monaci, a 30-hectare estate planted mainly with negroamaro grapes. Garofano also makes a red from Puglia's primitivo - a version of California's zinfandel - which reaches its apogee in Manduria.

Much of the alberello-trained primitivo has been ripped up for its lack of profitability. But in the hands of quality-conscious producers such as the Perrucci family's Pervini in Manduria, primitivo can make a near- port-strength raspberry/mulberry-style red. Vallone make a sweet, port- like Primitivo Dolce Naturale. Kym Milne, the much-travelled Australian winemaker working with Augusto Cantele in Puglia, is another contributor to the primitivo revival.

Garofano is basically a traditionalist, but he'll use international varieties when they suit the required style. To that end, he's experimenting with cabernet, merlot, syrah and chardonnay.

At Botromagno in Gravina, close to Puglia's western boundary with Basilicata, five-litre demijohns of white and rose plonk testify to Puglia's long- standing bulk wine heritage. The company still makes more bulk than bottled wine, but the trend towards quality is visible. When Beniamino d'Agostino bought the former co-operative in 1991, he hired Garofano, who convinced him that careful selection of grapes was the key to creating quality wines from local varieties, greco di tufo for whites, aglianico and montepulciano for reds.

Tourism and eating out are growing in southern Italy, but Garofano is cautious about the future. "There's great potential because you've got some excellent grape varieties here. But what you really need is a group of producers to get together to create an image for DOC Puglia. Perhaps in three to four years, it will begin to happen," he suggests. If it does, much of the credit should go to him

A selection from Italy's south

1996 Chardonnay Caramia, pounds 5.99, Sainsbury's, Majestic (buy 2, save pounds 1), Safeway, Thresher, Oddbins, Fuller's. Spicy aromas, sumptuous fruit richness with added complexity from partial barrel fermentation. 1996 Critone, Valle de Nato, Librandi, pounds 6.65, Adnams, Southwold (01502 727 222). Zippily refreshing Calabrian chardonnay/ sauvignon blend with a youthfully zesty twist. 1994 Salice Salentino, Agricole Vallone, pounds 4.95, Victoria Wine.This negroamaro/malvasia nera blend is a modern interpretation of a traditional style with fresh but raisined fruit and a firm but supple backbone. 1992 Pier dell Vigne, Rosso delle Murge, pounds 6.50-pounds 8.59, Adnams, Valvona & Crolla, Edinburgh (0131 556 6066). Oak-aged aglianico-montepulciano blend from Botromagno with savoury aromas, and mellowing chocolatey fruit. 1992 Graticciaia, Passito, Vallone, Puglia, pounds 15.60, Adnams, Southwold. Distinctive traditional red which derives its damsony sweetness and concentration from late-harvested, sun-dried negroamaro grapes.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us