20 Jul 2011: See also Getting to grips with Puglia, tasting notes for 232 Puglian wines as well as the tasting notes for 114 other Radici candidates from around southern Italy. Finally, to round up this fascinating trip, I rekindle my love affair with Aglianico.On Saturday I spent my first hours ever in Puglia on the heel of Italy, rather ashamed that I had never personally encountered what was for long one of Italy's two most quantitatively important wine regions.
What's striking is how flat the terrain is here, and how bright white the light, and local stone. Vines are just one of many crops and vineyards tend to be relatively large, with a mix between bushvines, pergolas (some of them carefully swathed for table grapes) and cordon-trained vines. I did catch sight of one of the characteristic stone trulli but much more characteristic are flat-topped, low houses more reminiscent of north Africa than Italy. I drove through countryside where pines grew side by side with palms.
I'm here to judge the Radici Wines competition for wines from all over southern Italy made from indigenous grape varieties. It starts this morning, presumably after the usual wrangles about scoring systems and attempts to corral 10 or so judges from very different countries and cultures into some semblance of concerted action.
But the weekend was spent in a series of 15-minute encounters with individual producers who have entered the competition and could be bothered to come and meet us judges at the Masseria Le Fabriche hotel in the middle of the countryside south east of Taranto. It was great to get some sort of flavour of the producers here (many of whom have gone into wine only quite recently).
We tasted many interesting wines, very few poor ones, many quite alcoholic reds and many attractively perfumed, dry rosés, notably from Bombino Nero.
I will be writing in much more detail about what I learn during my five days here (too short for a deep immersion but a very long trip by my standards) but it's too early to be more specific.
We were all shipped last night to the two-year-old Borgo Egnazia, where the judging will take place. Pictured, it is the most extraordinary place: a complete, almost spookily perfect holiday encampment on the plain just inland from the Adriatic between Bari and Brindisi, a temple of adventurous good taste carved out of the local white stone, but plonked down in the scrub.
Dinner last night was very promising and, amazingly, the vast restaurant area around what looked like several pools, was full. Where do these people come from? I may find out if left with sufficient time between wine judging – though that is currently looking unlikely.
20 Jul 2011: See also Getting to grips with Puglia, tasting notes for 232 Puglian wines as well as the tasting notes for 114 other Radici candidates from around southern Italy. Finally, to round up this fascinating trip, I rekindle my love affair with Aglianico.