The Minutolo grape here preserves lip-smacking acidity and low alcohol despite the baking-hot Puglian summers, flaunting a gorgeous perfume of blossoming flowers, lemon verbena, and wild sage. Fortunately for us, a small group of dedicated growers brought the variety back from the brink of extinction two decades ago, allowing curious wine lovers to revel in its evocative suggestions of the sun-drenched Italian South.
I Pàstini is a small, family-run winery in the Valle d’Itria in eastern central Puglia. Founded by Gianni Carparelli and his father Donato, they grow their grapes on land their ancestors worked: a beautiful limestone plateau overlooking the Adriatic Sea that is co-planted to ancient, (multi-millennia old!), olive groves.
The Valle d’Itria is located roughly in between the coastal towns of Brindisi and Bari, and is made up of a dozen or so small, agrarian towns that are distinguished by their “trulli,” conically-shaped stone structures that historically served to house people, store grain and other staples, and feed livestock. This area experiences hot days during the growing season but they are not excessive and are tempered by cool nights and foggy mornings, and of course the influence of the nearby Adriatic Sea. This Valley is known as the white wine production center of Puglia.
After studying the history of the indigenous grape varieties out of this area, the Carparellis sourced vine cuttings of exactly what they wanted to plant, selecting three local white grapes, Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, and Minutolo, and the local red grape, Susumaniello. After vinifying their wines in a neighbor’s cantina for a number of years they built their own winery and cellars, which came online in 2012. They are currently nearing the end of their organic conversion in the vineyards and will be certified organic starting with the 2019 vintage.
Well-suited to the production of concentrated, fruity and spicy red varieties, Puglia is one of Italy’s warmest, most southerly regions. Its entire eastern side is one long coastline bordering the Adriatic Sea. About half way down, the region becomes the Salento Peninsula. This peninsula, bordered by water on three sides, receives moist, nighttime, sea breezes that bring a welcome cooling effect to the region, where little rain creates a challenging environment for its vines. In fact, the region is named for the Italian expression, “a pluvia,” meaning “lack of rain.”
Puglia’s Mediterranean climate and iron-rich, calcareous soils support the indigenous Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero di Troia. Primitivo produces an inky, spicy, brambly and ripe red wine whose best expression comes from Manduria. Nero di Troia produces tannic, rustic reds from Castel del Monte DOC while Negroamaro, typically blended with Malvasia nera, plays a large part in may blends made throughout the peninsula.
Puglia produces a small amount of white wines as well, predominantly made of the fruity, Trebbiano Toscano, or light, Bombino bianco grapes.
There are hundreds of white grape varieties grown throughout the world. Some are indigenous specialties capable of producing excellent single varietal wines. Each has its own distinct viticultural characteristics, as well as aroma and flavor profiles.