The first day of our trip to Puglia began with a presentation of wines from Northern Puglia: a few whites, a few rosès, and then a selection of reds, most of which are based on Uva di Troia.
Since Uva di Troia starred, a quick introduction:
Uva di Troia, which is also called Nero di Troia (the terms are used interchangeably, and a fellow taster found a bottle that used both, Uva di Troia on the front label and Nero di Troia on the back label), is grown north of Bari. It's not the easiest grape to work with, according to Rivera's Sebastiano De Corato, who told me, a few years ago, that it was traditionally grown for volume, and therefore farmers preferred clones that produced large compact bunches, with fairly large grapes. Because of this bunch structure, ripening tended to be uneven, and as a result almost every bunch had a few unripe grapes, which contributed harsh unripe tannins. Rivera was propagating Nero di Troia vines (from their vineyards) that produce smaller, looser bunches of grapes that ripen more uniformly, and I am certain others are working along these lines too.
Despite its power and structure, I find Nero di Troia to have remarkably delicate aspects, especially on the nose, which can exhibit enticing floral aromas in addition to delicate prune and plum fruit (we are in Puglia, and the grapes do ripen). The wines can also exhibit cedary notes, and hints of seed spices such as cumin, and while one might be tempted to attribute these characteristics to oak, I think some of the more delicate nuances instead derive from the grapes. Unfortunately, if the wine spends time in wood (especially small wood), these characteristics are quickly masked, and then one notes cedar, oak, and oak tannins that Nero di Troia really doesn't need.
Nero di Troia is quite capable of standing on its own two feet without the aid of crutches, and I found myself best liking its younger expressions, those fermented in steel, aged briefly in steel (or cement), and then bottled. Barrique-aged Nero di Troia looses these delicate facets and is therefore much more anonymous, and -- to be frank -- mostly indifferent to humdrum.
Bottom line: Nero di Troia can be beautiful when it's young and fresh, and in years in which there is more acidity would also expect these young fresh wines to age nicely, because they certainly have the necessary backbone. But I don't think it needs much help in the cellars: Perhaps a brief spell in large oaken casks, but not small oak barrels. They strip it of everything.
And now the wines, in the order tasted:
Tenuta Fujanera Falanghina Puglia IGT 2008
Bright rather lively gold. The bouquet is fresh, young, and rather floral, with ripe fairly sweet melon as well and some acidity. On the palate it's fairly rich, and quite mineral, with bitter minerality and some citric acidity that flow into a decidedly bitter finish. Fairly direct, and will drink well with flavorful fish.
Valle Dell'Elce Dauina IGT Bianco Puglia 2008
This is Greco and Bombino Bianco; it's brassy gold with brassy reflections and white nail. The bouquet is fairly rich, and smoky, with considerable gunflint and some underlying metallic acidity - there is some oxidation here, and a fellow taster finds quince jam as well. On the palate it's medium bodied and rather languid, with lively mineral acidity that becomes steadily more savory as it fades. It's interesting but has peaked, I think.
Botromagno Poggio al Bosco Gravina DOC 2008
Pale brassy gold with brassy reflections. The bouquet is rich, with elegant greenish herbal notes, hints of sage and some honeydew melon and hints of elicriso (the herb). It has quite a bit to say. On the palate it's rich, with lively savory minerality and warm citric acidity as well, with some greenish artichoke petal tannins as well that flow into a warm dry savory finish; it's quite pleasant and will drink very well with fish or white meats, including creamy dishes.
Alberto Longo Donnadele Negroamaro Puglia Rosato IGT 2008
Pale salmon pink, with brilliant salmon reflections. It looks scarico, which means unloaded, and brings to mind more a Bardolino Chiaretto than a southern wine. The bouquet is quite fresh, with mineral acidity and some red berry fruit supported by some leafy underbrush. On the palate it's bright, with lively cherry raspberry fruit supported by deft raspberry currant acidity that flow into a clean bright red currant finish. Quite pleasant, and very fresh especially considering that it's already a year old; it will age nicely for another year and be nice with picnic foods, fish, and vegetable based pasta dishes or soups.
Tarantini Petrigama Rosato Castel del Monte DOC 2008
This is from Bombino Nero grapes, which are only used to make roses; it's a very pretty lively pink with brilliant highlights and pale white rim. The bouquet is a bit off, with berry fruit mingled with fresh yogurt - the aroma that emerges from the yogurt machine when you remove the cover - and this is likely something related to the yeasts. On the palate it's more interesting, with fairly rich, soft red berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and smooth tannins that flow into a clean berry fruit finish with hints of lactic acid - the nose emerging again. It's better on the palate, but a bit lax, and I'll be curious to taste the next vintage.
Rivera Pungirosa Bombino Nero Castel del Monte DOC 2008
Lively pink with brilliant pink reflections and white nail. The bouquet is fairly rich, with berry fruit supported by some underbrush and pleasant spicy herbal accents. Nice, in a welcoming key. On the palate it's bright, with fairly rich berry fruit supported by some sweet tannins, and moderate acidity that's not quite as bright as it might have been; and flows into a clean berry fruit finish with some hints of plum. It's pleasant, and very approachable, but slightly lacking in acidity, and I would have liked a little more depth to it. But it will drink well with foods. Just that it's a tad direct.
Rasciatano Vigne di Rascialone Rosè IGT Puglia 2008
Salmon with brilliant salmon reflections and onionskin rim. The bouquet is powerful and pungent, with leafy underbrush and savory accents, also bitterness. On the palate it's direct, with moderately intense berry fruit supported by acidity that has a slight milky feel to it, and slight tannins.
Colle Petrito Ferula Rosato Castel Del Monte DOC 2008
Lively rosy pink with brilliant reflections and white rim, The bouquet is fairly intense, with some red berry fruit mingled with chemical accents and some spice, also a fair amount of alcohol. Up front, and not as fresh as it was a few months ago, alas. On the palate it's ample and soft, with moderate acidity supporting rather nondescript fruit. It has held up fairly well, but at this point needs the new vintage to step in for it.
Colle Petrito Iaccio della Portata Nero di Troia Puglia IGT 2008
Deep cherry ruby with hints of almandine in the rim. The bouquet is moderately rich, with warmth and underbrush mingled with some berry fruit and slight balsamic notes; swishing also brings up some herbal accents and a slight sweetness. On the palate it's moderately intense, with cedar-laced bitter minerality and dry cedary tannins (from grape) that flow into a decidedly bitter finish. Not much richness of fruit; the wine revolves more around minerality and bitterness, and some iodine also emerges in the finish.
Donna Cecilia Vino Rosso IGT Daulina 2008
Lively pinkish ruby with dark reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fresh, with violets and plum cherry fruit supported by some residual sugars that confer jaminess, and by spice. Pleasant to sniff, in a rather opulent key. On the palate it's bright, with fairly rich cherry plum fruit supported by brisk sour cherry acidity and by tannins that have a warm slightly greenish burr and flow into a clean dry tannic finish with berry fruit overtones. Pleasant, and will drink quite well with simple grilled meats or light stews.
Rivera Violante Nero di Troia Castel del Monte DOC 2007
Deep cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is deft, with iodine and underbrush mingled with berry fruit, some spice, and delicate floral overtones. Nice depth, and graceful. On the palate it's full, with fresh lively cherry fruit supported by tannins that have a slightly greenish burr and flow into a clean rather bitter finish. Quite pleasant, and nicely displays the potential of Nero di Troia done in steel: Interesting fruit, interesting floral accents, nice tannins, and nothing to get in the way or mask it. It will drink very well with roasts or stews, and you can expect the bottle to go quickly. One of the finest Nero di Troia wines presented, and the floral accents on the nose, which are delicate enough that oak would mask them, make it even more interesting.
Tenuta Fujanera Arrocco Nero di Troia 2008
Cherry ruby with pink cherry rim. The bouquet is delicate, with sugary plum fruit supported by jam; it gives an impression of considerable ripeness, and there are also some greenish vegetal notes that are well integrated. On the palate it's ample, soft, and sweet, with plum fruit supported by tannins that have some cedary accents to them, not much in the way of acidity, and some jammy accents. Very fruit forward and soft; if you like the style you will enjoy it, but you have to like the style. If you prefer brighter wines it won't work for you.
Tarantini Petrigama Nero di Troia IGT Puglia 2008
Ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is eye opening, with candied fruit mingled with acidity and spice, with hints of medicine cabinet as well. Not much fruit. On the palate it's rather thin, with moderate nondescript fruit supported by tannins that have a cedary burr and flow into a rather quick finish. I found it to be rather dilute.
Antica Enotria Nero di Troia IGT Puglia 2007
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is muted, with swishing bringing up some sour berry fruit and smoke, and greenish accents as well, and fair acidity as well. On the palate it's ample and sfot, with bitter berry fruit supported by cedar-laced tannins that flow into a cedar-laced finish. It's a bit disjointed, and I found myself wanting more.
Santa Lucia Vigna del Melograno Uva di Troia Castel del Monte Rosso 2007
Impenetrable pyrope ruby with purple reflections and deep ruby rim; it's poured ink. The bouquet is enticing, with chewy cherry plum fruit supported by some berry fruit acidity; it's welcoming in a decidedly opulent key. On the palate it's bright, with chewy cherry plum fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have a slight cedar overlay, and by acidity that provides direction, flowing into a fairly dry savory finish with leafy underbrush tannins that have savory accents as well. It will work well with food and is pleasant in a fruit driven key, while the tannins will help it to accompany succulent meats or roasts. Versatile, and enjoyable.
Cantina La Marchesa Il Nerone della Marchesa Vino Rosso IGT Daunia
This is named after La Marchesa's grandfather, who was nicknamed Il Nerone. It's deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with jammy cherry fruit supported by berry fruit acidity and slight vegetal accents. Quite pleasant to sniff, in a cheeky sort of way. On the palate it's full, with bright berry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity and smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean bright sour cherry finish. It's a little thinner than one might have expected on the palate, but quite pleasant, and will drink very well with foods, in particular grilled meats or light stews, and will go quickly.
Vigne di Rascitano Rasciatano Nero di Troia IGT Puglia 2007
Deep black almandine ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with cedar and some lactic acid mingled with some berry fruit and some wood smoke as well. Not exciting, and tired. On the palate it's ample and rather soft, with moderate fruit and a fair amount of wood that leads into a decidedly savory finish.
Torre Quarto Bottaccia Uva di Troia IGT Puglia 2007
Deep ruby with black reflections and ruby rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with petroleum and spice mingled with some brisk acidity and some balsamic notes with underbrush as well. On the palate it's full, with fairly rich red berry fruit supported by lively acidity and tannins that have some cedary accents, and flow into a clean rather savory finish. On the palate it's more interesting than the nose, which is in an interrogatory phase. It needs time, a year or two.
Torrevento Matervitae Aglianico Puglia IGT Rosso 2007
Impenetrable pyrope with cherry rim. The bouquet is intense, with red berry fruit supported by graphite shavings and greenish grilled pepper, with a fair amount of spice and some cedar as well. Nice depth. On the palate it's it's rich and languid, with chewy cherry fruit supported by moderate mineral acidity and smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean rather bitter cherry fruit finish. Pleasant, and is also a very distinct change of pace with respect to the other wines poured at the tasting.
Botromagno Pier Delle Vigne Murgia Rosso IGT 2003
This is a blend of Aglianico and Montepulciano. Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with berry fruit mingled with green leather, minerality, and spice, and a fair amount of alcohol as well. Nice balance in a distinctly more mature key, but then again it is a 2003. And it has quite a bit to say. On the palate it's rich, with ample red berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins and warm sour cherry fruit acidity that flow into a clean fresh cherry finish with lasting acidity. Very fresh for a 2003, especially considering how hot it was, and a pleasant wine that will work very well with succulent roasts or stews. It wasn't a revelation, because I have tasted Botromagno's wines before, but is very nice, with considerable depth and elegance.
Rivera Puer Apuliae Nero di Troia Castel del Monte 2008
Impenetrable pyrope with purple rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with jammy plum fruit supported by some iodine and slight lactic acid. Non-descript. On the palate it's ample, with moderate berry fruit supported by terrific cedar that flows into a tart cedar laced finish. Oak in a glass, and it completely overpowers the fruit. A pity, because Nero di Troia can do much more.
Valle dell'Elce Rosso Essenziale IGT Daunia Rosso 2008
Deep cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet opulent, with jammy red berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and some spice. It comes across as fairly sweet. On the palate it's full, and fairly sweet, with rather languid cherry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins and by moderate berry fruit acidity; it gives an impression of trying very hard, but (for me) it comes up a bit short.
Alberto Longo Le Cruste Nero Di Troia Puglia IGT Rosso 2006
Deep black cherry ruby; impenetrable. The bouquet is eye opening, with jammy fruit mingled with wet leather, spice, and with red berry fruit. On the palate it's ample, and to my mind a bit over oaked.
Torrevento Vigna Quarrate Castel Del Monte Riserva 2005
Black cherry ruby with jammy berry fruit supported by spice; nice depth and elegance. On the palate it's ample, with rich cherry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fresh berry fruit finish. On the palate it has a slightly dilute feel; the tannins step in and are a touch drier than one might have expected, bit the wine will work quite well with foods.
Finally, two Nero Di Troia wines tasted the night before the general tasting:
Cefalicchio Rosato Ponte della Lama Puglia IGT 2008
This is 100% Nero di Troia; it's a brilliant pomegranate red that's quite pretty. The bouquet is clean, with floral-herbal accents and some red berry fruit mingled with underbrush and a fair amount of savory acidity. On the palate it's medium bodied, with lively minerality and bright tannins with a burr that leads into a clean bitter finish. It's more the little brother of a red than a classic rosè, and one can taste the limestone the vines draw their life from. Quite pleasant and will work very well with a wide variety of foods, ranging from cold cuts and fairly fresh cheeses though pasta and soups, and also with simple meats. In a word, versatile, and though many 2008 rosès are by now beginning to tire this one hasn't at all, and was still bright after an hour in the glass. Impressive.
Cefalicchio Romanico Nero di Troia Rosso di Canossa Riserva DOC 2005
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and violet rim. Tremendous color. The bouquet is powerful, with musty underbrush and savory spice mingled with wet leaves, minerality, and some gunflint. Considerable depth, and has a lot to say; as it opens it reveals all sorts of facets, in particular intriguing hints of crushed almonds. On the palate it's ample and rich, with savory cherry plum fruit supported by smooth cedar-laced tannins that flow into a clean rather bitter finish. Quick to write but pleasant, and will drink very well with red meats, especially more succulent meats as the tannins do a fine job of clearing the palate. It's fruit rich but not a fruit bomb, and is a fine food wine that will also age nicely for at least 5 years.