Vino Primitivo in Puglia by Kimberli WaackI like wine. Scratch that. I love wine. I love its color, love to swirl it around in the glass, put my nose next to its nose and give my olfactory senses a happy hello. I love that wine enhances the flavors of the foods I eat, aids digestion, and maybe even increase my heart's health. I love wine's tradition and unassuming presence where I am staying in South Italy.

I was recently at a party and couldn't find the water pitcher. I asked Alessandro, who happens to be the owner of Carozzo wines and he looked at me as if I had a piece of polenta stuck to my nose.

"I can't let you drink that! Water is unhealthy." he said and poured a flowery dessert wine into my cup. That was the end of that discussion, but the dialogue about wine and the shape of its future production in Puglia continues. Small vintners have for generations created outstanding wines with the local grapes for both personal and small-scale distribution. However, the rising cost of production has many tearing out rows of vines that they have been producing for decades. A liter of good table wine sells for a little over one Euro , but don't be fooled by the table wine's soda can price tag and the lack of packaging savvy. That wine sitting so modestly on the table nothing like the rot gut and I could not even dream of buying anything for that price in the U.S. I imagine a decent fifteen-dollar bottle would offer an equivalent taste bud experience. The approximate cost of caring for the vine that produces this wine can round out to about ten Euros per season and so those vintner's continuing to produce are looking for creative production methods and wider avenues for distribution. They are also beginning to blend new types of grape with the region's native Primitivo and Negroamaro varieties.

It is said that wines in particular hold the flavor and character of the regions where they are made. I believe the taste of the Primitivo wines in particular support this romantic idea. The Primitivo grapes are harvested during August in the dead heat, and they have a plump round taste that floods the palate and reminds one of the long hot days and sultry summer evenings. It holds for me the contrast of the region's almost blood red soil and blinding white rocks. It is as unique and luscious as it's birth region.

A fun place to buy Primitivo wine is in Manduria, a town located in the Taranto province of Puglia. The region is renowned for it's production of wine, and not so long ago a group of vintners formed a sort of coop called Promovi. They have opened a wine museum and bodega where the wine is pumped straight from stainless steel casks and into whatever container you choose via old-fashioned gasoline pumps measuring out the liters. (Don't worry I'm sure these particular models have never pumped benzina.)

For a more refined experience, I would recommend picking up a bottle of Carozzo's Carminio Negroamaro, which was once featured by Decanter magazine as a distinctive wine. Whatever you choose to fill your glass with don't forget to raise it in a toast to good company and the next adventures to come around the bend. Chin, chin!

Written by Kimberli Waack

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