Puglia’s wines pack a punch

<span>Grape fun: taking in the harvest in Italy.</span><span>Photograph: Miguel Medina/Getty Images</span>
Grape fun: taking in the harvest in Italy.Photograph: Miguel Medina/Getty Images

Paolo Leo Passitivo Primitivo Organic Appassimento, Puglia, 2022 (from £12.80, ND John) Wines from Puglia seem to be a word-of-mouth hit at the moment. So many friends and family have mentioned the region in Southern Italy’s heel as their best recent vinous discovery – and wine merchants say they’re selling better than any other Italian wine. There’s an obvious explanation: Puglian reds offer rather a lot of rich, concentrated fruit for the money, with a natural sweetness (many have a level of sugar that takes them into off-dry territory) offset by a classic Italian tomato-or-plum-like tartness that makes them extremely good with tomato-based sauces and hard cheese – or a combination of the two on a pizza. Many of the most popular Puglians are made with the appassimento technique, with some or all of the wine made with dried grapes, bringing an extra level of figgy, dark chocolatey richness to a wine such as Paolo Leo’s organic number.

Calcarius Nu Litr Rosso, Puglia, NV (from £22, 1 litre, Juiced Wines) The grape variety responsible for most Puglian reds in UK supermarkets is primitivo, which is genetically identical to Californian zinfandel. And, like its American cousin, primitivo is rather more stylistically various than the popular caricature would have you believe. While many come in the kind of sweetly warming, plummy package offered by Asda’s always-reliable Extra Special Primitivo 2022 (£6.75, down from £7.75, Asda), others go for a tangier, more red-fruited, dry and, in terms of alcohol, lighter (13% rather than 14.5% or more) style, such as Cantine de Falco Primitivo Salento 2022 (£12.95, leaandsandeman.co.uk). Other good Puglian red varieties include negroamaro, which, like primitivo, is capable of making wines in a variety of styles, whether it’s dark and spicy (San Marzano Il Pumo Negroamaro, Salento 2022, £10.95, strictlywine.co.uk) or the light, super-lively, vivaciously cherry-herby and thirst-quenching natural mode of 11.5% abv Calcarius Nu.

San Marzano Talo Verdeca, Puglia, 2022 (from £10.49, All About Wine) While Puglia’s reputation rests largely on its red wines, the region has other strings to its bow. In a world where rosé has eclipsed white in many drinkers’ affections, winemakers – including Puglia producers – are feeling the need to add a pink wine to their ranges. Waitrose has just added two, both off-dry, with the juicy ripe Waitrose Loved & Found Organic Susumaniello Rosato 2023 (£7.99) my choice ahead of the creamy, soft Waitrose Loved & Found Aglianico Rosato 2023 (£8.99). The second of those is made from a variety, aglianico, I associate with robust, fragrant wines from Campania and Basilicataon the other side of southern Italy – where I find most of my favourite southern Italian whites. Puglia, however, can do bianco, too, in wines such as San Marzano’s unoaked version of the local verdeca, with its blossom, golden apple and easy freshness.

Follow David Williams on X @Daveydaibach