Puglia is the local name for the region known as Apulia in English which is hugely important in terms of quantity, if not always quality, to the world of wine – and is to be found on an increasing number of wine labels. This region which includes all of the heel of Italy and as far again up the back of the heel along the Adriatic coast produces more wine than Australia, even if only a small proportion of it so far is sold in bottle rather than tanker. Things are changing fast here however.
Until the 1990s, Puglia was a guilty secret, its potent reds and heavy whites shipped quietly north to beef up the less ripe produce of more famous vineyards in Italy, to add colour and weight to thin ferments from southern France, and to provide the raw material for manufacturers (there is no other word) of alcoholic drinks such as fizz and vermouth all over northern Europe. If wine producers knew anything about Puglia, they tended to keep quiet about it.
The advent of New World wines however gave a new respectability to wines produced in hot climates, and a new breed of flying winemaker was set to work on the vineyards and vast cellars of Puglia to fashion something reliable and inexpensive for the supermarket buyers of northern Europe. Chardonnay and other international varieties were duly planted and – hey presto – another source of anodyne but predictable bargains emerged. Many of these wines are described on the label as IGT Puglia, or IGT Salento after the peninsula that constitutes the heel of Italy.
There are several DOCs and DOCGs in Puglia but few of them have forged any sort of international reputation. In fact only 3 or 4% of all Apulian wine is sold as a DOC – most likely Salice Salentino, Copertino, Squinzano or Primitivo di Manduria, all of them strong, sometimes almost porty, reds.