There’s Nothing Primitive about this Primitivo!

True confessions: how much do you know about wine from Puglia? Not much? Well, it’s time you learned! Puglia is Italy’s hot, up-and-coming wine region, so you’d better be prepared.


This is the heel of the boot. When talking terroir, a map is a good place to start! Local varieties have fun and evocative names such as Primitivo di Manduria, Negroamaro, Bombino Nero, and Uva di Troia, sometimes called Nero di Troia.

Castel del Monte

Those are some colorful names that produce just as colorful  – and flavorful! – wines. The DOCG wines from Puglia have names that recall the geography, mainly Castel del Monte and Manduria.

DSCN1644But how about Locorotondo or Salice Salentino? The Salento is also the new, hot, ‘in’ place for tourism in Italy – just ask Madonna!


This is also the region of the trulli, those little, magical, conical shaped houses that look like fairies should inhabit them – in short, a magical land.

Recently, I was able to visit Puglia and the Varvaglione 1921 winery, where I sipped and savored the bounty of that rich land.

Welcomed by Marzia Varvaglione at her family’s wine estate, I enjoyed true Southern Hospitality, Puglia-style! In Taranto, I was almost overwhelmed by the succession of delectable dishes presented by Chef Agostino Bartoli at his restaurant Trattoria Gatto Rosso.

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Yours truly with Marzia Varvaglione and Chef Bartoli holding a bottle of Marzia’s wine, named just for her!

Fresh seafood, a glass of crisp white… It doesn’t get much better than this.

We’re still standing: yours truly with Chef Agostino, flanked by Marzia and her father, Cosimo Varvaglione (right), the guiding light at Varvaglione 1921


While we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, we all know that packaging has its importance. Varvaglione 1921 knows that, and has launched a fashion edition for its Dodici e mezzo (12 and a half) line, wines that weigh in at 12.5% and are easy to sip, easy to pair. The fabric theme links two Italian points of excellence: fashion and vino. Whether you choose floral, tweed or polka dots, you’re going to find a fine wine in that bottle.

But the star of the show is, of course, Primitivo di Manduria. Varvaglione’s Papale and Papale Oro are the top of the line, and a refined example of that most famous Apulian wine.

When I visit a winery, I love to walk through the vineyards. Here I was able to see the old and the new, the mature plants and the little scions, just starting out.



A metaphor for the family business: the fresh, young plants starting out alongside the mature, fruit-bearing vines.

And what to say of the bottling plant, the cellar, and so on? Cleanliness is next to godliness here at Varvaglione… and that god would be Bacchus!

Another meal before I go… No one will leave hungry from a place like this!

Apulian cuisine – a vegetarian’s delight!

Castles abound in Puglia, and here on what feels like the end of the Italian earth, you can contemplate the vast and endless horizon of the Gulf of Taranto and the Ionian Sea. The Castello Aragonese dominates, and reminds one of all those peoples that passed through – Normans, Byzantines, Turks, Spaniards – leaving their mark and making this rich land even richer, and more Italian!


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