For years, I have wanted to visit that magnificent monument that is Puglia’s Castel del Monte, and this summer I finally got there. Of course, no visit to Puglia is complete without a visit to a winery as well, and this day was no different. So what’s the connection you say? Did you know that three of Puglia’s four DOCG wines are called Castel del Monte? Read on, my friends!
This monument holds a special place in our collective imagination: it has been the setting for so many movies! One of my favorites is Matteo Garrone’s The Tale of Tales (2015). If you don’t know it, this is required viewing, actually. Selma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, Alba Rohrwacher… The acting is superb, the story is based on a 17th century Neapolitan book of fables, Lo cunto de li cunti. Get your minds out of the gutter! The film is a hoot, and it’s in English, so you’re in luck! For the more highfalutin of you out there, Pasolini also used Castel del Monte, for his Gospel According to Matthew (1964).
Built by Federico II, my hero!, its unique octagonal form, with eight towers that are themselves octagonal is quite simply mysterious. It looms eerily on the only hill in Puglia… this is one flat region, let me tell you!
Federico, a Hohenstaufen by blood, Italian by birth (in 1194), ruled in Palermo, Sicily and became Holy Roman Emperor. He died in 1250, too soon for me to get to meet this refined genius. Not for nothing, he was called Stupor Mundi, the wonder of the world!
So this was the appropriate intro to my visit to the Rivera winery, just a few miles away. We are talking the area of Andria – home to burrata cheese.
Life just would not be worth living without burrata!
But the wine, the wine! The three DOCGs are as follows: Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva (65% Nero di Troia grapes), Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva (90% Nero di Troia grapes), and Castel del Monte Bombino Nero (90% Bombino Nero grapes, but lest you be fooled, this is a rosé wine!) Maybe this map will help you figure it out!
These were the wines we happily tasted at Rivera that day:
They have a lovely, colorful line with lively packaging, featuring local grape varieties like Bombino Bianco, or the Pungirosa version of the classic DOCG Bombino nero rosé.
No visit to a winery is complete without a cellar inspection – my favorite part!
They use a lot of cement here too. And then there’s wood, where this Nero di Troia is resting for a while, taming those tannins!
If your travels allow you to wander, make a stop in the magical land of the Rivera winery, to taste in situ the fabulous Castel del Monte wines. Give my best to Federico II!