Wednesday 4 June marked the beginning of single-producer tastings. There are two sessions in a day, with 15-20 producers at each session. I knew many of them already, but some were new. It was great to reconfirm the excellence of many friends’ production, and even greater to taste hitherto undiscovered excellence.
Highlights among “old friends”:
Cannito in Gioia del Colle makes typical, firm, juicy, cherry-fruited primitivos by the name of Drumon. All the new wines were good, with the 2011 Drumon gold version probably being my top wine of the range, with lovely essence of cherry and good, tight and firm structure.
Cardone are still the best of the bunch in Locorotondo. The entire range is good, with keen pricing, but my favourite on the day was the Prosit sparkling rose’, a lovely, zingy, berryish number.
Donnachiara’s range is all good, too, and the new late-harvest dry wines – Fiano Esoterico and Greco Ostinato – were very interesting, pointing towards very full, rather powerful interpretations of those lovely varieties.
Masseria l’Astore continues its strong run of form, with the great negroamaro Alberelli continuing to take on strong varietal definition and pointing the way towards the future for negroamaro. Also lovely dry malvasia bianca and excellent, firm/sapid negroamaro rosé.
Tenuta Patruno Perniola keeps improving, and the primitivo Battaglio 2010 is, to me, Paolo Patruno’s best yet. Watch out, world, for Paolo is on a strong run and has some really interesting things going on in the background.
Vinicola Savese/Pichierri continue to make glorious, traditional Primitivo di Manduria, my favourite on the day being the Dolce Naturale Il Sava 2007.
Pietraventosa’s Marianna Annio is going from strength to strength. Her rosé EstRosa is lovely, juicy and fruity in its 2013 version too, and the 2010 Gioia del Colle Primitivo Riserva is her best so far, with great depth of fruit and typical Gioia firmness promising a long and happy life indeed.
Luigi Maffini is a relatively new discovery for me. He makes strong, flavourful, deeply hydrocarbon-minerally whites and reds near Paestum in southern Campania. The entire range is excellent, and to show the longevity of his wines he had brought allong a few older samples. So on the day, we tasted his Fiano Pietraincatenata 2002 and Aglianico Cenito 2006, both in excellent form. The highlight for me, however, was the Fiano Pietraincatenata 2012 a firm, intense, juicy and minerally number built for the long haul.
Among new friends the following stood out:
Cantina Nistri makes a range of typical Salento wines. The negroamaro Mezzetto 2013 stood out for me with its fresh, firm fruit and precise varietal aromas of garrigue and graphite.
Cataldo Calabretta makes a really zingy range of highly characterful, salty-minerally wines from Cirò in Calabria. I was especially enamoured with his Cirò Rosso, a great representative of the gaglioppo variety with typical red berries, meat and iron/clay aromas, and the Malvasia Passito 2012, which had an amazing nose of orange rind and saffron (!). But the white Ansonica and the rosé Alicante were not far behind. Great new discovery.
Also from Cirò, Tenuta del Conte, showed a nice, typical range of the traditional Cirò wines, with the austere, but soft and complex Cirò Rosso Riserva 2006 taking the prize. Cirò is really hopping these days; so many great producers are coming out of the woodwork.
Borgodangelo from Campania makes the entire range of typical Irpinia wines. Good, firm, mountain-brook-minerally Greco and Fiano, and a lovely, firm, tannic, really complex Taurasi 2009 on top.
My discovery of the day – and perhaps of the entire 7 days event – was Le Ormere (dialect for elm trees). This tiny and completely new producer makes a single wine, a Greco di Tufo with no added sulphur, in vanishingly small numbers. But what wine! From 2012, it had a big, powerful chalky-minerally nose with quince, citrus peel and hazelnuts. Full, dry, firm and salty-minerally in the mouth, great length with citrus, hazelnuts and resinous herbs. Wow! This wine went like hot cakes the rest of the week whenever we had a bit of time to sit back and socialize. And I’m sorry, but there is probably no longer any wine for sale, for some of the buyers among the international contingent seemed exceptionally keen to snap it all up.
Salentine Masseria Cistonaro showed a single but attractive wine, a warm, full negroamaro 2012 called Maricò, with hints of wood tar and graphite.
Another big revelation for me was Antico Palmento from Manduria in Puglia. This is a tiny producer owned and managed by the family of Bruno Garofano, brother of legendary Salento winemaking legend and hero Severino Garofano. Bruno showed only two wines, a dry Primitivo di Manduria from 2011 and a sweet Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale called Dolce Vite from 2009. Both wines had huge, cherry-essence fruit intensity, great freshness, great concentration and complexity and never-ending length.
In the evening, we were treated to a vertical tasting of the legendary Salento negroamaro Le Braci from Severino Garofano’s property Tenuta Monaci at the lovely Casale Ferrovia restaurant in Carovigno. We tasted 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007 (not yet for sale). There was amazing consistency and youth across the lineup, and it was nigh-on impossible to choose a favourite. 2003 was probably the greatest surprise, as the vintage was insanely hot, but the wine had great freshness and youth still. Hard-pressed I would choose the 2004 as my favourite This was a gentle giant, with massive plum fruit, liquorice, violets, hints of tobacco and sweet meat on the nose, and a full, intense, hugely long palate with great acidity, firmness and polished tannins.
The entire contingent was hopping, so festivities continued into the night with great company, much laughter and small pockets of great, philosophical discussion.