Our fourth day, Friday 6 June, would feature a morning of producer tastings and an afternoon of the first competition tastings, ending at the Cibus restaurant in Ceglie Messapica with a vertical of Cefalicchio’s Jalal moscato bianco.
Another round of tasting of old friends’ new wines and new discoveries yielded the following:
Salentine producer Mottura’s Le Pitre range continues to impress. For their best wine that day, there was little in it between the negroamaro 2011 and the primitivo 2011, but my vote went to the negroamaro, with a lovely, typical, quite deep nose of plums, blackberries and bakelite/graphite. Juicy, with live tannins, this ended on notes of minerals and incense.
I Buongiorno are fairly recent, but, as reported last year, seem to be onto something really good. I found all of their wines even better than last year, with a delicious, not-too-aromatic 2013 minutolo white, a lovely, slightly sapid 2013 negroamaro rosé and really good, typically Brindisi-rounded 2010 negroamaro and primitivo wines with modern, firm fruitiness. The big news, however, was Nicolaus 2012, a blend of equal parts of negroamaro and primitivo. This had a lovely, broad, soft and deep nose with mineral and cherry notes, and a juicy, elegant, live palate of cherries and spicy tannins. This wine has not been released yet, and may in its final blend have a somewhat higher primitivo content, but the class and promise for the future are evident.
Duca Carlo Guarini, from the southern end of the Salento peninsula in Puglia, featured their usual line-up in new vintages, as always all really well-made and typical, and then some news. I particularly noted the following: Taersia 2013 was a negroamaro white (!) with a lovely peach, granite minerals and light green herbal nose and a soft, dry, minerally palate. Nativo 2012, an organic negroamaro red, had a delicious, juicy nose of blackberries, hydrocarbon minerality, graphite and violets, and a soft, sweetly fruity palate well balanced with a slight rasp of rounded tannins. As usual, the 100% malvasia nera red Malìa, this time in the 2012 vintage, was absolutely gorgeous, with a plum and spice nose enlivened by fresh hydrocarbon minerality, and a full, soft, but juicy and slightly tannic mouthful ending long on fresh notes of that hydrocarbon minerality.
Pugliese house Valentina Passalacqua presented a broad range of wines, all fully organic and low-sulphur. The usual strong, salty/sapid minerality from this excellent producer was present throughout the range, whose wines manage the difficult balance of expressing both grape variety/ies and terroir really well. My favourite, epitomizing exactly that balance, was the Falanghina 2013, with a lovely, juicy nose of peaches, soft green herbs and citrus peel, and a soft, herbal/resinous and very characteristic palate, salty minerality at the end.
Carbone Vini, from Monte Vulture, is on a strong run of form. The full range is of very high quality, with beautiful expression of that mountain terroir throughout. While top-of-the-range Aglianico del Vulture Stupor Mundi 2009 had great quality and intensity – and for me a welcome reduction of oak flavour compared to previous vintages – as usual it was the Aglianico del Vulture 400 Some that pleased me the most. The 2011 version was a proper mountain wine, featuring a macho nose of deep dark berry fruit, hydrocarbon minerality, sweet meat and garrigue, and a juicy, live and long palate with massive but noble and ripe tannins and singed garrigue notes.
Cantina Carpentiere, of central/northern Puglia, presented an innovative and really strong range, centred around the area’s typical grape varieties of bombino nero and nero di Troia. The peachy, slightly garrigue-liquoricy white wine Come d’Incanto 2013, from nero di Troia was lively and charming, while a red nero di Troia 2013 without added sulphur was soft, liquoricy, beetrooty and slightly spicy, with a typical but not unpleasant low-sulphur hint of walnut skin in the aftertaste. My favourite, however, was the Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva Armentario from 2009: Dark, spicy, granite-minerally nose with typical notes of beetroot and humus, and a long, juicy-soft palate with rounded tannins and liquorice hints in the aftertaste.
Fonzone, of Campania, showed a modern, well-made and highly drinkable range of wines from Irpinia’s typical varieties of fiano, greco and aglianico, with a Campi Taurasini Aglianico 2011 on top. A nose of cherries, garrigue, tobacco and hydrocarbon minerality lead to a juicy/tight palate with soft but barky tannins, good freshness and bubbling minerality.
Tiny, new producer Baglio Ingardia from western Sicily showed great promise. I loved their Catarratto Munir 2013 with its aromas of flowers, grape fruit, granitic minerality and light peach, and its light, dry and soft palate. While the nero d’Avola Ventu 2011 was perhaps slightly too hot and exotically woody in its expression, there was no mistaking the potential of the site as witnessed by a very characterful nose of plums, cherries, sweet exotic spices and minerals. Judging from the proprietors, a lovely, young couple with fire in their eyes and passion in their hearts, and from pictures of a completely enchanting place, this is most definitely a future star.
Casa Comerci of Calabria have specialized in the magliocco canino variety (not to be confused with the resurrected Calabrian darling variety magliocco dolce). Wines are typically snarly (!), with light red, juicy berry fruit. I particularly liked the very characterful, sapid/juicy 2013 rosé.
The afternoon session featured the first competition tasting session. Due to the large number of wines this year, both the international and national juries had been split into two. An international and a national jury would taste the same wines, while other wines would be tasted by the other international and national jury. I had the honour of being made chairman of international jury #1.
This afternoon “my” jury was given the pleasant task of judging Pugliese white wines. This flight was split into 4 groups, beginning with bombino bianco, on to fiano, then minutolo, and ending with a mixed group of varieties, such as malvasia bianca, greco, verdeca, moscato and bianco d’Alessano. 44 wines were tasted, the general impression being one of technically well-made wines, with few negative exceptions, and with a few wines that excelled. A general note could be a point made by Tom Cannavan, not relative to this specific flight, but to another flight of white wines in the second international jury: attractiveness and freshness in white wine does not only come from acidity. A certain roundness and ripeness of fruit is also required. In a hot climate, striking the right balance between ripeness of fruit and sufficient acidity to maintain freshness can be difficult, but the best wines in this flight tended to be those with good fruit ripeness and character.
For results and my favourites, see my upcoming Radici del Sud 2014 post on results and impressions.
For the evening, we drove to Ceglie Messapica for a brief tour of the old town centre and then a divine meal at the Cibus restaurant. I have written of this place before, praising its wonderful food and especially its incredible cheese selection. This evening, we had a lovely dinner, crowned by amazing cheese, one of which was a five-year-old caciocavallo in great, searingly intense form.
The wine subject, as stated above, was a vertical of Cefalicchio’s dry moscato bianco Jalal, vintages 2009 – 2013. The aromatic character of the variety was in evidence in all the wines, here with highlights of white flowers and elegant citric notes, but that character was neither overblown nor disturbing, and was underpinned by a lovely minerality of the mountain brook variety. None of the vintages had suffered from ageing, which merely seemed to bring greater depth and mouthfeel, with slightly receding aromatics over time. Of the vintages tasted, I narrowly preferred the 2009, which had the greatest complexity allied with a fullish, juicy palate, but all vintages showed great form. The 2013 did seem to be slightly lighter and shallower than the rest, but that is very likely to be a combination of extreme youth and recent bottling, as winemaking has not changed.
Further festivities started already in the restaurant, where the combination of great food, great wine and great company prompted much happiness, gradually sliding into guitar playing and singing. A rustic version of the music accompanying the Pugliese pizzica (very roughly the Pugliese version of the tarantella dance) will be indelibly etched into my memory, while I hope that my own attempt at teaching the crowd the Danish version of famous Italian hit song “Volare” will be forgotten swiftly. Once safely back at the Masseria, singing, discussing and general merrymaking continued unabated for another great and late night.