The Wine: Primitivo del Salento 2021
Natalino del Prete Primitivo del Salento is a natural wine made from 100% organic Primitivo grapes grown in the Salento area of Apulia, Southern Italy. Classic, classic, classic Primitivo – also known as Zinfandel; fruity, round, wholesome red wine from Italy to be paired with, oh well, you know. Pizza, pasta, burgers, tacos, kabob, cannot possibly go wrong. This one is NOT an overly concentrated, jammy Primitivo; the Salento area gives fresher wines.
The Producer: Natalino del Prete
Natalino Del Prete is as old school as they come. His wines, made in the simplest way possible, are full of rustic character and serve as a perfect example of unpretentious peasant wine meant for everyday consumption. Vines have been in the Del Prete family for generations, but Natalino was the first to focus exclusively on viticulture.
Working with 10 hectares of vines, the indigenous Primitivo and Negroamaro account for the majority of his production, with a small amount of Malvasia Nera and Aleatico grown as well. The viticulture is more about restraint than anything else: no fertilizers, minimal plowing, no irrigation, and no chemicals (Natalino has been certified organic since 1994).
This philosophy extends to the cellar, where the wines ferment and age in large concrete tanks. Very few if any rackings occur, and no sulfur is ever added to the juices.
The Region: Puglia
Apulia (Puglia in Italian) is a Southern Italian region, stretching from the Gargano Peninsula to the very tip of the heel of the Italian boot. Apulia is a major wine-producing region and is also the first producer of olive oil in Italy – it accounts for over 50% of the total olive oil production.
Apulia can be divided roughly into two parts: the north, characterized by higher altitudes and hilly landscapes and the south, a flatland also known as Salento. The two subregions, even though culturally different, are fairly similar in terms of agricultural output. Along with olive oil and wine, we can also find some unique grains and other specific high-quality crops such as onions and artichokes.
Apulian went from producing mostly low-quality bulk wine to a more sophisticated and high-quality production. A major change was lowering the average yield per hectare, a practice that has also been put into law thanks to the creation of several IGP, DOC, and DOCG appellations.
The Terroir of Puglia
Apulia benefits from a hot Mediterranean climate, with low humidity and good overall aeration. This results in healthy grapes which don’t require chemical treatments against disease or rot.
The prevalent soil formation is limestone, ideal for vine growing, although it’s often covered by layers rich in iron. Iron-rich soils are usually associated with flat and uninteresting wines. For this reason, the best Apulian wines are made from old vines, which roots have dug deep past the iron-rich layers into limestone.
The Red Wines of Puglia
Puglia is definitely a land of red wines. All of Puglia DOCGs and most DOCs were created to regulate red wine production. The most widely planted red grape varietals are Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Nero di Troia. Other minor red grape varietals are Bombino Nero, Aleatico, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano.
Puglia’s first DOCG and perhaps most famous red wine is Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG, made with 100% Primitivo di Manduria grapes grown on clay and sandy soils with good water drainage. This great off-dry dark red wine is ample and complex with hints of prunes, sweet, velvety, and persistent on the palate.
A special mention for Puglia rose’ wines made from Primitivo, Negroamaro, or Bombino Nero mostly in the Salento subregion – the heel of Italy. They are very different from Provence style rose’ in that they are more structured and higher in alcohol but nevertheless very good.
The White Wines of Puglia
White wine production in Puglia is far from being noteworthy although a lot of progress has been made in the past 20 years. Good examples of white wines from this regions are wines made from Bombino Bianco or Verdeca grapes. We can also find quality white wines made from Campania region native grape varietals such as Greco, Fiano, and Falanghina.