The Wine: Sottoterra Nero di Troia NV
Valentina Passalacqua Sottoterra Nero di Troia is red wine from Puglia, Southern Italy, made from 100% Nero di Troia grapes certified organic. Spontaneous fermentation with native yeasts, unfined, unfiltered, no added sulfites.
The Producer: Valentina Passalacqua
Valentina Passalacqua's farm is located inside Gargano National Park in Apricena, Puglia, and has been in the family since the beginning of the 1900s. Farming her hectares biodynamically, Valentina works to show the true expression of this land that was once considered only suitable for cattle farming.
The soil is rocky limestone that is rich in minerals at about 200 meters of altitude. The farm obtained organic certification in 1999 and has been worked biodynamically since the early 2000s. All the wines are spontaneously fermented, are never fined or filtered, and are without sulfur addition.
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 which 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.