Apr 20 2013
Rich In History — The Puglia And Campania Winemaking Regions Of Italy
The regions of Puglia and Campania, Italy, are a favorite of Italian wine clubs for both the delicious wines produced and the rich history. The next time you purchase a bottle of wine from either of these regions, keep the history in mind as you enjoy the wine on your palette. Many people believe they can almost taste the past, even in today’s wines. This article looks at the colorful past of the Puglia and Campania winemaking regions of Italy.
Puglia, the heel and spur of the Italian boot, is rich in art and architecture, which reflects the many cultures that have dominated the region over the centuries. The Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Normans, Swabias, and Spaniards among others have all left their imprints there. The octagonal fortress in Castel del Monte was built by Emperor Frederick II in 1240. The towns of Otranto and Gallipoli evoke the Greeks and much of Lecce is Baroque in style, having flourished in the 17th Century. Alberobello is the capital of the “trulli,” which are whitewashed, circular buildings with conical roof tiles whose origins no one knows.
Also known as Europe’s wine cellar by Italian wine clubs, Puglia produces more grapes than any other region and normally surpasses Germany and all but six other nations. In the past, the region has sacrificed quality for quantity. Many of its wines were without distinction and were consumed locally or used for blending in the wines of other regions. During the last decade, producers have been making good to excellent reds, whites, and rose’ from a range of grape varieties.
The Greeks founded Napes, the capital of Campania. The Romans enlarged it before it suffered invasions by the Normans, Hohenstaufen, French, and Spanish among others. Established by the Greeks in the 11th Century BC, Naples was the earliest of a cluster of far-flung settlements throughout southern Italy. Many important figures of the age, including Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Aeschylus lived in these settlements and today you can find some of the best ruins of the ancient Greek world there. Along with mathematics, architecture, and drama, the ancient art of winemaking also flourished in the hills and valleys of the region as the cult of Dionysus spread. Aglianico and Greco, vines introduced by the Greeks, are still highly prized. The Greek historian Herodotus called this part of Italy ‘Oenotria,’ meaning the land of wine.
In the 16th Century, Sante Lancerio, the bottler of Pope Paul III, raved about the wines of the Kingdom of Naples and their reputation continued into the 19th Century. Subsequently, viticulture went into decline for decades as growers left the land and the majority of remaining producers ignored DOC regulations and instead chose to plant prolific vines rather than those that would produce premium grapes. In the last twenty years, producers have once again recognized the potential of southern Italy in general and have modernized their viticulture and winemaking techniques.
The vast history of the Puglia and Campania winemaking regions of Italy make for interesting conversation over a glass of wine, whether as part of Italian wine clubs or at a wine tasting party in your own home.