Peter Ranscombe samples a new range of organic wines with Bellissimo Vino in Edinburgh.
IF ITALY is shaped like a boot then Puglia is its very stylish heel.
Bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian seas, the area is sometimes overshadowed by more famous wine regions in Campania and on Sicily.
One of the reasons that it often flies under the wine radar is that a lot of the region’s output is bulk wine that finds its way into supermarket bottles.
Yet Puglia is worthy of exploration in its own right – it’s got the climate, it’s got the soils, and it’s got a growing number of producers focusing on quality wines.
Among those producers is Cantine Losito, a family-run winery that switched to organic farming in 1998.
Twenty years later, the results of caring for the soil can be tasted in its wines, which have been brought to Scotland by Bellissimo Vino, the Italian wine specialist in Edinburgh.
The retailer teamed up last year with Diana Thompson from Wine Events Scotland for a series of online tastings featuring wines from further north in Abruzzo, and it’s great to see the company expanding its range again.
An ode to tannins
When it comes to Puglia, the action really focuses on the reds, and especially the native varieties like primitivo, negroamaro, and nero di troia, sometimes called uva di troia.
These are all beefy wines and not for the faint hearted – like most Italian reds, it’s their tannins that provide much of the character, giving the grip to rip through red meat.
Nero di troia is the grape that’s most at home in the north of Puglia, around Foggia, where Cantine Losito has its vineyards.
The 2018 Cantine Losito Nero di Troia (£14.50) offered bright black cherry, blackcurrant, and wood smoke on the nose, then more of the dark fruit on the palate, with well-balanced vanilla from its time in oak; at this age, the tannins really need food to help soften them, but it’ll be fascinating to see how the wine will age.
Similarly, the 2018 Cantine Losito Negroamaro (£13.05) is another food-friendly bottle, with plenty of grip to its tannins.
It’s got a really complex mix of fruit flavours – lots of black cherry, blackcurrant, and even fresher blueberry aromas and then redder cranberry and redcurrant fruit notes in amongst the blackcurrant on the palate.
This is going to be a really versatile performer at the dinner table, taking on lamb, beef, and even game dishes like venison.
Star of the show
My pick of the reds was the 2018 Cantine Losito Primitivo (£14.50), which is great value and knocks the socks off supermarket efforts at the same price point.
Red and black cherries mingle with roast meat, wood smoke, and tobacco on the nose, with the complexity continuing on the palate as balsamic and dark chocolate notes weave in and out of the blackcurrant and black cherry.
Again, the tannins are firm and dry, so it’s time to roll out the red meat or an earthy mushroom risotto.
The native grapes are the stars of the show, yet the 2018 Cantine Losito Cabernet Sauvignon (£13.05) is very passable too.
Puglia might not be the first place I’d think to look for a cabernet, but the inky intensity to its dark fruit aromas was very enticing.
Less intensity on the palate, sadly, but its tannins will appeal to fans of Californian cabernets to ride alongside steak.
Don’t forget the whites
I was really impressed with both the whites I sampled too – the 2019 Cantine Losito Falesia Dry Moscato (£11.69) and the 2019 Cantine Losito Chardonnay (£12.99).
Moscato is best known for producing aromatic sweeter wines, but here it works really well when taken all the way through to dryness.
Intense lemon sherbet, pear, and peach on the nose lead into crisp acidity and more tinned peach flavours on the palate, with a really fresh finish.
It reminded me of malvasia, and it will work in the same fashion with lighter fish dishes and seafood.
Puglia’s most-exciting wines are those made from its native varities, but the surprising freshness of the chardonnay caught my attention.
It’s got the tropical pineapple and guava notes you’d expect from a warmer climate chardie, plus plenty of lemon, yet the intensity of the fruit flavours is balanced by a decent level of acidity – a good combination of organic fruit and elevated vineyards.
Read more of Peter’s reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.