SANTA LUCIA, Castel del Monte

Puglia is a much-maligned region.  With the third largest wine production in Italy (after Veneto & Emilia-Romagna), it’s still mostly large co-ops, and a major supplier of ‘cutting-wine’ to other regions (insert here, a snide comment on $30 Amarone…).

In contrast with the mega-producers, Santa Lucia is a tiny jewel of an estate winery.  The Perrone Capano family has owned Santa Lucia since 1628, with vineyard records dating to 1849.  40 km north of Bari, 15 km from the coast, at 300 m elevation; 14 ha of estate vineyards yield 50,000 bottles.  Farming & production methods are organic, with some biodynamic practices in the vineyard.  Depending on varietal, yields are 6-9 tonnes/ha (vs 14-15 tonnes/ha permitted).  Vineyards are meticulously tended, trellising optimized for varietal, soil and exposure to the remarkable, distinctive daylight in the region.  Nero di Troia, the most interesting indigenous variety in this DOC, is the signature wine of Santa Lucia.  Fiano, Negroamaro, and Aleatico (for an exciting sweet) are also grown.  Nero di Troia is a unique, ageworthy wine, with no reference point in other Italian regions — Santa Lucia produces the benchmark versions, absolutely worth investigating.

Castel del Monte DOC is named for the nearby 13th Century citadel, a Unesco World Heritage site — which you may have seen Sean Connery dashing around in The Name of the Rose.  It’s also on the Italian edition 1-Euro-cent coin.