The Puglian Wine Predicament

Our trip to Puglia was an unqualified success, but writing about the wines we encountered, I face two predicaments. The first is that most the wine we loved on our trip just isn’t available here at home. The second is that some of the best wines we drank there were the house wines offered by the places we ate, served in carafes — not even bottled at all.

The variety and quality of wine for sale in Puglia is astounding! The wines we tried there were mostly wonderful and a great value — we brought back as many as we could fit in our luggage (only six bottles; we carry on). The three wines pictured at right from our luggage stash — the two on the right from a wine cooperative in Locorotondo; the one on the left from a wine shop in Lecce — are all special, and were inexpensive, but are not for sale in the USA. (If you know of their being available here, let me know!) So that’s the predicament — I’ll continue to write about Puglian wines I find for sale here at home, but there is little point reviewing wines you and I can’t buy here.

The second predicament is that the wines we loved best on our trip didn’t come in bottles at all — they came in quarter-, half- or full-liter carafes at the restaurants where we ate. Many restaurants have wine lists and are happy to serve bottles of wine, but virtually every place we ate also offered a house white, red, and nearly all a house rosato. (We consistently ordered the rosato when it was on offer — the weather was still hot in late September, and the rosato paired incredibly well with all the seafood and vegetable dishes we loved.) These simple wines, which I would imagine come from a barrel in the back room, probably from a local producer, were without exception our favorite wines during the trip. They complemented the food perfectly!

This uncomplicated approach to the ubiquitous wine that accompanies Italian cuisine is one of my favorite things about eating in Italy. As far as I can tell no one will serve a house wine that doesn’t work well with their food. Italian diners fully expect that ordering a carafe of the “house” will give them decent, drinkable wine that pairs well with their meal. There are many more glass “mezzo-litro” and “litro” carafes on the tables of Puglian restaurants than labeled bottles of wine.

So there are predicaments writing about our wine drinking in Puglia, but they are the reasons we can’t wait to go back — to try more of those wonderful wines that never make it to the USA, and to rest assured that a carafe of the house wine will be not only drinkable, but a perfect accompaniment to Puglia’s wonderful cuisine!

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  1. We too visited Puglia this year, enjoying it and the wine. I have just learned that their Primitivo is the same as what we call in the U.S. zinfandel. Never would have guessed!

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