The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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Page 113 of 116

ITAlY Luigi Rubino, President of the consortium Puglia Best Wine. Puglia—often referred to as “Europe’s wine cellar” for its mass production for the bulk market—is in the midst of a transformation, perhaps buoyed by Sicily’s success in elevating the status of Nero d’Avola as a varietal. While most of the juice is still directed towards blending in other wine markets, increasingly, Puglia’s native grapes are gaining ground in the quality category. There’s so much confi - dence in the region that producers from other regions, such as the Veneto’s Zonin, are opening new estates here, and there’s a resurgent interest in Fiano, an ancient native grape that was all but eliminated. Puglia Best Wine, a consortium of fi ve producers formed in 2008, aims to elevate the status of the region’s wines, with a particular focus on native grapes. Says consortium President Luigi Rubino, “There is a new self-awareness among the wineries, [shifting] from a farm mentality to society mentality. For the fi rst time, important wineries are showing considerable skill in planning.” The consortium members—Tenute Rubino, Cantine Due Palme, Conti Zecca, Consorzio Produttori Vini Manduria and Candido—are longtime high-volume producers, shipping more than 11 million bottles per year to more than 30 countries. Historically, the wine shipped to whomever, wher- ever. Now, says Rubino, there’s a growing recognition among producers of pride of place and of wine consumption as a lifestyle, not just plonk on the family dining table. “In the most mature and demanding markets, the consumer is more informed and prepared, and he wishes to have a better knowledge of wines, wineries and territories of origin,” says Rubino. Rubino, 36, who believes in the “enological renaissance of the region,” is a Brinidisi entre- preneur, armed with an MBA, who has turned his attention to organizing Puglia’s efforts. While industry stalwarts such as The Primitivo grape thrives in Puglia. Puglia at a Glance DOCs: IGTs: 25 6 Red grapes: Negro Amaro, Primitivo, Malvasia Nera, Uva di Troia White grapes: Fiano, Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, Bombino Bianco, Trebbiano Toscano Production: 7.220 million hectoliters, 90 percent of which is imported; red and rosé account for about 70 percent of production; about 10 percent production is DOC Conti Zecca (yes, there really is a count) lead the region’s wine trade, it’s a generation of wine marketers such as Rubino who will propel the new Pugliese wine frontier. It’s not just about designing new labels on bottles. A lot of it is teaching local producers how to talk the talk—and this is why high- profi le cheerleaders such as Riccardo Cotarella, Italy’s leading wine consultant, are called in. He happens to be particularly bullish on southern wines. His mission? Change the way producers think of themselves and their product. “Nobody brought the soil from Montalcino to Brinidisi,” Cotarella said. “What changed? The technology and the commitment. For 30 years it was the destiny of Puglia to ship to other countries, but there was no dignity at home.” Now, says oenologist Dr. Leonardo Pinto of Consorzio Produttori Vini Manduria, “We use wine as a vehicle to transfer our culture, and we call ourselves ‘craftsmen of wine.’” To get the word out, the consortium will engage in a series of activities that create a lifestyle triumvirate of tourism, gastronomy and wine, consistently promoted through trade shows, press trips and other hospitality outreach. Watch for Italy’s heel to come stepping out in style. april 2010 / the tasting panel / 113

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