How do you feel about art, history and nature? What do you think when you hear 500 miles of coastline divided among steep cliffs overlooking two beautiful seas and golden beaches sloping into crystal blue water? As you move inland you encounter rolling hills and great valleys covered with olive trees, vineyards and lush forests. If that is not enough you encounter three Unesco World Heritage sites: Castel de Monte, the trulli, and Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo in Monte Sant’Angelo. This magical land has a history as old as time itself and is the perfect year round travel destination for lovers of nature, culture, art, history, food, wine, and of course outstanding southern hospitality. Where is the great destination? Puglia!
This month our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group is leaving Molise and heading south to heel of the boot; the wonderful region known in Italy as Apulia. A gorgeous land of beauty inhabited by Italians of outstanding hospitality. Puglia is a perfect travel destination for most anyone all year round. The wines I have selected for our Puglia exploration take us to the sub-region furthest north called Gargano and Daunia. This area is all about nature; with the coast on one side filled with beautiful coves and sea caves and the other side is filled with forest such as the Gargano National Forest. This is a sub-region of great history and tradition with beautiful castles and cathedrals dotted amongst the landscape. According to Cantina Ariano, Gargano is a “corner of paradise” that should not be missed! The winery is located within this agricultural landscape, thus adding a distinctiveness to their wines.
Cantina Ariano: Situated in the northern part of the Tableland, west of the Gargano promontory and north of Foggia, the city of San Severo is surrounded by cultivated fields of vines that covers a large area called the captains of Puglia. In this renowned “Land of Wine”, the rhythm of life is punctuated by the seasons, sowing times, harvests and all those moments that characterize life in the fields. Attilio Ariano has always loved and respected this land just as his family has for generations. And it is here that he cultivated his dream of a vineyard, Cantina Ariano, based upon two principles: passion for wine and respect for the environment.
The Ariano family started making their wines using organic agricultural methods in 1997. In 2005, their historical farm was equipped with a new modern production building and Cantina Ariano was born. What anchors the vineyard’s policy is the quality of production and service together with minimal impact on the environment. Combining the precepts of family tradition with the most advanced technology, Cantina Ariano intends to continue the history of this great “Land of Wine” with a look towards the future. Attilio’s passion was passed on to both His daughters, Manuela and Federica who both work at the winery today.
Cantina Ariano hosts a large portfolio of fully organic and biodynamic wines. Four of these wines are being introduced to the Texas market by Redoux Wine. I would like to share these four wines with you and the Puglia inspired meal I made to pair with them.
I Classici – Falanghina Puglia IGT 2014: 100% Falaghina; golden yellow; orchard fruit with spice notes, nutmeg, cedar, floral notes and balsam; racy on the palate with penetrating acidity and a tart lime finish; stainless steel fermentation, no malolactic fermentation; delicious crisp, dry white wine
Pietrenere Puglia IGT Falaghina – Bombino 2014: Falaghina/Bombino blend; soft yellow; bright nose, stone fruit, citrus, spice notes, floral notes, hint of lychee; round acidity with tart pear finish; mouthwatering, light and easy, very aromatic and inviting; stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation; really enjoyed this wine
Il Nero Puglia IGT 2014: 100% Nero di Troia; vibrant ruby; black berries, black raspberries, blue berries, violets, balsamic notes, spice, dusty earth, licorice; layered and round on the palate; well-structured, balanced acidity with tannins, medium body with a lush finish; lovely wine
Pietrenere Puglia IGT Nero di Troia – Negroamaro 2014: Nero di Troia/Negroamaro blend; ruby; inviting aromas of cherries, blackberries, raspberries, with notes of spice, candied violets, pepper and pleasing rustic earthiness; round acidity, dusty tannins, rich mouth-feel, medium body, nice slightly tart finish; very easy to drink and enjoy
These were all lovely wines. Elegant, easy to drink, well-structured and balanced on the palate delivering flavors from front, through middle then ending with nice finishes. Great for sipping with or without food. The whites would be perfect with poultry, seafood and shell fish, salads, vegetable soups, egg dishes, cheeses, etc. The reds would be great with pizza (very un-Italian), burgers, pork, any beef or game on the grill, meatloaf, etc. They all had synthetic corks, which I am not a fan and would prefer screw caps instead but it in no way deterred from these easy drinking wines.
The wines came to me earlier than expected so I had little time to plan a Puglian meal. However, having four lovely Puglian wines new to the Texas market I absolutely wanted to highlight them for #ItalianFWT. I quickly Googled Puglian cuisine and saw a few key words, sea bass, burrata, artichokes and orchiette. Good enough. I made my own “Puglian inspired” meal featuring these items prominent in Puglian cuisine. We began with a burrata salad: bed of fresh arugula topped with burrata, dried figs (wanted fresh but not in season yet), topped with a fig preserve, balsamic vinegar compote and served with crostini. First of all how can you go wrong with these ingredients! It was a delicious “salad” and I thought the two red wines paired exceptionally well with this dish. The figs and balsamic vinegar plus the pepper arugula and creamy burrata were truly perfect with the earthy, balsamic, dark fruit red wines of Nero di Troia and Negroamaro.
For our entrée (we were not following the Italian meal format) I made a cast iron seared sea bass with fresh garlic, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and topped with toasted chopped hazelnuts served with orchiette pasta tossed with EVOO, capers, roasted artichoke hearts, parmesan cheese and lightly dusted with some finely chopped hazelnuts. I did not have any recipes I just threw this together kind of last minute knowing it should all pair beautifully with the Cantina Ariano white wines. And you know what, it did! The crisp white wines were the perfect accompaniment to the fish and pasta. I found the Falaghina/Bombino slightly more enjoyable for sipping but the 100% Falaghina had a slight edge with the food pairing. Over all a great meal with FOUR great wines!
Let’s see what my fellow #ItalianFWT friends discovered in Puglia:
Paradise of Exiles – Three Wine Bars in Lecce Vino Travels – Penne Con I Broccoli & Salice Salento
Orna O’Reilly – A Taste of Puglia
Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Insalata con Polpi in Umido e Patate
Food Wine Click – Primitivo and Pasta from the Heel of the Boot
Cooking Chat – Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Kale
The Palladian Traveler – Savoring the Salento
Vigneto Communications – Indigenous Grapes of Puglia
Postcardz from Victoria – A Tuscan Wine Legend Finds Inspiration in Puglia
The Wining Hour – Pleasures of Puglia: Primitivo, Cavatelli and Shrimp & Eggplant Arrabbiata
I highly encourage you to seek out these four wines from Cantina Ariano. These wines are now available in Alabama, Florida, Washington, and Texas. Cantina Ariano is a small production boutique winery, family owned and operated with a personal touch extended to each wine. It is always great to support hard working small production family wineries, especially ones just entering the US market.
My Song Selection: Everything about these wines and the region where they are cultivated is wild, exciting, and wonderful!
Get your own Cantina Ariano wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!