Fortunately, once I arrived to Brindisi, I found medical care and fresh water, clean hotel rooms and the familiar food and wine of Italy. And so I was nursed back to health.
Puglia has helped many people with their health, I imagine. And all these years later, there is an even more conscious effort to make the food and wine from Puglia cleaner, leaner and healthier.
And what of the wines? I told my traveling group about the first time I remember drinking wine from Puglia. I was in the town of Copertino and we were walking by a winery, probably a cantine sociale. For the equivalent of $0.50 one could fill up a liter bottle of red or white. I remember the red. It was dark, not too high in alcohol, with ample fruit, not so much acidity. It was dry. And it was spicy. Not too spicy, but enough to make it an interesting spend at half a dollar. Good medicine.
Over the years I have come back to Puglia, to Lecce, to Sava, to the tourist town of Alberobello and the little towns around it. I’ve swam in the sea, eaten all manner of foods from that sea, along with some of the best vegetables anywhere in Italy. And of course, the olive oil. Yes, the great gift from Puglia to the world.
And the wines, they aren’t so deeply self-conscious; hence they don’t appear to be “important.” There aren’t the Barolos and Brunellos; there are no “super” categorizations. No, these are wines that serve the culture; they are integrated into the fabric of life here in Puglia and they almost disappear into a seamless space. Oh, and they aren’t priced for the collector culture. They simply are. And that’s a wonderful thing for anything to be, human or wine.
Wine from Negroamaro, Fiano, Primitivo, Nero di Troia, Verdeca - understated, nothing high pitched or desirous of calling attention to its status. Just pull the cork and put it on the table. Over and over again. It’s part of an uncluttered life, leaving no stashes of ancient red wines in widows cellars to be unearthed and sold across the sea for collectors and sommeliers to bid on and to snap pictures of from their latest cell phone to post onto their Instagram or Delectable page. They’re not important in that 21st Century “look at me” sense. They’re not the Lamborghini. But they’re the fuel that powers the life and soul and culture of the people they serve. They’re life enhancers and for me, life savers. And how much greater can a thing be than that, in the long run?
written and photographed (Puglia - 1977) by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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