Rome is eternal. Tuscany’s terrific. But there’s lots more to Italy. And every region has its own trademark wines.
Picture yourself in the Pulia region, a long peninsula at the southeast tip of Italy, between the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Mapmakers say that, if Italy is shaped like a boot, then Pulia is its heel.
Imagine an outdoor café in a small town of sunblasted, whitewashed buildings, with sandy beaches stretching down to the sea. Lunch arrives — antipasto platters of boiled octopus, raw calamari, tomato bruschetta, then a “second plate” of pasta with tomato-rabbit sauce, finally the main course of skewered lamb and sausage and veal.
Taste the potent, inky red wines they serve with them.
These wines, from the Salento province in southernmost Pulia, are from native Italian varietals including negroamaro, primitivo and aleatico, all powerful reds.
If you visit, you might help pick those grapes.
Pulia is deeply into the “Agriturismo” system in which big farms, including wineries, host visitors in fancy rooms, feed them local foods and let them help with the farm work.
An important local farm and winery is Masseria Li Veli, founded in 1999 by the Falvo family. Here are some of its wines:
• 2010 Li Veli “Primonero” Red Wine (50 percent primitivo, 50 percent negroamaro), Salento IGT: deep purple hue, aromas of roses, flavors of black cherries and spice, soft and rich; $10.
• 2010 Li Veli “Passamante” Red wine (100 percent negroamaro), Salice Salentino DOC: deep ruby hue, aromas and flavors of ripe red plums and spice, smooth and rich; $12.
• 2008 Le Veli “Pezzo Morgana” Reserva Red Wine (100 percent negromaro), Salice Salentino DOC: deep ruby hue, aromas and flavors of dried red fruits and brown sugar, long finish; $20.
• 2011 Li Veli “Askos Verdeca” White Wine (90 percent verdeca, 10 percent fiano minutolo) Valle d’Itria IGT: floral aromas, flavors of ripe apricots and mangos, hint of minerals, fruity and crisp; $18.
Next day, picture yourself in a bustling trattoria in the shadow of the cathedral in the ancient city of Assisi, home of St. Francis, namesake of newly canonized Pope Francis. The waiter brings you a two-pound T-bone steak from the region’s famous white cow called Chianini.
With it she proudly pours the region’s locally famous but little-known elsewhere red wine called Sagrantino di Montefalco, with all the tannin and heft to handle the well-marbled beef.
Assisi is in Umbria, southeast of Florence and Tuscany. Winemaking here dates back to Roman times, and the sagrantino grape was born here, probably a natural cross of other local red grapes. Here are some examples:
• 2005 Arnaldo-Caprai “Collepiano” Sagrantino di Montefalco, DOCG Umbria (100 percent sagrantino): deep ruby hue, aromas and flavors of red raspberries and cinnamon, full-bodied and rich, firm tannins, long, smooth finish; $50.
• 2006 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino Red Wine, DOCG Umbria, (100 percent sagrantino): deep purple hue, hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black plums and black raspberries, big, ripe tannins, long finish, $37.
• 2006 Tenuta CastelBuono Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG Trento, Italia: deep purple hue, aromas and flavors of black raspberries, espresso and cloves, firm tannins; $37.
Fred Tasker has retired from The Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.