Puglia has an amazing food culture going back centuries. This, and three UNESCO sites, 500 miles of coastline and upwards of 45,000 olive trees mean it has a lot to capture hearts. And it has a slew of wine grapes, many indigenous to Puglia. It also has wine philosopher Francesco Dibenedetto at his l’archetipo winery in the Taranto province.
Dibenedetto started l’archetipo in 2010 after years of farming organically and biodynamically. A severe health issue resulted in his exploration of alternative methods for healing. This blossomed into an inquiry about soil, vine, and overall winery health. The result? A synergistic approach to viticulture and very nice wines.
My recent l’archetipo visit with Radici del Sud was enlightening, or should I say philosophical. Francesco’s passion is commendable, a man understanding that we have one body and one world and need to take care of both.
Just What Is Synergistic Agriculture?
Organic yes, biodynamic, sort of. It’s much more. It’s synergy with all other organisms. Now don’t run off! This gets interesting.
It’s All About The Soil
Synergistic methods resemble what occurs in a forest, where nature grows, dies, falls to the ground, and returns everything back to the soil. l’archetipo plants beneficial crops between vines and a phenomenon called “surface composting” occurs. It’s nothing more than a sequence, albeit complicated, of biological transformations. It starts with any organic substance (plant or animal matter) that falls to the ground, decomposes and eventually becomes humus. Nothing is added to the soil because it creates its own microbe-rich microsystem. No digging, tilling, or external inputs. Nothing. Just nature.
Right about here is where you could question some of these practices but a plausible example is given.
When you bring a cow into a feedlot often times they get sick and require antibiotics. On the other hand, if you leave it in pasture in open air with untreated grasses they are mostly healthier.
If plants are in balance the incidence of disease, mold, and rot is generally lower thus the need to apply products, even organic, is less.
It’s apparent from my Puglia trip the region presents a surprising patrimony of biodiversity with many indigenous grape varieties. l’archetipo grows several; here are a few we tasted. All their vineyards are certified organic with ICEA (Institute for Ethical and Environmental Certification). Fermentation is via indigenous yeasts and minimal sulfates are used.
Marasco Brut Nature 2016 Salento IGP | 12% abv
100% Maresco (Note the grape is formerly called Maruggio, it’s so old and in such small quantities it wasn’t on the Italian Wine Grape Registry but was recently added.)
Wow! Just wow!
It’s a high acid grape and maintains that acid in warmer climates late into the season. A 40-day low temperature fermentation on skins followed by two months in sealed tank with lees stirring results in flowery brioche, nectarine, pineapple, and ripe green apple aromas; the palate is unbelievably fresh with apple, lemon and a faint salinity. Well made and balanced, both fine mousse and length lasted. Made via the Metodo Ancestrale method.
Verdecca Sette Lune 2015 Salento IGP | 11.5% abv
100% Verdeca from 2 hectares of 22 year old vines
One of my favorites because it’s bold and different. Made in a reductive style with seven months maceration on skins, the juice was pressed then put back into a stainless tank for two years with lees stirring every 15 days. This is what’s called an “orange” wine.
Lemon gold in color, dried stone fruit aromas are accented by honeyed and flinty notes. It’s medium acid, full-bodied, and rich in extract and tannins. It marries textural acidity to a mix of dried citrus and stone fruits finishing dry and flinty. This would pair nicely with seafood or meats in Korean food (bibimbop), curries, and certain Thai dishes.
Negro Amaro Niuru Maru – Salento IGP 2015 | 13% abv
100% Negro Amaro from 2 hectares of 17 year old vines
Negro Amaro is one of three flagship red grapes in Puglia (Primitivo and Nera di Troia are the other two). Here a 25-day fermentation on the skins is followed by aging in stainless vats on lees for 6-months. The wine is pressed then put into large wooden barrels for 3-months.
Ripe dark fruits dominate (boysenberry and black cherry) with nuances of aromatic dried herbs and clove. Tannins are finely grained with a dusty feel perfectly balanced with the acidity, smoothly sliding into home plate. Fine quality and easy to drink,
Primitivo Mistico Salento IGP – 2013 | 16% abv
100% Primitivo from 6 hectares of 15 year old vines
It’s a mixed berry bowl of aromas that jump out of the glass. A rustic, chewy, and bright palate with a bit of forest spice smooths creating lasting length. Amazed at the freshness! The grapes stayed longer on the vines, drying slightly as they matured, and harvest took place a month later that usual. They only do this in certain years.
Our visit to l’archetipo moved from tasting to dinner prepared by Dibenedetto’s daughter. I thanked her as we left sharing it’s not every day you get to enjoy a home made, authentic Italian meal with the very family that made the wine. She was quick to add every ingredient came from the l’archetipo farm with the exception of the flour, from which she made pasta and focaccia. I know I’ll search for these wines to share with my friends, and perhaps cook a bit of Italian food too.
Alla prossima volta! Until the next time!
Radici del Sud rocks!