Guado San Leo

IMG_0278[1]I’m taking a brief break from Wine Spectators Top 100 to explore a wine from Puglia (Apulia), Italy .

What do you know of Puglia ? Don’t worry; I didn’t know much about this area either. All I knew of Puglia was that Primitivo, an Italian Zinfandel which is one of my favorite wines, was from there, but not much more.

Puglia is the “high heal” of the Italian boot, on the southeast coast of Italy along the Adriatic Sea . The area is known for many of the same reasons for exploring as does great wine: Character, Uniqueness, Insight, and Value. It’s also one of the richest archaeological areas of Italy . Remember Hannibal and the elephants? That battle, the battle of Cannae, was fought in Puglia . Emperor Frederick II, the most powerful leader of the Holy Roman Empire (and a Sicilian), lived in Puglia at Castel del Monte. Frederick was also the King of Jerusalem. Not bad for a kid from Palermo !

Well you know me, once I read about someplace I have to try the wine.

The wine is called Guado San Leo from the Vineyard D’Alfonso Del Sordo. The grape is Uva di Troia [OO-vah dee TROY-uh], a red wine grape variety grown in the Italian region of Puglia , particularly in the coastal areas around Barletta in the Province of Bari . The name probably derives from the town of Troia in the Province of Foggia , whose legendary founder was the Greek hero, Diomedes, who destroyed ancient Troy . The name is sometimes translated “Grape of Troy” for an association with ancient Greece , but most claim that “Troia” actually means “lady of the night” in the sailors’ slang of Bari , Puglia ‘s seaport city.

Legend ascribes its colonization to this hero of the Trojan War, the founder of many towns in Puglia . Diomede, a castaway sailing across the Adriatic Sea, discovered the mouth of the Ofanto River . Sailing upstream until he found an ideal place to settle, he used the stones from the walls Troy as ballast, for boundary stones, to mark the territory that he named “Campi Diomedei.” One of these stones can still be admired between Barletta and Canosa and is known as the Menhir of Canne Della Battaglia. But stones likely weren’t the only plunder Diomedes brought with him from the sacking of Troy .

The story goes that vine shoots planted on the banks of the Ofanto gave rise to the Troia Grapes. This is the legend that also echoes in some recent ampelographers works. One report, which also names the synonyms of the Troia grapes (Vitigno di Canosa, Tranese, Black of Troia, Troiano, Uva di Barletta, Uva della Marina), describe it as “native to Troia and imported to Apulia by the ancient Greeks,” (S. Del Gaudio, L. Ciasca, “Principali vitigni da vino coltivati in Italia”, Vol. I, Conegliano 1960.) A wine born from Greek heroes, now this I had to try.

The color is elegant deep ruby with purple highlights. The bouquet is pleasant, with moderate berry fruit and a hint of spice. On the palate the taste is ample and quite smooth, with rich cherry prune fruit supported by warm, slightly tannic acidity and warmth. Finally, smooth-dry tannins flow into a clean, fresh, dry tannic finish. This had to have been one of the most balanced wines I have ever enjoyed. This is a full body wine, so pair with beef and game dishes. I enjoyed mine with a great beef stew.

My advice is to give this wine a try. Lift a toast to Diomedes, Hannibal and Fredrick II, and enjoy a taste of history in a glass.

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