Have you every had an AHA moment? What’s that you say? An AHA moment is when something takes the dramatic step from facts to knowledge. It’s the feeling you get when you first truly understand something. I’m sure you’ve all experienced this at some time in your lives. I’ve just had an AHA moment. And of course, mine was about wine. I’ve been studying wine from Puglia lately, in particular wines made by D’Alfonso Del Sordo. Southern Italy is like the South here in the United States, a fine place that doesn’t get any respect. I remember one of the commentators after University of Alabama beat Norte Dame in the BCS championship game, “enjoy the win, but tomorrow you’ll still be living in Alabama.” He made it sound like that was a bad thing. Southern Italy deals with the same perception.
Both Puglia and Sicily, another place I’ve grown to love, are home to bulk wine. Some unkind individuals would say “plunk,” but that isn’t fair. Most of the wines end up being used in Vermouth and blended with wines in Northern Italy and in France. Both Puglia and Sicily trying to buck the trend, and are now engaged in making better wines. Both have dozens of DOCs and vintners are starting to make some very good wines form the local grapes.
Our tale consists of two wines from D’Alfonso Del Sordo, “Casteldrione” and “Guado San Leo.” Both are made from the Black Troia Grape and both are from the San Severo countryside. However the wines are very different. “Casteldrione” gets its name from the legend of the marriage of Diomede and Driona, king Dauno’s daughter. She had a small temple with an alter to Calcante built on a slightly-elevated hill, called Drion. On that spot called Castrum Drionis, or Casteldrione, San Severo rose.
The story here is the science and art of wine making. Being from the same grape these wines should be very similar, but they are not, and each gives you a completely distinct experience. The Casteldroine is a clear ruby red, very clear, with a hint of orange. The Guado San Leo is a darker red with a hint of purple. The aroma of the Casteldronie is slight–red fruit and a little spice—while the San Leo is a stronger, fuller scent of sour cherries. The Casteldronie is smooth and light on the palate with not very much of a finish. The Guado, on the other hand, is a full-flavored, strong tannin; very dry, extremely well balanced and has a long finish. Both are very good wines, but the question remains, why so different?
The Guado San Leo is the better knitted wine. The grapes are hand-harvested in crates that the only contain fifteen kilos. The grapes are then carefully selected; the stalks are removed and gently pressed. The wine goes through a long macerating period, then is fermented in new barriques for nine months. The vines at San Leo are about 15 years old. Casteldrione vineyard is about 25 years old. The macerating period is long but not as long as the San Leo. The wine is fermented with the skins of the grapes, and aged in large oak barrels for six months before getting stored and aged in bottles.
If you asked me which the better wine was, I couldn’t say, I liked them both. Like any good wine enthusiast, I’m going to encourage you to try both wines. Conduct your own tasting and experience the difference technique can have on the flavor and character of wine. Trust me it will be worth the expense and time it takes, as it will help you to better appreciate your own tasting abilities and the skills of the vine maker.