New in: wines from Alberto Longo, Puglia
There are two new wines from Puglia producer we have introduced online. Both are already our contenders for wine of the year, but there's also a really interesting background to the region, how this strangely spelled denomination got its name and, of course, a few bits and bobs about this very special southern wine producer.
What's up DOC?
In Italy, the DOC wine system hasn't been as much of a success as the DOCG one. It has brought so many regional appellations, each claiming tradition and quality of production. But the oversight of standards has been, let's say, a little too relaxed.
The DOCG system is under almost authoritarian rule but it means quality is maintained and, almost always, very high.
Nonetheless, from time to time you discover a DOC and one of its exponents gets you all of a muddle and that is precisely the case with this wine and the DOC of Cacc'e Mmitte di Lucera. Yes, that's the name of the wine region!. Not Chianti, Cacc'e Mmitte di Lucera. Double C, double M, double T.
How Cacc'e Mmitte di Lucera got its name
The town of Lucera is in the northern part of Puglia. And at the start of the 20th century, local growers wanted to assure local townspeople and other traders that they could count on a consistent supply of wine.
But, this was a poor area, relatively speaking and taking your grapes to the local winery to be crushed was prohibitively expensive, as wealthy landowners wanted to protect their own winemaking interests.
So, in order not to be charged more than the bare minimum for the use of the winemaking machinery, farmers had to process them fast.
Therefore, they put the grapes in and as soon as they had finished pressing the grapes into juice, they took them out. In the local dialect, "to put" is abbreviated to "Mmitte" (from the Italian 'mettere') and to take away is abbreviated to "Cacc'" (from 'staccare' to knock-off, detach, or rip out). Get 'em in and out.
One by one, the grape growers would queue for their turn at the machine, so they could put in and pull out. This is how the phrase came about, the farmers quite literally "Cacc-ed and Mitte-ed" their way along, in order to support the local community. Throw it in and rip it out, throw it in and rip it out. And again.
The wines quickly became the only wines drunk in the area and when the opportunity to name the region arose in 1976, as legend has it, the local leader of the vineyards organisation when asked by the pen-pusher from Rome for a representative wine of the area, he said "dammi un bicchiere di Cacc'e Mmitte" ("give me a glass of rip it out and fill it up!").
They had their wine name and weren't letting it go.
Puglian wines, under a Tuscan sun
Southern Italian wines from Puglia have had a wonderfully modernising impact on the Italian wine industry bringing richer, riper red wines to the international market, and at considerably lower prices than customers were expecting to pay.
This is a Good Thing. However, not everyone wants big, jammy blockbusting reds all the time.
This is the basis that brought Alberto Longo's family to begin making their own wines in 2005. They sought out someone to assist in their project to show-off the terroirs and nuance available in Puglia, especially regarding acidity and balance, which the area wouldn't be known for.
They hired super winemaker Graziana Grassini. After studying viticulture, enology and industrial chemistry, she opened a wine analysis laboratory at the young age of 19.
She has worked for the legendary Giacomo Tachis, the legend behind the Supertuscans, Tignanello, Sassicaia, and Solaia.
The philosophy that she adopted, was really an old-school and French-based search for terroir and "climats" in vineyards and translating these facets into the resultant wines.
This seemingly obvious approach was actually quite revolutionary in the late 20th century and it drove an incredible increase in the quality of Tuscan wines in the decades that followed, which is still being seen today.
Alberto Longo are simply doing the same in Puglia.
Puglian prima inter pares
What makes Longo's wines, a Puglian prima inter pares, is the balance and freshness that they have managed to achieve in the wines with a pulpy, juicy yet structured palate. This is just really, really unique and new for Puglia.
At times, you'd be forgiven for thinking that these wines were made by Burgundian-trained winemakers, such is the elegance, finesse, and balance.
We look forward to more wines from Alberto Longo. We're officially impressed.