Weekend in Castel del Monte, vinegrowing in the Murge
“For example, I like the south,” sang Rino Gaetano, because in the south you can “walk with that farmer who may be going along the same road as me, talk about grapes, talk about wine that is still a luxury for those who make it.” And in the south you should go to experience once more the proximity between wine and sacredness. Castel del Monte, for example, is a designation in Apulia, north of the province of Bari and inside the Alta Murgia National Park. Here, between the border territories with Basilicata and near to Campania, hard work and passion are not enough to cultivate the land and vine, great dedication is also needed in order to handle the weather and environmental conditions. Harsh winters, very hot (though breezy) summers, large temperature swings and calcareous soils make vinegrowing very difficult, but high-quality fruit makes up for it.
From Frederick II to the Antinori family: who decided to focus on this area
The famous octagonal-shaped castle built by Frederick II of Swabia in the XIII century and, further away, the ancient Vulture volcano watch over the territory. The white stone constructions dominate the plateau where an important breed of horse roams, the
Murgese, and where vinegrowing is becoming more and more important, in addition to the traditional olive growing. The most common red grape varieties are Uva di Troia, Bombino Bianco and Nero and Aglianico, while the whites also include international varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon, together with Fiano Pugliese.
This is an area where important Italian winemaking families have invested in recent years, for example at the Tormaresca winery, owned by the Antinori Marquesses, made up of two estates located in the most suitable winegrowing areas in Apulia: Masseria Maime in Salento and Tenuta Bocca di Lupo in the Castel del Monte designation, surrounded by the wild Murgia Barese area. It is in Minervino Murge that the winemaker Renzo Cotarella decided to take a gamble on a complex variety to make it elegant and graceful: Aglianico Bocca di Lupo. Also worth tasting is the Pietrabianca made from Chardonnay and Fiano Pugliese.
Going towards Corato, in the Torre del Vento district, you come to an old eighteenth-century Benedictine monastery housing the Torrevento winery, where it is possible to go on guided tours and taste wines and local specialities immersed in history, vineyards, olive groves and pastures. There is a very wide range here and the quality is high; a must taste, among others, is Primaronda, a rosé made from Bombino Nero.
One of the first wineries to focus on rosé wines in Apulia was Rivera. But it is also with the Nero di Troia dedicated to the Puer Apuliae (the son of Apulia), i.e. Frederick II of Swabia, that the winery deserves to be numbered among the excellent ones in Apulia. This wine is made from a Nero di Troia clone, a black grape variety typical in this part of Apulia, which risked oblivion, but today is being grown in the Tafuri vineyard with excellent results.
Organic and biodynamic Apulia
20 kilometres from the sea, between Andria and Castel del Monte, there is another historic winery that has decided to adopt the biodynamic philosophy to produce not just wine but also fruit, vegetables and extra virgin olive oil. The Agrinatura organic farm, owned by Giancarlo Ceci, can be visited by prior booking, with guided tours in the cellar, the rows of vines and finishing off with a tasting of wines and typical local products.
Also Santa Lucia is a historic farm of 15 hectares under biodynamic management. For the two brothers, Giuseppe and Roberto Perrone Capano, the Castel del Monte red wine and the Riservas are made from 100% Uva di Troia, while Gazza Ladra is 100% Fiano.
The Cantine Carpentiere winery is in Corato, in a privileged position with a view of the imposing Castel del Monte. The organic wines are made from the native Nero di Troia and Bombino Nero grapes; the latter is also blended with the international Merlot grape. Come d’incanto is an unusual wine made from off-the-skins vinification of Uva di Troia grapes.
Where to eat during a weekend in Castel del Monte
Ristorante Antichi Sapori in the Montegrosso district of Andria: it is the realm of Pietro Zito, who doesn’t like being called a chef, but preserves and passes on recipes and gastronomical culture learned from his parents and grandparents worthy of the greatest cooks around.
Ostaria Povero Pesce, in Corato: wholesome and simple, for those who love fresh fish but don’t want to spend a fortune.
Masseria Barbera, in Minervino: to try the thrill of eating in an old manor farm. Typical Mediterranean cuisine and complete relaxation.
Where to sleep
B&B Palazzo Ducale, in the centre of Andria
See also ...
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