One of my favourite cantinas in Puglia (and there are many) is Cantina Albea, in Alberobello, and I find it ridiculous, extraordinary, and very Pugliese that, desite winning prestigious prizes (including the coveted tre bicchieri Gambero Rosso and Veronelli super tre stelle)their wines are not well known or easily available outside Puglia. Hopefully this will change soon (watch this space!)
I have yet to taste a wine of theirs I don’t like, from the showstopping Nero di Troia Lui (winner of the aforementioned prizes), to their excellent Primitivo, Petranera or their ‘every day’ range of younger wines which offer exceptional value for money. So I was curious and relatively keen to try their new offering – a Methode champenoise white.
Curious because this wine is an absolute first – like the well known whites from Locorotondo it combines a selection of native grape varieties, vinified together, not blended, in this case verdeca (30%), bianco d’Alessano (35%), fiano minutolo (20%) and Maruggio (15%). A feat never before attempted in sparkling form.
Relatively keen because I am predominantly a red wine sort of girl and, although I enjoy many white wines, I am not a great fan of sparkling wine. Heresy to many perhaps, but whenever anyone has ordered or bought me Champagne I have made all the right noises, and appreciated the gesture immensely, but secretly wished they had spent the equivalent amount on a really good red, or even a still white…
Having said all that, like everyone else, I associate sparkling wine with celebrations, treats and high spirits (besides which I childishly enjoy opening the bottle, in a controlled ‘I know how to do this’ way, rather than using a footballer’s ‘ let’s all take a shower’ technique). So my bottle of Donna Gislena has been sitting in my wine rack waiting for the right moment and that was yesterday. I was really tired, fed up and, despite having lots to celebrate, feeling very flat. Bring on the bubbles….
I should say at this point that I would not claim to be any kind of wine expert, more of a ‘I know what I like’ type. Furthermore wine tasting notes of the ‘a hint of sun warmed leather shoe with a soupcon of cedar’ make me laugh rather than want to drink the wine. For this reason I have held off till now despite my enthusiasm and love of Puglian wines. So be gentle with me…..
I opened (satisfying yet discreet pop) and poured…. Perfect pale golden colour, small and plentiful bubbles. The first sniff was gorgeous and complex, yellow fruit, mango maybe, orange blossom (that’s the fiano minutolo for you) with a hint of something citrussy as well…At this point my keenness level shot up dramatically.
One sip and I was in love….The perfectly ripe yellow fruit is there in the taste as well, distinctly peachy, and the something citrussy becomes a hint of lime. The perfect balance – fresh without being sharp, more than a touch of fruit without the sweetness, and the lasting scent of flowers and persistent, yet unaggressive, bubbles.. I was actually enjoying this so much I pushed my food aside as the taste got in the way.
All I can say is that anyone can bring me a bottle of this anytime, anywhere and I will be genuinely thrilled this time. They may have a job though….Production will always be deliberately limited, the 1000 bottles produced this year will increase to perhaps twice this. Although the situation is changing fast it is often difficult to find these wines anyway. For the time being you might just have to come to Puglia where Donna Gislena will almost certainly appear on the wine lists of the best restaurants. Alternatively go and visit the cantina, enjoy their wine museum, take part in the weekly wine tasting in English planned for later this year and buy direct… At least one bottle to enjoy on the last night of your holiday…
For those that want them, technical details follow… I will post updates about stockists below as I have them, and you can email email@example.com for details of weekly group tours, or to book private winery visits and wine tastings.
DONNA GISLENA MEDICI
Grapes: Minutolo, Bianco d’Alessano,
Growing area: Locorotondo e Martina Franca.
Training system: guyot espalier
Yield per hectare: 5500 – 6000 kg
Harvest period: end of September,
Vinification: refermentation in the bottle starts the summer after harvest and
resting on the lees lasts 24 months.
Sugar content: BrutAgeing: 5 months in bottle.
RRP – around 26 euro
Cantina Albea Via due Macelli, 8 – 70111 Alberobello (Bari), +39 0804323548
+39 3408087723 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.albeavini.com