Cyril Ray: “Puglia, where wine is as natural and as necessary as bread”

I just had to share this nugget, discovered recently while leafing through an autographed copy of the great twentieth-century British wine writer Cyril Ray’s 1979 book Ray on Wine (which I picked up in a rare book store on a trip to San Francisco earlier this year).

Ray had worked in Puglia as a correspondent during the Second World War and he cites that time of his life as a formative experience in his knowledge of wine and winemaking.

Remembering his time with the British campaign in the “heel of Italy,” he wrote, “we picked grapes from roadside vineyards to quench our thirst as the Eighth Army clanked and rumbled its way northwards in a cloud of dust… It was still a country where wine was a part of life and where men grew wine as a matter of course…”

“It is salutary for an Englishman to live for a while in a wine-growing country, even — or perhaps particularly — a wine-growing country as simple as Apulia, where wine is neither a symbol by which snobs can demonstrate their wealth or their taste, nor a means of fuddlement, but as natural and as necessary as bread.”

cyril ray writer britainImage via Wikipedia.

Faugno (favonio), Puglia’s western wind

Gianrico CarofiglioAbove: Gianni (right) with Pugliese novelist and jurist Gianrico Carofiglio at the Coldiretti stand at EXPO this week. Check out the Wikipedia entry on Gianrico. He’s super cool.

Winemaker Gianni Cantele has been spending this week with his family in Legnano just outside of Milan where he’s attending Puglia Week at the Coldiretti stand at EXPO (the World’s Fair). Gianni is the president of the Puglia chapter of Coldiretti, the Italian federation of food growers.

There’s a heatwave going on right now in Italy.

And Gianni has intuited that his northern counterparts imagine that it must be even hotter in Puglia.

Actually, the forecast calls for a high of 92° F. today in Legnano and a high of 87° F. in Lecce (the province where the Cantele winery and most of its vineyards are located).

“It’s going to be no easy task today to explain to them what the faugno is,” he mused on his Facebook today.

The Pugliese dialect term faugno is akin to the Italian favonio, which in turn comes from the Latin favonius meaning the western wind. It’s what the Greeks called the zephyr.

The faugno (also written faugna) wind is a hot wind that arrives from the west during the summer.

When Puglia Week at EXPO is over, Gianni will head back down to Puglia to begin preparing for the harvest.

We’ll be following the weather conditions in Salento closely… Stay tuned!

Lamarée on the Gulf of Taranto: A fantastic beach vacation spot

best beach spot pugliaPeople ask us all the time about the best beach spots in Puglia.

One of our favorites is Lamarée Lido e Ristorante, a beautiful and amenity-filled resort and restaurant on the Gulf of Taranto.

Unlike America, where you bring your own towels and chairs to the beach, many Italian beaches have resorts like Lamarée where they provide you with beach chairs, towels, umbrellas, and even showers.

And of course, there are refreshments and the resort’s wonderful fresh seafood restaurant (where they also happen to serve Cantele).

Both of these photos (above and below) come from Lamarée’s social media. Check out their Twitter for mouth-watering shots of their seafood and gorgeous images from the sun-bathing area.

We highly recommend it!

Lamarée Lido
Via dei Girasoli, snc
74122 Lama TA
+39 099 221 2907

best beach wine puglia summer

Puglia week at EXPO (World’s Fair)

angelo inglese shirtsNext week, Coldiretti (the Italian national federation of farmers and food producers) will be hosting “Puglia week” in their EXPO pavilion.

If you happen to visit the fair then, don’t miss the many seminars and tastings.

A sampling of the events follows. And even though it doesn’t include food, one of the most interesting will surely be the talk by Angelo Inglese, the celebrated Pugliese shirtmaker (above) who recently became the shirt-maker to Prince William.

Click here for the complete schedule (on Facebook; in Italian).

Monday, July 20: DOP Bread: the history of one of the most imitated products from Puglia.

Tuesday, July 21: Angelo Inglese, Pugliese shirt-maker to the British Royal Family

Wednesday, July 22: Women Entrepreneurs in Pugliese Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.

Thursday, July 23: Cheese Day (18 traditional cheeses that risk extinction).

Friday, July 24: A seminar on Pugliese fisheries.

Saturday, July 25: The “Smallest Restaurant in the World” and potato workshop.

A black and white story with a Technicolor ending

The Cantele story begins in black-and-white, like a Neorealist film. WWII was at its peak and Italians listened in secret to American radio. They couldn’t make out the song lyrics but they could understand the words love and hope.

When the fighting was done, Giovanni Cantele set out from his home in war-torn northeastern Italy in search of a better life. He landed in the city of Imola (in the region of Romagna, north-central Italy) where he found steady work in the wine trade and where he would meet the love of his life, Teresa Manara.

She would later accompany him on one of his trips to the Salento peninsula, the heel of Italy’s boot, his source for wines to sell in the north, where the wine industry struggled to meet the new demand for rich, deep-colored wines. She was so taken with the stark beauty of Salento and its masterworks of baroque architecture that she convinced Giovanni to relocate the family there.

And so, as many southern Italians headed north to find work in the factories of Milan and Turin, the Cantele family made its way south and settled down in Lecce.

It was there that Giovanni and Teresa’s sons — Augusto and Domenico — would first begin to bottle their own wine and later buy vineyards and build a winery. By that time, Augusto had returned to the family after studying winemaking in the north, where he developed his immense passion for white wines. Cantele’s ground-breaking, cask-fermented Chardonnay “Teresa Manara” is named for his mother and her legacy as one of the great matriarchs of Italian wine.

Today, the Cantele cousins, Luisa and Umberto (Domenico’s children) and Gianni and Paolo (Augusto’s sons), make wine in their state-of-the-art winery in Guagnano, completed in 2003.

A Technicolor coda to a story that began when the world was still black and white.

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Above, from left: Gianni, Paolo, Luisa, Domenico, and Umberto Cantele.

Scenes from iSensi, Cantele’s tasting room, by Kathy Ayer, a favorite food and wine blogger

best wine tasting class pugliaWe couldn’t resist sharing these photos by one of our favorite Italian food and wine bloggers, Kathy Ayer, author of Food Lover’s Odyssey and one of the leading “food sherpas” working in Europe today.

Kathy took part in a tasting and cooking class today at the Cantele tasting room, iSensi, at the winery in Guagnano (Lecce province).

best verdeca puglia wineWe’re devoted followers of Kathy’s and so we saw the photos in our feed.

Based in Provence, Kathy leads food- and wine-themed trips across Europe. And as she writes on her blog, when she’s not working, she’s busy “eating her way through France and Italy.”

best salumi pugliaCeleste, above, was Kathy’s group’s sommelier today at the tasting.

You can learn more about Kathy and what she does on her blog, Food Lover’s Odyssey, where she’s been active chronicling her travels for many years now.

recipe southern italian bracioleBut more than anything, we just enjoy following her on social media because she’s always sharing wonderful and, often times, out-of-the-way spots for great food and wine experiences in Europe.

In other words, we wish we were her! :)

Find and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Kathy, we’re so glad you made it to iSensi!

Negroamaro grows in Brooklyn

best wine shop brooklynWe wanted to give a shout-out to our friends Erika Lesser and Jim Hutchinson at Kings County Wines in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.

Earlier this year, they purchased the wine shop (and renamed it; it used to be called T.B. Ackerson).

As more and more New Yorkers with young children (like Erika and Jim) are setting down their roots in the east part of the city and moving deeper and deeper into Brooklyn, the thirst for fine wine continues to grow there.

We recently caught up with Jim, who told us that they are loving Cantele wines there.

“How does Cantele manage to make such great wines and sell them at such great prices?” he asked us.

The answer, we told him, is that the Cantele cousins are just plain honest folks who love good wine.

Congrats on the launch of your new shop, guys!

Kings County Wines
1205 Cortelyou Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11218
(718) 826-6600
Google map

Image via the Kings County Wines Facebook.