Why Pugliese Chardonnay?

best chardonnay italy

Above: On the Facebook today, Cantele Wines posted images of the last Chardonnay bunches from the 2013 harvest. They are destined to become the winery’s flagship wine, the Teresa Manara Chardonnay.

When people first become familiar with the wines of the Cantele family, they are often surprised to discover that the winery produces a Chardonnay.

Primitivo? Of course! The great red workhorse of Pugliese wine.

Negroamaro? It goes without saying! Negroamaro is the quintessential red grape of the Salento peninsula and it produces one of the greatest wines of Italy.

Historically, Puglia has been known for its production of red grapes. And there was a time (and not so long ago that people don’t remember) when red wine was shipped from Puglia up to Northern Italy and even as far away as France. It was often blended into red wines that needed higher alcohol levels or more color.

Indeed, Puglia was a powerhouse in commercial wine production throughout the modern era.

If you drank a red wine in a Paris restaurant at the height of the phylloxera crisis during the mid-nineteenth century, it’s not unlikely that you drank a wine grown in Puglia.

basilica santa croce lecce

Above: When you visit the historical center of Lecce, you are literally surrounded by Salento limestone.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s when Augusto Cantele began experimenting with new approaches to grape harvest that Chardonnay became a commercially viable grape variety in Puglia and he is widely recognized as the Chardonnay pioneer of the Salento peninsula.

He believed — and his vision for white wine in Puglia has become a reality — that the limestone subsoils of Puglia’s Salento Peninsula were ideal for the cultivation of Chardonnay.

Indeed, the entire Salento peninsula lies on limestone.

That same limestone is what gives the city of Lecce it’s golden baroque architecture.

It’s also what has made Puglia one of the world’s greatest olive oil producers since antiquity.

In coming weeks, I’ll be posting on the origins of Cantele’s Chardonnay and how Augusto Cantele changed the landscape of Pugliese white wines in the 1990s. Stay tuned!

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