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Raise a glass: the essential guide to Puglia wines

wine tasting in Puglia

Tuscany and Piedmont usually steal the show when it comes to Italian wines but Puglia has nothing to envy to other regions. Wine has been grown here for centuries, since the Phoenicians and Greeks ruled here. Homer himself spoke of this region as a place of “eternal spring” which evidently favored an abundance and variety of refined wines. Under the ruling of the ancient Romans, Puglia wines were among the most famous and appreciated, but then the decline of the Western Roman Empire marked the decline of enology in this region. Until today, that is.

Nowadays Puglia is one of the Italian regions that produces more wine than any other. Even if a lot of Puglia wine is still used as a blending wine to strengthen weaker wines, lately many producers are investing in quality and there are many notable wines.

wine-sommelier-in-pugliaPuglia wines tell a story, that of a land shaped by many winds and two seas. A true paradise for winemakersGiammarco Montanaro, sommelier and restaurateur

Here the wine scene is dominated by red grapes, but there are some interesting white wines too. Chardonnay, even though it’s not local to Puglia, is, in fact, the most cultivated and widespread white grape of the region. There’s also no shortage of international grapes, especially Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon but Puglia is most famous for Negroamaro, Primitivo and Nero di Troia.

Puglia has more vineyards than all the other Italian regions, after Sicily, and it is the country’s leading producer, so a trip to the heel of Italy is the perfect occasion to learn more about wine. That’s why we included wine tastings on our tours. It’s a must for any traveler!

This guide will take a look at the different local wine varieties, so you can appreciate Puglia wines even more, whether at home or on vacation.



Table of contents
A primer on Italian wine classifications
> Primitivo in Puglia
> Aleatico di Puglia
> Sangiovese in Puglia
> Negroamaro
> Puglia white wines
> Wine tasting Puglia

A primer on Italian wine classifications

Before we delve into Puglia wines, it’s worth reminding that Italy has very specific wine classifications and knowing the difference between them can help you learn more about wine production and help you shop too.

Vino da tavola – table wine, unfussy and unpretentious, found at family-style restaurants. It’s usually produced locally and meant to be drank during a meal.

IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica. This classification denotes the particular provenance of the grapes. Most IGT wines are simple, made from grapes grown locally and intended to be drunk young.

DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata. This classification denotes a wine produced in a specific, well-defined region in Italy, according to strict rules.

DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. The highest wine classification in Italy, marking a wine that is guaranteed to follow stringent winemaking rules.

Primitivo in Puglia

This grape produces tannic wines, like the Primitivo di Manduria and its naturally sweet Dolce Naturale variant. There’s one word that’s perfect to describe Primitivo wine and that is intense: in alcohol (up to 18%), in flavor and in color. Primitivo is a wine that likes to travel, it was probably imported to Puglia from Croatia and was later introduced to the United States under the Zinfandel name, so you may already be familiar with it though it won’t compare to what you’ll come across in Puglia.

Perfect pairings: bombette, sartù di riso, ragù if you’re in Puglia, but generally speaking this wine pairs well with hearty meat dishes. The sweet variety pairs well with sweets, particularly those with almonds, walnuts, chestnuts and pistachios.

Aleatico di Puglia

This is a sweet wine, red or dark orange in color, with notes of dried figs, tamarind, cherries and berries.  

The DOP production code states that the only suitable soils are limestone-clay-silica, deep and fairly dry, and with good exposure.

There are only two variants, the Dolce Naturale (naturally sweet) and Liquoroso Dolce (sweet fortified), both containing a minimum of 85% Aleatico.

Perfect pairings: sweets with bitter honey, mature pecorino cheese and chocolate.

Sangiovese in Puglia

The Sangiovese grape produces a wine with an intense ruby-red color, tannic, full-bodied, harmonious, with pleasant bitter and fruity notes; when aged, it releases new flavors.

Sangiovese is widespread in Italy, but in Puglia the wines made with this grape are:

  • Alezio DOC
  • Brindisi DOC
  • Copertino DOC
  • Daunia IGT
  • Lizzano DOC
  • Valle d’Itria IGT
  • Tarantino IGT
  • San Severo SOC
  • Salento IGT
  • Rosso di Cerignola DOC
  • Puglia IGT
  • Orto Nova DOC
  • Murgia IGT

Perfect pairings: Generally speaking, this grape goes well with game and red meat, but each wine will have more perfect pairings.


Complex, fruity, with hints of black cherries and plum, floral with notes of violet, you can also perceive spicy notes like tobacco and carob. There are about 17,000 hectares of land in Puglia where Negroamaro is grown.

Perfect pairings: homemade pasta, for example, the sagne ‘incannulate in chickpea soup, or with meatballs with tomato sauce. It also goes well with lamb or gnomerelli, roulades of giblets.

Nero di Troia

It is a full-bodied wine with an intense ruby-red color and purplish hues. It can be found in Foggia, Barletta, Andria, Trani and Bari. This varietal is the third most important one in Puglia. It is an ancient grape, so much so that the legends around it involve the Greek god Diomedes. It’s also got an aristocratic past because its legacy has been assured by the D’Avalos marquess in 1533.
Perfect pairings: roasted or grilled meat, stews and game.

a vase of flowers sitting on a table

Puglia white wines

While red wines are the majority, there’s no shortage of white wines, obtained from Greco, Fiano and Falanghina grapes as well as Verdeca (fruity scent of pineapple and bergamot, pleasantly savory on the palate) and Malvasia Bianca Lunga, cultivated mainly in the area of Locorotondo.

Here are some of the white wines produced in Puglia:

  • Castel del Monte Bombino
  • Castel del Monte Bombino
  • Gravina
  • Locorotondo
  • Martina Franca
  • Moscato di Trani
  • Salice Salentino Bianco
  • Salice Salentino Pinot Bianco

A special mention goes to: 

  • Minutolo

Local to the Val d’Itria, this golden-yellow wine has an intense, lingering flavor. There are 6 IGT wines made with Minutolo: Daunia, Murgia, Puglia, Salento, Tarantino, Valle d’Itria.

  • Verdeca 

This white wine with green hues has a fruity flavor reminiscent of citrus fruits. There are 9 wines made with Verdeca, 5 of which are DOC wines.

  • Salice Salentino

Available in six different types of wine, including red, white, rosé and pinot blanc (as well as sparkling wine), sweet Aleatico and sweet fortified Aleatico.

Perfect pairings: Mostly fish and seafood, if you’re in Puglia sea-urchin pasta, the tiella barese (rice, potatoes, mussels, onion, tomatoes), cozze alla tarantina (mussels), scapece di Gallipoli (fried fish) and fish carpaccio are all great to enjoy with these white wines.

Wine tasting Puglia

Unlike other Italian regions, in Puglia you can enjoy wine tastings in a variety of settings, one more stunning than the other. From traditional masseria and trulli, to castles and farmhouses.

You can head to a vineyard or a cellar or opt for a degustazione at a local restaurant (as included in our tours). You also can refer to the Gambero Rosso guides to pick the perfect wine for your meal, Italy’s most important culinary publication. It is our hope that having read this guide you can now choose the perfect stop to include in your trips, otherwise you can contact us and we’ll be happy to help you, whether by giving you our recommendations or by creating a tailor-made itinerary for you.

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