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Details for San Marzano 'Talò' Primitivo di Manduria

AppellationPrimitivo di Manduria DOP
Primitivo / Zinfandel
(click to find out more)
Cantine San Marzano
(click to find out more)


Famed as the heel of Italy, Puglia actually extends north to just above the Gargano peninsula, the spur on the back of Italy’s boot. It has a wealth of native grape varieties, but this historically poor and remote area long concentrated on producing strong bulk wine for making into vermouth or for shipping north to beef up other regions’ blends.
All this is changing fast, as improved winemaking techniques and a new wave of quality-minded producers are transforming the region’s reputation.
The southern half of Puglia is the heel proper, the Salento peninsula. It’s hot and flat, but cooled by sea breezes from both the Adriatic and Ionian seas.
The signature grape of Salento’s south-western side, the Ionian coast, is Primitivo. This is the same grape as California’s Zinfandel and produces very full-bodied, richly dark-fruited, often over-alcoholic reds that nevertheless have the acidity and tannic structure to age.
Across on Salento’s north-eastern, Adriatic coast the Negroamaro dominates in DOCs like Copertino, Squinzano and Salice Salentino. These are less tannic and acidic than the Primitivo reds with more spice notes and red fruit flavours, though over-ripeness and over-oaking can be a problem here too.
The northern half of Puglia is dominated by another local black grape, the Nero di Troia. Traditionally blended with softer varieties to tame its ferocious tannins, improved techniques mean it’s increasingly used alone to craft savoury, characterful reds. Excessive alcohol isn’t a problem because this variety ripens so late.
In the far north there are extensive plantings of well-known varieties like Montepulciano and Sangiovese, while in the centre the local Bombino Nero breaks the heavyweight Puglian mould to make fresh lively reds and fruity rosés. Puglia is overwhelming black grape country, but the local Verdeco and aromatic Minutolo produce some interesting dry whites.

Cantine San Marzano

In 1962 nineteen vine-growers based around the small town of San Marzano di San Giuseppe pooled their resources and founded a co-operative, Cantine San Marzano, to make and market the wine from their family vineyards.
Over the decades that followed their enterprise went from strength to strength, until today more than 1200 growers are members of what is now one of the biggest producers in the region.
San Marzano di San Giuseppe lies just on the western side of the Salento peninsula’s backbone, in the province of Taranto.  It is part of the Primitivo di Manduria DOC, regarded as the best zone for this variety.  However, the co-op’s vineyards now stretch far to the east into Brindisi province and into the Salice Salentino DOC.
They produce several wines from each of those DOCs, although most of their output is sold as IGP Salento. There are whites, rosés and a fizz, but most of the production is red and based on Salento’s signature varieties, Primitivo and Negroamaro.

about this wine About this wine

Gambero Rosso means “red prawn”, and it’s named after the tavern in Pinocchio where the Fox and Cat dine.  It started life in 1986 as an 8-page insert in left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto, and grew to a door-stop-sized monthly food and drink magazine that is the bible of the Slow Food movement.
From 1987 it has published an annual wine guide, Vini d’Italia, which has become the most influential in Italy.  The scale is immense; each year teams of tasters tour Italy’s wine regions, sampling around 45,000 wines.  About half of them will make it into the Guide, which only features wines deemed to be “above average”.
Each wine in the Guide is blind-tasted by a panel of judges, who rate the wine on a 100-point scale, knowing only the region it comes from.  The best 1500 or so go through to a second round of blind tasting, with a more star-studded panel of judges, at Gambero Rosso’s HQ in Rome.
Eventually the best wines are awarded one, two, or three glasses, in a system akin to Michelin stars: one is very good; two is excellent; three is, well, bow-down-and-worship awesome.  Unsurprisingly, the tre bicchieri are concentrated in the best-known regions like Piedmont and Tuscany, and feature the most famous and expensive names in Italian wine: Sassicaia, Gaja Barbaresco, and the like.
More than once I’ve mentioned that some top Italian producer has won tre bicchieri for its flagship wine, when we’ve been tasting one of its cheapest.  I never expected that we would be able to feature the award-winning wine itself.  But here it is: this wine, in this vintage, won tre bicchieri.
It’s from Puglia, which partly explains it; there are no really expensive legendary wines from the region.  It’s from a growers' co-operative too, Cantine San Marzano, whose Negroamaro we featured back in December.  This wine is made from Primitivo, the same grape as California’s Zinfandel, and it comes from the best subregion for the variety, Manduria, in the west of the Salento peninsula.
2013 was an excellent vintage, and the grapes were harvested in the second week of September.  After crushing, they underwent ten days of cold maceration before yeasts were added and the temperature allowed to rise to let fermentation begin.  The wine was then aged in a mixture of French and American oak barrels for 6 months.

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