Fabulous weather returned for us on Friday with warm sunshine and clear blue skies. Our destination was the Itrian Valley – a limestone depression to the south west of Bari that is gaining a great reputation for the production of high quality whites and sparkling wine. First stop was the Masseria Mansueto just to the south of the town of Noci. The Masseria is a beautiful farmhouse restaurant with wonderfully picturesque views. Here, we met Mark Shannon. Mark is a Californan who with his Italian partner Elvezia, set up A Mano wines in 1998. They are very much regarded as pioneers of modern Puglia wine as they have created a top quality brand and proved that you can make great wine from the local indigenous grapes such as Negroamaro, Primitivo, Susumaniello, Minutolo, Falanghina and Aleatico. Mark is a highly entertaining host who guided us through a tasting of most of his wines illustrating his passion for Puglia with some hilarious anecdotes and stories. His wines are brilliantly made and reflect his vibrant nature.
Filled to burst, we heaved ourselves onto the bus and headed south to Locorotondo. Here we met Gianni Carparelli of the family owned I Pastini estate. It is a wonderful, contrasting place with a brand new, modern winery juxtaposed with some old trulli dating back to 1759. We took a tour of the trulli and got a great understanding of how they were used for grain storage and livestock. Into the winery where they have created a church like tasting room with white pews all facing the “altar” of barrels. We tasted through a sparkling Verdeca, a Bianco d’Alessano, Minutolo, still Verdeca and a Primitivo – all produced in the aforementioned Itrian Valley.
I Pastini were the first estate to bottle Bianco d’Alessano as a single varietal and are forging a dynamic path with their wines.