The Bush-Trained Vineyards of Puglia

In the Midwestern winter, a person wants to bring a wedge of heavenly Puglia home. Located in the ‘boot’ of Southern Italy, Puglia is a between-two-seas haven of color, light, and flavor. The dazzling blue of sea and sky, the zippy pink of fresh prawns, the muted grey of rough stone, the yellow of wheat fields and peppers, the gold of glazed pottery and the bell of a horn – these are saturating, sensual elements of an ancient land.

Puglia is comprised of over 800 kilometers of coastline and includes five distinct winemaking regions: Daunia and the High Murgia, Murge, Lower Murgia and Itria Valley, Messapia and Salento. The grape growers in the area are very loyal to their indigenous grapes: Nero di Troia, Primativo, and Negroamaro. A Mediterranean climate is a blessing, but challenging wind and heat can prevail. In fact, a regional wind called sirocco is an environmental whip that delivers brashness from the Sahara and can blow at hurricane-level speeds at is reaches Southern Italy.

Bush-trained, old-growth vines withstand the wind and produce elegant, full-bodied wines. Vite ad alberello is the term for this method, also known as head-trained or gobelet. This ancient method is similarly utilized in Southern France, where Mistral winds blow powerful through vineyards in Provence and the Southern Rhône Valley. Old vine Zinfandel in Lodi is also found on bush-trained vines.

vineyard, soil, vines, Italian vineyard

The Vineyards of San Marzano. Courtesy: Cantina San Marzano

This method dates back to early cultivation by the Greeks and Romans and is characterized by simplicity – no stakes or trellises are involved. The vines are allowed to grow in the shape of a bush, a naturally low-to-the-ground method that that enables vines to shade themselves, rather than being structured upward. Pruning each year, often during the month of January, is an essential part of keeping the vine healthy.

“Pruning each vine is a mental exercise where the pruner must imagine how the vine will evolve in its environment relative to its neighbors. Each vine takes on its own unique structure.” Michele Gassier, a winemaker in Costières de Nîmes and the Camargue in southern France said of the pruning process.

Anniversario 62 Primitivo di Manduria DOP Riserva from San Marzano

I recently had the opportunity to experience a wine grown from a parcel of these bush-trained vines, native Primitivo. Primativo, as the name suggests, is early-ripening. It is also drought tolerant and does well in the bush-trained method, though it has been cultivated to thrive on Guyot or cordon training at times.

In Manduria, where the grapes for this bottle have grown for 60+ years, a cooling sea breeze tempers the standard Puglian heat bath. While this is an intense wine, there is an element of freshness inherent in the mouth, making it equally food-friendly as it is flavor-forward. This wine is packed with red fruit, cherry, and slight spice. If you like old vine Zinfandel from Lodi – this is an old world delight, especially with a meal full of seasoning and the punch of fresh Italian sausage.

Puglia, Wines of Puglia, Wines of Italy, Italian Wine, Primativo

Anniversario 62 Primitivo di Manduria DOP Riserva with a meal of Italian Sausage, pasta, fresh veggies, and cheese. Credit: Jill Barth

Very old vineyards selected in San Marzano and Sava. The soil is mainly red with a fine texture and a generally calcareous underground with few emerging rocks. The well-known redness of these soils is due to the presence of iron oxides. The climate is characterised by high temperatures all year round, very little rainfall and a wide temperature range between night and day, which has a positive influence on the quality of the grapes. This is the central area of d.o.p. ”Primitivo di Manduria”. ~ San Marzano

The producer, San Marzano is a collective of over 1,200 growers cultivating over 3,500 acres of Salento vines. Established in 1962, the collective is led by President Francesco Cavallo – the son of one of the original founders of San Marzano.

Italian Food Wine and Travel

On Saturday, January 6, at 11 am ET / 17.00 CEST the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group explores Puglia in the #ItalianFWT chat on Twitter. Anyone interested in wine, food, and travel in Italy and Puglia are very welcome to participate in the chat on Saturday. It is always great to have new fellow Italian wine and food enthusiasts to join and add new perspectives to the discussion.

Tracy at The Traveling Somm will talk about A Taste of Puglia with “Little Ear” Pasta and Affordable Wine.

Wendy Klik at A Day in the Life on the Farm gives us a wine and food pairing tip with Primitivo and Pasta from Puglia.

Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Orecchiette e Tormaresca Neprica.

Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares Traveling to Puglia via South Florida: My Adopted Italian Grandparents.

Susannah at Avvinare shares Puglia – A Land of Abundance.

Here on at L’Occasion, we discover The Bush-Trained Vineyards of Puglia.

Our host this month, Katarina, at Grapevine Adventures will share the article Let’s Talk Nero di Troia and Primitivo in Puglia.

Join us on Twitter on Saturday with the hashtag # ItalianFWT to take part in the live discussion. After the chat, you can also head over to read and comment on the article writers’ blog posts.


21 thoughts on “The Bush-Trained Vineyards of Puglia

  1. My best meal ever in Italy was in Puglia outside Otranto. It’s a very different place than the rest of Italy, in my experience. You’ve given a really evocative description. I’ve kind of steered away from their wines lately for some reason. You’ve encouraged me to revisit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I knew Italys boot was warm but didn’t know about some of the aspects you point out. Nice article Jill, looking forward to grabbing both a Puglian Primitivo and Lodi Zin!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jill, I just love your beautiful blog and writing style! Such a beautiful description of the colors of Puglia! Thanks for teaching us about sirocco. I didn’t know it had a name, but my husband and I were caught in those hurricane-like winds on a bike tour in Puglia and nearly got blown off our bikes!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting similarities between the bush-trained vineyards of Puglia and Southern France, each with their corresponding winds; Sirocco and Mistral.
    A visit to Italy is on my travel bucket list. In the meantime, I will follow your lead and Lynn’s and compare a Puglian Primitivo and Lodi Zin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t been to Puglia, but I’ve seen the similar vines in Provence/S Rhône and Lodi – really interesting to see. Indeed, grab an old vine Zin for an American swing on this varietal – not the same, but two tasty wines to contrast and compare! Thanks!


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