Aglianico, cultivated since very ancient times in southern Italy, arrived, according to the now-common belief, on the Campania coast in the 8th century BC and then spread quite quickly throughout the neighbouring regions, thanks to its many attractive qualities. The term Aglianico makes its first appearance in print in 1520, in documents attesting to the ownership by Conte di Conversano, a comune in the province of Bari, of vineyards planted to this grape.
The Aglianico cluster is medium-small, cylindrical or conical, winged or not, and medium compact. The berry is medium-small in size, and of a consistent bluish-black. Its thick skin protects Aglianico from mould and makes possible a late harvest, necessary since it is a slow-ripening variety, generally reaching ripeness from the latter half of October to November. In Puglia, it is grown primarily along the border with Basilicata, and is one of the main varieties in the Castel del Monte DOP. The wine possesses outstanding cellarability.
Among Italy’s oldest grape varieties, Aleatico too was in all likelihood spread by the Greeks throughout the Italian peninsula, predominantly in Puglia and Lazio. Some studies of its DNA have demonstrated that it exhibits a relationship with Moscatello Nero. Aleatico ripens fairly early and is quite drought-tolerant; its clusters are medium in size, vertically long and winged, slightly loose or medium compact. The berry is likewise medium size, bluish, with a rather thick skin and abundant bloom. Aleatico is primarily utilised for the production of wines that are sweet and strongly-aromatic, much like red-grape Muscats, and their appearance is deep and dark, due to the high amount of malvin in the skin. The grape is not widely planted--just a few hundred hectares--, but the vineyards are distributed throughout Puglia. The Aleatico di Puglia DOP is another example of the special relationship of Aleatico with Puglia; established as far back as 1973, it covers the entire Region.
Bombino Nero is native to Puglia and cultivated only in this Region. Although its origin is uncertain, its presence in this area certainly predates the 1875 Bollettino Ampelografico (Ampelographic Bulletin). Its name could derive from its cluster, since the compact, double-winged shape reminded observers in the past of a child (bambino) with its arms outstretched; another possibility, however, is the term “buonvino” (good wine), since it produces consistent crops and gives a heavy yield in must.
Bombino Nero develops a bluish berry with a thin skin; not only is it late-ripening, but the ripeness is never complete in the interior of the cluster, where some berries may even lack pigment. As a result, the variety delivers a high acidity and low levels of sugars, which makes it ideal for the production of rosés. It is widely planted in northern Puglia, and since 2011 is the primary variety in the Castel del Monte-Bombino Nero DOCG.
This native Puglia grape belongs to the vast range of Malvasia cultivars, whose members are often quite different from each other. They inherited their name from Monemvasia, the ancient Greek port in the Peloponnese, and that too seems to be the origin of this grape. It was long believed that Malvasia Nera of Lecce and Malvasia Nera of Brindisi were two distinct native varieties, but recent ampelographic studies and molecular research have determined that they are in fact identical.
Nonetheless, not a few observers today maintain that the very different behaviour in the vineyard of the two grapes leads to the supposition that they originated from two biotypes so different from each other as to seem two distinct varieties. The fairly productive Malvasia Nera (of Brindisi-Lecce) exhibits medium-sized clusters and bluish, thin-skinned berries. Its must does not taste like the traditional Muscat-like traits in many Malvasias, being rather neutral. In many of the Salento denominations, among them the Salice Salentino DOP and the Brindisi DOP, it has always been cultivated alongside, and hence fermented with, Negroamaro.
Of unknown origin, Montepulciano has been present in Puglia certainly as far back as the late18th century, when it was widespread primarily in the northern reaches of the province of Foggia. Several contemporary sources, in fact, in describing agricultural production in the Kingdom of Naples, explicitly cite Montepulciano as being cultivated in what is today the province of Foggia.
The variety’s ampelographic traits include a medium-short, semi-compact cluster that is conical or cylindrical-conical and often winged; the purplish-black berry is medium-small with a very thick skin. Montepulciano is fairly late-ripening, with good resistance to mould and frost, and excellent suitability to the climate along the Adriatic coast. It appears as a primary variety in several denominations; in the San Severo and Castel del Monte DOPs, for example, Montepulciano has historically been co-planted in the same vineyards with Nero di Troia, and in the Brindisi and Copertino DOPs it is used with Negroamaro in blends.