The Daunia is located in the north of Puglia, bordering the regions of Molise, Campania, and Basilicata; taking its beginnings in the Daunian Sub-Apennines, the land descends to the extensive plains of the Tavoliere until it reaches the Murgia of Bari.
It is bordered on the east by the Gargano promontory massif, which acts as a natural barrier to the cold winds blowing across the Adriatic from the nearby Balkans. Thanks to such conditions, the Daunia enjoys a largely continental-style climate, characterised by very cold winters, with snow and freezes, and generally long, often very hot summers. The soils are deep, with good drainage and little water loss; the vine-roots penetrate them easily, ensuring the vine an adequate supply of water and minerals.
Many grape varieties find their ideal habitat in this area and flourish, including white grapes such as Bombino Bianco, Malvasia Bianca, and Trebbiano, but particularly red grapes, such as Nero di Troia, Montepulciano, and Aglianico.
The Daunia IGP denomination covers the entire Daunia area, as do the Ortanova DOP, Rosso di Cerignola DOP, Tavoliere delle Puglie DOP, San Severo DOP--the oldest denomination in Puglia, just over 40 years old--, and the Cacc'e mmitte di Lucera DOP. The latter denomination has a fascinating origin, linked to a dialect term for an ancient local custom. The vineyard properties here are divided into extremely small parcels, and the small farmers, not being able to afford their own facilities, rented the pressing vats in the communal palmenti, or wine-processing cellars. The pressing process had to be very quick, since the rent was for one day only, so in just a few hours the grapegrower had to Cacce--take out--from the vat the freshly-pressed must to leave space for the next renter with his load ready to Mmitte--put in--the press.
The local soils and climate, together with social conditions common to many areas of southern Italy, dictated an overwhelmingly agricultural economy in the Daunia. Winegrowing, in particular, has historically predominated, but it received a special impetus in the latter half of the 19th century, thanks to the activities of the Rochefoucauld family. After the phylloxera scourge had devastated vineyards all across Europe, this noble French landowning family moved its winemaking operations to the area of Cerignola, and in the process introduced crucial modernisation of many local winegrowing practices, which led to a rebirth of the entire local winemaking sector.