I came across it last year, at an Italian wine tasting hosted by Reserve Wines* and curated by Rob from For The Love of Wine. FTLOW, for short, are one of Reserve Wines’ supplier of fine Italian wines, mainly from the Puglia region. Cantine Carpentiere is one of the wineries they represent and their wines are just fantastic.
The Cantine sits at the foot of Castel del Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage site, within the Alta Murgia National Park. Have a look on Google Street View, the flora and fauna look so splendidly wild and rich. Definitely my kind of destination for a holiday.
The Pietra dei Lupi is made from 100% Uva di Troia or Nero di Troia which basically means Trojan grape, allegedly imported from troy by Diomedes whilst in exile. In this part of the world, on low rolling hills, at 450m altitude, not far from the sea but quite far south in latitude, the diurnal range (difference in temperature between night and day) reaches high amplitudes. This is generally a good thing as it prolongs the ripening period of the grape and allows it to retain freshness and biting acidity, achieving optimum balance between flavour ripeness, alcohol and acidity. The grapes are hand-harvested at the end of October, then fermented in stainless steel where the new wine stays for another 3 months before going into huge Slavonian oak casks for a bit of oxidative ageing (approx. 12 months).
And here’s another piece of trivia – you never know, it could come up at your next pub quiz. The pietra dei lupi (in plain English: the wolf stone) is a piece of stone locked into the wall, or cantilevered, that hangs over the wall thereby preventing predators and rodents from jumping over and entering the pen. Well, at least it used to; I reckon it’s a bit more sophisticated nowadays.
When we tasted this wine last year, I remember thinking at the time that the tannins and presence of fruit along with the bright acidity warranted further cellaring. Based on recent reports of some bottles of that vintage having failed however, I thought I’d waited long enough.
At first it was fresh and crunchy with wild strawberries and red cherries, a hint of herbs and liquorice and a touch of those tertiary aromas that come with bottle age. Very elegant but the fruit was lacking a bit. After a little air time though, it really came to its own, developing towards more bramble fruits and black cherries, with more depth and a certain brooding character. Clearly that extra year in bottle was all this wine needed to fully come to its own. I’m so glad it made it here safe and sound.
Like in all things in life, taste is highly personal. But if you extract some form of pleasure from an experience that is proportional to the attention or effort you are putting into it, then you’re a winner. This is an elegant, but most importantly, approachable wine. It didn’t require all that much effort in order to extract all its olfactory components yet the little attention I gave it rewarded me with a comparable amount of pleasure and that’s all a wine drinker should really ask for. To me, that’s the definition of a good wine, not its price point or its name. It’s a well made wine with no arrogance but a story to tell on the label and in the glass.
*Disclaimer: I became a full-time employee of Reserve Wines in May 2014. I do not believe this affects my judgement of the wine or any other wine I taste and discuss here but you are allowed to think differently. Happy to discuss.