Friday, February 10, 2017

The Development of Cantina Primo Re

I came in contact through networking with a winery in Puglia, Cantina Primo Re, that is just starting out from the ground up with their first release this coming spring. Typically I won't share stories of a winery I haven't visited or met with representatives of the winery and/or at the least tasted their wines. I thought it would be interesting though in sharing this story and learning about the trials and tribulations of one couple's story. Enjoy!

Tell me about the history of winemaking in Nicola’s family and his background & experience in enology.

Nicola’s family has been producing grapes at least five generations. His father had always worked at the family vineyards working with the primitivo and negroamaro grapes, selling them to a local cooperative. Nobody in his family had ever produced wine, apart from small quantities reserved for the family.
Cantina Primo Re Puglia
Nicola grew up “between the vines” but soon decided that being a winegrower wasn’t enough for him. This is the reason he moved to Tuscany and later to Piedmont to study viticulture & enology science, which in Italy is a 5 year degree (Bachelor + Master). His Bachelor degree at Florence concluded with work at the prestigious winery, Barone Ricasoli. His Master degree in Piedmont increased his knowledge of fine wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. At the university he also worked on a project to improve the quality of the barbera grape and his thesis on infrared spectrophotometry was a significant success.

Nicola graduated from the university at the beginning of winter so he moved to Argentina where it was harvest time and worked for a big company between Rioja’s mountains. By that time he met his future wife Natalia (who is Argentinian) and after harvest they moved back to Italy where he secured a job in a historical wine cooperative in Salento as a junior winemaker. However, after one year of working with the co-op, the economic situation in Italy worsened, so Nicola left his job and we went back to Argentina, where he worked as an assistant winemaker and supervisor for the same company in La Rioja.

Following that position, he secured a job at a prestigious English sparkling wine company, Nyetimber, during the harvest. Later on they moved to Romania where he was offered a position as head winemaker at a boutique winery. There, Nicola produced a rosé which was recognized, two years in a row, as the Best Rosé Wine of Romania.

They lived two years in Romania and then decided to move back to Italy to work with their vineyards and open their own winery.
Cantina Primo Re in Salento Puglia
Nicola and Natalia
Why did you choose Italy to settle down and open a winery and even further why Salento in Puglia?

Their big dream had always been to run their own winery, but the economic situation at the beginning wasn’t good enough to pursue their dream. That, together with their passion for traveling and for different cultures, was the reason for their continuous relocations. As soon as their economic situation got better, they didn’t hesitate to come back “home”, where they had their family vineyards and could produce their own wine.

Salento is an excellent area to produce wine thanks to the typical Mediterranean weather,. Their are strong winds, poor rains and the mitigating influence of the sea. Intense temperature changes between day and night help salentinian grapes ripen slowly; enhancing aromas to form a rich bouquet. The terroir of this area is characteristically red, rich in ferrous components, with clay and limestone layers that produce generous, full-bodied, velvety and flavorsome wines.

What are your future plans for the winery (I did see that you plan to expand to susumaniello and verdeca in the future)?

This year they're busy getting everything ready for the launching, that hopefully will be in spring. They've been working very hard to expand their sales network, sending samples to wine experts, participating in wine contests, finishing their website and e-shop, organizing a proper launching event and much more. They want to be completely ready by the time of the launching!

In the vineyards they're waiting for the authorizations to plant new varieties including susmaniello and verdeca. In Italy you can’t just plant new vineyards when you want. The Government has to authorize you to do that and requests are accepted only once a year. They're also buying new agricultural machinery this year that is necessary to properly work at organic vineyards.

Another project for upcoming years include launching a rosé wine different from typical Apulian rosé, and later a white wine, ideally a pure Verdeca.

How large is the winery in terms of acreage for vineyards and what is the breakdown of how much of each grape you will be producing?

They own a small, boutique winery. Currently they have 5.5 hectares of vineyards (around 13.6 acres) of negroamaro, primitivo and malvasia nera. Their grape production at this moment is the following:
  • 30 tons of negroamaro
  • 8 tons of primitivo
  • 3 tons of malvasia
Not all the grapes are involved in wine production; some of them will be used in the future for other blends/wines (for example, the malvasia nera will be used blended with negroamaro to produce Salice Salentino, a very famous red blend).
negroamaro and primitivo grapes of Puglia
I know your first release is this spring. How many bottles do you anticipate producing?
Hopefully their first release is, in fact, this spring (they're still dealing with some bureaucratic issues, typical of Italy). They'll launch initially 6,000 bottles, both 100% primitivo (Emissario) and 100% negroamaro (Presagio) wines of the 2015 vintage, with possibly another 6,000 bottles before the end of the year. All their wines are certified organic and suitable for vegans and vegetarians as registered at The Vegan Society.

Will you export and if so where?

Yes, they're very interested in exporting their wines. They've established contacts in Holland, Germany, Japan and Czech Republic. They're looking forward to expanding their network especially in North America and Central/North Europe.

What are your food suggestions to pair with these wines?

They recommend pairing Emissario (our primitivo red wine) with all first and second courses containing red sauces and an oily taste, meat and venison. For vegans and vegetarians they suggest grilled tofu or pasta with vegetables and wild mushrooms.
For Presagio (our negroamaro red wine) they recommend all Mediterranean dishes, beef or rabbit grilled meat or cacciatora, and medium-hard cheeses of medium seasoning. They suggest vegans and vegetarians to pair our negroamaro with beans pancotto or amaranth and legumes burgers.

How can you become part of what Cantina Primo Re will be releasing?
They suggest joining their Wine Club by leaving his/her e-mail at their website All members will receive exclusive contents together with a 20% off-discount to buy wines, free vineyard tours, gift cards for your birthday and their original e-books in pdf for free plus more. They will also have more tips for pairing their wines not only with food but also via books, songs and films. There will be different sections written exclusively by specialists where wine lovers/musicians will suggest songs to listen to while tasting their wines, cinema lovers will recommend the best movies to watch, food bloggers will create original recipes to pair with their wines, etc.
Cantina Primo Re


*All pictures copyright of Cantina Primo Re.

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