In a land stricken by a scourge, something beautiful still rises. We are in Salento, the general south of Italy’s south – the deepest part of the peninsula’s heel, where Puglia extends between two seas: Ionian & Adriatic. Over the past five or so years, the land of Salento (typically draped in the silvery filamented leaves of wildly prodigious olive trees, their groves extending to the horizon beside any highway) has been decimated by Xylella Fastidiosa a bacteria that kills olive trees like nothing else. So, the land is now draped in the grey husks of what once represented the region’s hard-won agricultural heart. Miraculously, the region’s other farmland has not been affected by the bacteria; still, beautiful grapes can grow. Having literally won an award for being a pioneer of organic farming and low-intervention winemaking last year, Natalino del Prete is a bona fide legend in this wine region that has, historically, produced fairly uniform, enormous reds from Negroamaro & California Zinfandel’s forebear, the Puglian Primitivo. Make no mistake: there have and always will have been awesome exceptions to the rule; there are amazing wines honestly made that reflect this place, its proud grapes (the Negroamaro, especially, is beloved), and reach for the stars. But, by and large, there has been a dearth of ‘natural’ wine produced here. Natalino has been working over several different plots in the area around San Donaci which is just north of Lecce for many, many years; using concrete vat for both vinification and aging, along with a stainless steel tank & glass demijohn here and there. As with most Puglian wine endeavors, the story is primarily red, although there is a recent, new addition: your Moina. The winemaker at the estate is no longer Natalino, rather, it is his daughter Mina. This new cuvée is cultivated from the sometimes-though-rarely-found-in-Puglia Malvasia bianca with some skin-contact. A beautiful lodestar of a wine that shows another face of Puglia’s ever-changing landscape.
Puglia, Italy. 100% Malvasia, harvested at peak ripeness and macerated for two days on the skins in concrete. Finished in stainless steel and bottled unfined, unfiltered, with no SO2. A warming, Fall-spiced orange wine with texture and gentle tannin. Serve alongside a plate of burrata and warm focaccia, or drink with heartier fare as the temperature starts to dip into the low 70s. AC off, windows up. Decant half an hour before drinking.