I was at the Wine Exchange in Southern CA yesterday and one of my favorite wine geeks, Kyle Meyer, was nice enough to put a bottle of the Masseria Li Veli Susumaniello in my hands. A wine made from a grape I have never heard of, by a winery I know nothing about- love it! This is what your local wine merchants should be all about- go make friends with Kyle today. He’ll take care of you.
Kyle told me this wine is part of a project by the winery to revive and protect the indigenous grapes of Puglia. Intrigued, I went on the Masseria Li Veli website and found that not only have these people resurrected some very important grape varietals, they financially re-invested in Puglia’s wine-making traditions as well. The Falvo family purchased Masseria Li Veli in 1999 in order to renovate it and use it to promote these ancient grapes. Not only do they curate Susumaniello, but they are also growing Negroamaro, Verdeca, Primitivo and Aleatico. The project they have dedicated to this cause is called “ASKOS” which in Greek is the word for the jug or jar in which wine or olive oil was kept. Having found many such artifacts on the property, the family thought it a name fitting such a project. These people are serious about Pugliese wine!
This part of Puglia is hot, dry and arid. In order to combat the terroir and weather, and in effect to use these elements to promote the health of the vines, Li Veli uses a “settonce” planting layout. The winery’s website describes this method as being invented by Roman military engineers- a concept important enough it was used as a design on a coin (six corners and a point in the middle). The settonce layout (along with alberello training) offers a combination of beneficial effects: “high planting density, maximum exposure of foliage to the sun, good circulation of air, vines forming rows in all directions making cultivation easier, maximum equilibrium of plant growth”.
The winery, although committed to ancient varietals, has clearly invested in modern technology for its facilities. If photos on their website are any indication, this is a first-class winemaker with aspirations for greatness- both in authenticity and quality.
The Susumaniello from Li Veli is bright, ruby red with a distinct strawberry/ red currant nose. The wine was elegant, fresh, relatively uncomplicated and simply delicious. This wine begs for some kind of bottarga/ orange rind/ salty spicy pasta dish. For $17.99 you really can’t ask for anything more- clearly the guys over at the Wine Exchange know what they’re doing.
I am sometimes shocked by how amazing it is that we live in a time and place where (for under $20) we can walk into a wine shop and purchase a bottle of wine made from grapes being single-handedly restored from near-extinction, enjoy the wine, and learn all about it on the internet. This is certainly a sign of good things to come. The Age of the Wine Geek has arrived!