Marika Maggi (right) of Cantina La Marchesa in Puglia in Italy’s south east contacted me through mutual friend Franco Ziliani to ask if I would be happy to taste her wines. This young estate is based in Daunia, a village to the north of the Puglian region and is aimed at making quality wines solely from native grape varieties including the Bombino bianco and Falanghina for their white wine, and Nero di Troia and Montepulciano for their rosé and red wines.
Most of the wines are classified as IGT Daunia, but one comes from the rarely seen Puglian DOC of Cacc’è Mitte di Lucera. The 2008 vintage of their rosé won best of show at the Radici Festival, a competition open only to wines made from native grapes which I judged in 2009 and 2010, and where only a clash of committments stopped me from returning in 2011. Franco Ziliani is president of the Radici jury. These wines are not currently available in the UK sadly, because I have to say the quality is extremely high. I would imagine most of their production is snapped up locally. Their easy-drinking white, rosé and red wines are well made, very natural wines with only 12.5% alcohol, and the two more serious wines in the portfolio, the Cacc’è Mmitte di Lucera and Il Nerone, were very impressive indeed: both having excellent freshness and energy.
Cantina la Marchesa, Il Quadrello Vino Bianco 2010, Italy
This is an IGT Daunia white, a blend of Bombino and Falanghina, with a modest 12.5% alcohol. It has an instantly attractive nose that is fresh, bright, with pear and apple skins and a little aromatic nutty edge. On the palate the sweetness of the fruit comes through very nicely, along with a salty, nicely sharp and linear lemon acidity that gives the finish fine length and a bit of cutting edge. Delicious. 86/100.
Rosé and Red Wines
Cantina la Marchesa, Il Melograno Vino Rosato 2010, Italy
This IGT Daunia rosé blends Nero de Troia and Montepulciano, but I am not sure if it is a saignée of one of the estate’s reds, or if it is made expressly as a pink. It has a delicate but vibrant colour, and an attractive nose that does indeed suggest pomegranates (melograno), with some nutty seeds and herbs and a touch of rose-hip. On the palate it is nicely savoury and well balanced – with only 12.5% alcohol it is light, and it has a dry, crisp quality that makes it very drinkable and food-friendly. 87/100.
Cantina la Marchesa, Donna Cecilia Vino Rosso 2009, Italy
An IGT Daunia red, this is a blend of Nero de Troia and Montepulciano, again weighing in with just 12.5% alcohol. It has an attractive, bright ruby colour and plenty of strawberry pulp fruit edged with a little floral hint of rose hips. On the palate it is soft and easy to drink, with a touch of herby, tobaccoey-green spice, and plenty of that soft, unpretentious juicy red berry fruit. Balanced and easy to drink. 85/100.
Cantina la Marchesa, Cacc’è Mmitte di Lucera DOC 2009, Italy
From the little-known DOC of Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera, Lucera being a town in Puglia. Nero di Troia is the base, with Montepulciano and, interestingly, a little Bombino Bianco. Alcohol is 13%, and the wine is aged for 15 months in large oak barrels. The nose is very tightly wound and deep, it takes some swirling and concentration to coax out notes of dark, polished wood, liquorice and firm black fruit. On the palate this is sinewy and grippy, with a very taut spine of umami-like, grippy tannin and plum-skin fruit, the picture dense and impenetrable, and yet juicy and vital too. This is a concentrated, serious wine with extract and thickness, but also with real agility, ending with spicy intensity. 91-92/100.
Cantina la Marchesa, Il Nerone Vino Rosso 2008, Italy
Back to IGT Daunia for this varietal Nero de Troia, made from old vines, age in barriques and with 13% alcohol. The nose has more raspberry and red fruit lift than the DOC wine, with some smoky vanilla notes, but in the background, in a wine that gives an immediate impression of intensity. On the palate this is lighter, or rather edgier, with more of a keen, cherry acid edge to the fruit, some tobacco and leathery savoury qualities and just hints of fatter, riper berry fruits though clamped down by the acidity and tight tannin structure. A very interesting wine again here, certainly giving a little more openly than the DOC wine, but with a natural structure and concentration to develop. 91/100.