Salento forms the southernmost tip of Puglia, a peninsula or tongue of land surrounded on three sides by the sea, extending between the Adriatic and Ionian seas. The Salento has been described as the heel and hamstrings on the metaphorical Italian boot. The land is predominantly flat, particularly around Lecce and Brindisi, but very low reliefs, known as the Serre Salentine, descend to the very southern tip. The landscape is composed of vast expanses of vineyards and olive groves, but in some of the internal areas, patches of native holm oak or ‘leccio’ in Italian survive (which gave Lecce, Salento’s capital, its name), as well as eucalyptus and centenarian oaks, vestiges of a past that boasted a remarkably flourishing vegetation. The classic Mediterranean scrubland is still abundant, carpeting the Ionian’s sandy dunes and the Adriatic’s rocky coast.
Climate: Mediterranean. Hot summers, tempered by sea breezes.
Soil: Predominantly clay. Calcareous soils are also found, as are iron-rich ‘terre rosse’ or ‘red soils’ ; and rocky, mineral-rich soils, so the peninsula offers an ideal habitat for a diversity of grape varieties and contributes subtle nuances to the personalities of its various wines.
Wine industry: Salento’s productivity historically saw its red wines being shipped in bulk to bolster northern Italian reds, while the whites were added to vermouth. Its pink (‘rosato’) wines were historically seen as its best wines.
Wine: Red wines dominate, made mainly from Negroamaro (traditionally grown ‘ad alberello’, or as a low, spur pruned bush vine). Also found are Malvasia Nera, which is often blended with Negroamaro). Old vine Primitivo is in its element here. Susumaniello is also grown. White wines are made from Malvasia Bianca and, to a lesser degree, Verdeca and Fiano.
Regions: Alezio DOC. | Brindisi DOC. | Copertino DOC. | Galatina DOC. | Leverano DOC. | Matino DOC. | Nardò DOC. | Negroamaro di Terra d’Otranto DOC. | Salento IGT. | Salice Salentino DOC. | Squinzano DOC. | Terra d’Otranto DOC.
Certified Biodynamic: Ognissole.
Certified organic, Biodynamic practices: Morella.
Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy (Mitchell Beazley, London, 1990).
David Gleave, The Wines of Italy (Salamander Books, London, 1989).
Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Brunello to Zibibbo–The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy (2nd edition, London, 2003).
Oxford Companion to Wine 4th edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2015).
Wines: Salento IGT.