Swimming Against the Current in Puglia
2009 Guttarolo Amphora Primitivo
Joyous Purity, Dark Mineral Streak... Oh, and Delicious
Sometimes, you taste a wine that demolishes what you thought you knew.
This is that kind of wine.
The first time I tasted Guttarolo's Amphora Primitivo in 2008, my mental framework for the Primitivo grape was blown to pieces. Today, the wine still messes with my head.
Honestly, I had written Primitivo off, filing it under "too ripe, too sloppy, too alcoholic." Then there was Guttarolo's Primitivo, which flew right in the face of all that.
The Guttarolo Amphora Primitivo weighs in at a surprising 12.5% alcohol and has a joyous purity of fruit that's similar to Beaujolais yet married with more typical southern Italian characteristics of scrub brush and a darker mineral streak.
That minerality and its fascinating acid structure have to, at least in part, be attributed to Cristiano Guttarolo's use of amphora for fermenting and aging the wine.
Making wine in amphora is an ancient technique re-gaining popularity around the world but especially in Italy. Winemakers favor amphora because they're porous, non-oak vessels; plus, they naturally collect sediment in their bases so fining/filtering isn't necessary.
Personally, I find that wines made in amphora show their acidity in a particular way - it's somehow more prominent acidity, central and at the core of the wine as well as pushing out to the edges - and I got that in the Guttarolo Primitivo as well.
From my first experience with this wine, I developed a soft spot for it, but there was a problem: I couldn't get enough of it. For starters, it's sourced from a 0.6-hectare vineyard. That's tiny. Back in 2008, I only received a single case.
By the time the next drop came around from Guttarolo's importer Louis/Dressner, the wine had made a couple appearances on respected wine lists in the city, and quantities were again very limited. Today marks the first time that I've been able to acquire the wine in any quantity.
On the topic of quantity, it's worth pointing out that Guttarolo's entire estate is a mere five hectares lovingly tended with organic methods (check out the vineyard picture above), and the wine is made with only natural yeasts and minimal sulfur.
Cristiano Guttarolo's sensibility and methods stand in stark contrast to the general backdrop of Puglia where wines are produced on flat fertile plains by the tanker-load, and vast amounts of wine get pumped out by large co-ops with lots of help from industrial methods.
High above those plains, the Guttarolo estate sits 400 meters above sea level; the altitude and greater day-to-night temperature swings keep the wines fresh with good acidity. The vines are planted in rocky, iron-rich clay soils, and after harvest the grapes are fermented and aged in amphora for five months before being transferred to steel tanks for further aging.
Aside from - or in addition to - all the "technicalities" we can talk about, this is simply an impressive, original, thoughtful performance from an incredibly sincere winemaker working against the current in a major bulk-wine region.
Oh, and one more thing: The wine is delicious - and very food-friendly. If you have a crowd that's up for a little adventure, this would be a great wine to have on the Thanksgiving table.I really encourage you to try two bottles, at least, as I think you'll definitely want to revisit after the first.
To order, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at (212) 980-9463.
Crush Wine & Spirits