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Manduria & Museum of Primitivo wine

Manduria & Museum of Primitivo wine

Despite their 6,000-mile distance, Primitivo (Puglia, Italy) and Zinfandel (California), distinctive to their local areas, are the same grape. To understand how the same grape got separated and known all over the world today is to consider the origin of the robust, black-skinned fruit drank in osterias, bodegas and homes worldwide.

In the 18th century, Primitivo was the fastest growing and tastiest grape in the vast farmlands of the Apulia region (the ‘boot’ of Italy). Before long, word spread and the grape was transported elsewhere to Europe and America. In California’s Napa Valley, its success was almost overnight. As the 19th Century approached, it was the most popular wine in America and its origins had been lost.

It would take a Century since their first planting in American soil for their likeness to be realised. Nowadays, their joint heritage is common knowledge.

The Museum of Primitivo Wine, located in the rich, ancient city of Manduria, Taranto, sets out to preserve the ancient ways of wine-making. With a focus on community and the importance of local agriculture - which has served the area for over 2,000 years - it seeks to marry those bygone traditions with a modern Manduria which still provides the world with unique wine, olive oil and carosello.

The basement museum, which lies under the cantina’s cellar, is segmented into more than 30 rooms, each with a different theme. The rooms themselves are no less than the former formentation chambers and concrete vats used to store the wine, along with the ex-dwellings of the landowner and his staff. Visitors explore exhibitions dedicated to how the Pugliese lived at the time. Masonry stove tops, ceramic tiles and copper pots provide a glimpse into home life, whilst old winepresses, casks, wooden carts and copper vats proudly stand as rural implements of another era. A miniature model village shows a bustling cooperative agricultural scene of farmers maintaining the land and horses transporting the grapes. Elsewhere in the museum, locals decant empty bottles from home with the wine refill station, which shows an amusing resemblance to a line of petrol pumps.

Entrance cost varies, with the option to book a guide. You can also take a tour of the vineyard which can be booked via email at least one week in advance. After the tour, visitors can order bottles of Primitivo directly from source, to be delivered to their homes worldwide. Of course, it goes without saying, that guests do not leave without getting to sample the grapes that started it all! The food and wine pairing is the real highlight. A sommelier guides visitors through a rotation of red, rosso, bianco, matched up with a selection of breads and cheese. With another nod to the area, visitors are also served local classics cranu stumpatu (oats with tomato sauce) and almond sweets.

Machinery, processes and traditions may have evolved, but the Pugliese have maintained the sense of community and spirit that placed their region on the map in the first place. Visitors are sure to come away remembering the unique spirit that has kept them together all these years.