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Nero di Troia
Although far less planted than Puglia’s other two grape heavyweights, Primitivo and Negroamaro, Nero di Troia holds its own as a fantastically elegant full-bodied red of choice.
Whilst the other two dominate northern Salento (notably in Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto), Nero di Troia has Foggia and the south to itself. The grape is currently cultivated on 1,800 hectares of land.
The origin of this high-quality grape is thought to be traced back to the Battle of Troy. When Troy fell and Diomedes settled in Puglia, it is said he introduced the wine to the region, planting vine cuttings brought with him from Greece in the town of Troia, Foggia. This theory is helped along by the literal translation of Nero di Troia to ‘Trojan grapes’.
However, the grape is also said to hail from the Albanian town of Cruja (which translates as ‘Troy’) just over the Adriatic waters. It’s also been found to have genetic similarities to some Albanian varieties.
The wine was christened Nero di Troia in an attempt to emulate the success of Nero d’Avola, one of the most renowned red grape varieties grown in Sicily. Despite not having matched the status of the d’Avola, the reputation of the Troia is excellent.
The wine is light and refreshing with a strong red colour. Rich in polyphenols, it contains high tannin levels with a medium acidity, with a dryness also lingering for a while. The alcohol content is generally on the high side.
Formed from a dark-skinned grape, this intense red packs a powerful punch on the palate. Blackberry and liquorice are common tastes; also, leather, tobacco, cedar and dark chocolate. There is always a distinctive fruity finish, especially red and black fruits.
The grapes are picked around the end of September and beginning of October, whilst the wine is best enjoyed between two and eight years after the vintage year. The grape has a low yield, which has led many to suggest this as a reason for the wine not being well-known outside of Puglia and Italy.
The grapes enjoy around 300 sunny days each year with summer temperatures regularly surpassing 40°C. The grapes develop high levels of sugar over the growing season, which contributes to its high ABV (generally round the 14% mark)
Due to the high tannin levels, the wine is best enjoyed with a hearty dish that can meet its match, Strong-flavoured meats such as guinea fowl and game provide an excellent accompaniment. Alternatively, you can also match the wine with any traditional meaty Bari dish, for example, ragu alla Barese.
The most important DOC region for the wine is Castel del Monte, for which the wine is complemented by Aglianico. In 2011, Castel del Monte’s Uva di Troia wines were granted full DOCG status, hinting at a bright future for the grape and region.