Puglia, or Apulia in the Italian, is a region in the south of Italy that makes up the “heel of the boot.” Its geography and agricultural wealth made it a desirable spot in ancient times. First settled by the Illyric peoples, the area was quickly conquered by the Mycenaean Greeks during the 8th Century BC. The Greeks expanded their holdings into what was to become Magna Graecia, making the region a center of commerce. Successive conquests by the Samnites, Carthaginians, and then Romans only increased the importance of the region on eastern province trade. Throughout its rich history, wine making has always been a fixture in the area. Working with a combination of transplanted grapes (via Greece) and native varietals, winemakers in Puglia produce some of the most interesting wines in Italy. Oftentimes the wines don’t get the respect they deserve, largely because they are even less recognizable than their more famous Italian compatriots.

At a dinner recently we had the first of the these two wines – a lovely, gutsy red whose name stems from the varietal blend – Ne(groamaro)pri(mitivo)ca(bernet sauvignon) – clever… Whatever – the wine is a tremendous value, in, yes you guessed it… 2009. The second wine is the older brother to the Neprica – 100% Primitivo-based wine that is just wonderful.

2009 Tormaresca Neprica, Puglia IGT Italy ($11.99/bottle)

Composition: 40% Negroamaro; 30% Primitivo; 30% Cabernet Sauvignon

Jammy nose with dark fruit and earthy hints. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and supple, chewy tannin – good balance. Bright cherry palate with violets, truffles and tar notes. Moderate length – smooth. Drinking well now and should hold for another 2 to 3 years in bottle. Great value.

2009 Tormaresca Torcicoda, Salento IGT Italy ($19.99/bottle)

Composition: 100% Primitivo

Perfumed, floral nose with cherry, allspice and black pepper – pretty. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – well balanced. Dark fruit core with menthol, cherry and anise notes. Moderate length with a smooth, layered finish. Drinking well now and should improve with another 3 to 5 years in bottle. Good value.