Yet he and other indigenous wine promoters are refusing to be discouraged. Not far from Andria, the de Corato family has run the vineyard since 1950. Unlike others in the region, their focus has been on bottled quality wine from the very beginning. In 1971 the de Coratos were the first ones to succeed in marketing a quality wine from their region: Il Falcone – clearly dedicated to Frederick the Second who was an expert falconer. By blending in 30 per cent Montepulciano, they smoothed down some of the rough edges of the Uva di Troia. The latter, says junior manager Sebastiano de Corato, “can never produce an ‘easy drinking’ wine, but that is precisely what makes this variety is so interesting!” The year 2000 was the first time that the family ventured to produce a pure-grade Nero di Troia, which they called Puer Apuliae (“child from Apulia”). This was the name given rather contemptuously to the 17-year-old Frederick by the German princes when he proposed to regain his father’s imperial crown. The wine has plenty of of character, and even after maturing for ten years it continues to have a delicate aroma, plenty of tannin, freshness and the fragrance of leather, tar, black olives and smoked ham.
Like the Vigna Pedale, the Puer Apuliae is a regular candidate for the Tre Bicchieri prize, awarded by Gambero Rosso. It clearly shows how much potential is lying dormant in southern Italy. “We believe in indigenous varieties – after all, our ancestors were not stupid,” says Conte Onofrio Spagnoletti Zeuli, who belongs to a noble family near Andria with a tradition of some 400 years behind them. The wines he grows are white Fiano (allegedly Frederick II’s favourite), Verdeca, Aglianico, Montepulciano and of course – as his crowning glory – a pure-grade Nero di Troia, called Terranera, which is his pride and joy. Like Conte Spagnoletti, the Porro family in nearby Barletta is far better known for its first-class olive oil than for its wine. However, in 2006, Gian Michele Porro, owner of the Rasciatano estate, gradually also began to make a name for himself as a quality wine producer, together with his wife Maria Luisa and his brother-in-law Ferdinando Cafiero. In 2007 their Nero di Troia even ascended to the heights of a Tre Bicchieri award. The debut of this newcomer was supported by wine expert Luigi Moio.