By Walter Sanders
The wine story of Puglia is noteworthy. The region of Italy’s “heel” vies back and forth with Sicily as the leading wine production region in the country. Historically much of the Puglian output has been used as blending wine for makers further north, or bottlers out of the country.
Some of the current sexier brands are relative newcomers to Puglia — like Antinori’s Tormaresca operation. Yet a number of Puglia’s indigenous grape types have been around for centuries.
Bucking the Guiseppe-come-lately trend is Candido Wines. It was founded in 1929 by Franceso Candido and remains a family business. Deeply rooted in Salice Salentino, Candido has been a stable force in the market — blending traditional values with innovative growing, cellaring and bottling techniques.
We arrived late for our appointment at Candido. But the patient, charming and knowledgeable Francesca Mancarella welcomed us and made us feel right at home. She had prepared some prosciutto, cheese and bread for us and served it in a most impressive meeting room.
She explained the heritage of Candido and the founding principles of quality, respect and honesty that continue to drive the company. She was open and upfront about the temporary situation that has left Candido without a North American importer. They are working with a NY-based wine consultant to resolve that issue, but you can still find some Candido inventory in higher-end Italian restaurants and specialty retailers.
Of particular note from Candido is the largely Negroamaro “Cappello di Prete” IGT and the popular Negroamaro Montepulciano blend called “Duca d’ Aragona” IGT. Francesca poured us a 2005 “Lacarta” Salice Salentino DOC blend of Negroamaro and Primitivo. Well-structured and spirited, it was a perfect complement to our light snack and conversation.
When you visit Puglia, seek out the wines of Candido and look for Candido to strongly re-emerge in the American market. “Our American customers are calling and e-mailing us for availability updates. We will be back soon,” said Francesca. And keep an eye out for the brand at your wine merchant.
What wines have you tasted in Italy that you would love to enjoy at home? Write and share your wish list.