Whether reclining in the shade beside the pool, idly sipping from a chilled glass of crisp white wine on a hot summers day, or perhaps swirling a rich Puglian red around your glass over a leisurely evening meal, it may have caused you to contemplate how the plump sun warmed grapes are turned into such a delectable accompaniment to good company or a pleasant meal.
Well, if you are interested, why not find out and watch the process for yourself, with a visit to a World famous winery and and a guided “behind the scenes” tour on the process that transforms the fat bunches of grapes, hanging redolent from the verdant vineyards spread across Puglians dry summer landscapes into the precious liquid freed from bottled imprisonment with the expectant “pop” of a cork.
The tours we have arranged for you commence once you arrive at the prestigious Winery, where you will be warmly welcomed on arrival by an English speaking host/ess. After a brief introductory talk comprising some key facts and a short history of the Winery, you will start the tour with the professional guide.
As each step of the process is explained, feel free to ask any questions before the tour continues to the next stage of the grapes transformation.
Although the tours are available throughout the year, the optimum time to visit is of course during the harvest from late July to September, when the rich fruits of the year’s dusty toil are brought in by growers who supply the wineries life force.
Starting from the reception area, the tour takes you past huge stainless steel storage vats for the mid priced range of wines, to the weigh bridge where all manner of vehicles await with bulging tyres to be weighed in and have their loads sampled, because the 4,000 vineyard owners who supply the winery are paid on delivered weight of grape and the grape quality.
After weighing, watch the vehicles as they trundle in a lengthy queue to the sampling machine, which plunges a tube down vertically into the piled grapes, extracts and crushes a sample and electronically records the sugar and acidity content. The result of this test determines where the grapes are unloaded and what type and quality range of wine they will be turned into.
Next the precious cargo is tipped into the relevant hoppers for that grade of grape. Small non-tipping vehicles are strapped down and a hydraulic lift tips the entire vehicle over to release the grapes !
The grapes are then moved by an auger from the hoppers to the shredder which strips the fruit from the stalks and bunches, and removes any twigs and leaves. This “green” material is conveyored away to waiting lorries which take them for spreading over farmland as a surface mulch.
The separated fruit is then crushed, and as a solid stream of rich, fragrant purple-coloured juice pours from the tank it is filtered and pumped away into enormous stainless steel cisterns to begin primary fermentation. The pith ( dry, squeezed skins and pips) of the grape are transported to where they are later transformed through a different fermentation process and distillation into the range of smooth, strong Grappas for which this winery is so rightly famous.
Follow the network of gleaming pipes and vats to watch as the raw juice travels from fermentation, to raw wine storage and finally to the maturing/ageing tanks.
The mid range quality of wines ferment and mature in stainless steel towers, however, the reserve quality wines (a surprisingly high proportion in this Cantina’s case) are stored underground in special wooden barrels where they are fermented in a carefully temperature-controlled environment. After fermentation is completed, the maturation is also undertaken underground in yet more barrels. The size of barrel and type of wood used each barrels construction impart special and specific undertones of flavor and aroma to the final product.
Walk through the huge conference centre where growers gather to discuss pre-season arrangements with the Winery directors, General Meetings are held and strategies etc discussed by the management on the raised stadium above the low walls with functioning wine fountains !
Now the tour moves on from the production to the bottling process. Lower grades of wine are sold either bottled or in 3 or 5 litre sealed plastic flagons, the lower grade wines are still good quality, very tasty and amazing value for money at prices between one euro and two euros a litre.
Passing through this area, you enter the bottling, labeling and packaging buildings.
The bottling and corking are done by machines inside Perspex cases to prevent any airborne contaminants or dust entering the sterile bottles during the process.
The bottles move from the conveyor, are then whisked through the sterilization treadle, and back to the conveyor where they are filled with the wine as they circle through the revolving filler. Immediately afterwards the capping machine plunges the cork into the neck and foil caps the bottle. The bottles move further down the conveyor until they are vertically rolled through the labeler. The bottles are then packed into cartons of either six or twelve and transported to the distribution and storage warehouse.
Walking through the storage building, marvel at the mountains of crated pallets of wine awaiting distribution throughout the world as you are guided further through the hall, be-decked with the cantina’s innumerable International quality awards towards one of the wine tasting rooms.
Either upstairs in the ultra modern sampling room, or down in the underground stone vaulted converted wine cistern, the sampling and tasting is presided over by professional sommeliers.
Depending on your choice of tour, the characteristics and nuances of two or more fine wines will be explained to you as you taste generously large glasses with side dishes designed to refresh the palate and taste buds between quaffs.
Depending on your choice of tour, you can while away part of the afternoon over a long, lazy lunch during your wine tasting session.
Afterwards, a trip to the on-site Winery shop is not to be missed. Here you can purchase the wine you have already enjoyed during the tastings or else browse through the Wineries entire product range, from the keenly priced table wines to the great labels respected worldwide, as well as all of the Cantina’s Grappas and liqueurs.
Once you have returned back to your holiday Villa and relaxing over your evening meal, draw the cork from a bottle of your chosen wine and as you savour the flavor of Puglia’s matured bottled sunshine you can reflect back on the days experiences and the process that has transformed the humble “fruit of the vine” into such a delicious and pleasant liquid.