White, like its patchwork of villages, scattered over vast plains in the heel of Italy’s boot, in the south-east of Puglia between the Ionian and the Adriatic seas, Salento is a relaxed yet dynamic land.
This is where we find Castello Monaci, straddling the provinces of Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto, its 210 hectares of vineyards caressed by winds from two different seas. Together with the sun, they have always played a crucial role in the estate’s artisanal approach to winemaking. Like the baroque architecture typical of the region, life itself here offers rich variety, bringing together the old and new, always ready to surprise.
Down-to-earth yet elegant, lively and dynamic, the people of Castello Monaci embody the characteristic features of Lecce, Salento’s pulsing heart. Here religion, art, music, flavours, and fashions come together against a seventeenth-century backdrop of ornate sculptures carved in soft ivory-coloured stone.
Close to the sea, on the old Flaminia road, 60 hectares of sandy soil are home to mainly white grape varieties, in particular Verdeca, Fiano and Chardonnay, as well as small plots used for research and development. The absence of irrigation, except for in cases of extreme necessity, forces the roots of the plants to penetrate deep into the soil, until they reach sand, enriched with chlorides by the nearby sea. This is the origin of the minerality and full flavour that characterize the wines from this vineyard. The constant sea breeze acts as a natural anti-mould and means that defoliation is unnecessary.
As a result, clusters grow in the shade of the leaves and maintain their delicate hue, endowing the wine with freshness and acidity.
The vineyards lie around Masseria Flaminia, which has been in our family for many years, as in an elegant Italian garden.
Heading south towards Lecce, in the heart of Salento, we come to Trepuzzi, our preferred site for Primitivo. It is said that no other wine expresses such a strong sense of place.
We chose a red, iron-rich clay plot for its production, which covers ten hectares around Masseria Vittorio, a sixteenth-century house surrounded by a fine period wall and 650 majestic olive trees, created by nature and shaped by the wind, water and time.
The vineyards are cultivated without irrigation, and give a naturally low yield. Combined with our artisanal production methods, this allows us to obtain a Primitivo of uncommon elegance and distinctive structure.
On the road from Lecce to Taranto, at the gates of Salice Salentino, a road that seems drawn by a ruler divides the 140-hectare Castello Monaci estate into two. This is a land between two seas, planted to native grapes: Primitivo, Malvasia Nera di Lecce and Negroamaro.
The main international varieties, meanwhile, are Syrah and Chardonnay. After descending through the first layer of clay and limestone, about one metre thick, the vine roots easily penetrate the white, porous, crumbly tufa rock, and find nourishment even in periods of drought.
This explains the salt and mineral notes of the wines. Harvesting takes place at around two o’clock in the morning, when the lower temperatures prevent the risk of spontaneous fermentation, which could be caused by heat and the light pressure of the grapes.