Pondering Puglia's Primitivo


Puglia has many surprises. One of its best is the quality of its wines. Creating fresh and vibrant wines in a warm climate better known for olive oil is no easy feat.

One might wonder why a winery grown prosperous producing and selling inexpensive bulk wine would attempt to make a prestigious red. Yet Cosimo Varvaglione, the fourth generation owner of Varvaglione Vigne and Vini in Taranto, wanted more than just commercial success. He wanted to establish a name for his namesake vineyard.

Fabio Cascione, the winery’s export sales director, tells me Varvaglione’s story sitting in his sister Maria Pia’s bustling Caffe del Corso in Monopoli. Family ties are tangible in southern Italy and proud members of the Cascione clan stop by our table to greet us and give Fabio a kiss.

“When you get older, you do not look only for income,” Fabio said. “You want something more.”

That desire drove the Varvagliones – daughter Marzia is becoming the CEO – to develop Papale. Named after none other than the pope, the wine is a robust red made from 100 percent primitivo, the region’s most important grape (a clone of zinfandel).

For a big, bold wine – think rare steaks and rich cheeses – the 2014 Papale offers a more streamlined flavor than many primitivos, a nod to the New World style popular outside of Italy. The wine offers notes of red fruits and mint, with the depth and roundness of a true zin.

The Varvagliones achieved what they wanted. Wine Spectator magazine rates the 2014 at 92 points. At about $11.50 a bottle in the United States, you’d be pleased to have it at your table the next time you fire up the grill.

Fabio Cascione with his mother and sister.
It's a family affair! Fabio Cascione, the winery's export sales director, is pictured with his mother and sister.
Varvaglione's 2014 Papale Primitivo
Varvaglione's 2014 Papale Primitivo

Leave a Comment

it_ITItalian en_USEnglish