Welcome to the first of our Terre Di San Vito blog! With each post, I’m going to give you an insight into our family, the team and the history behind our products. I’ll be sharing our favourite recipes and showing you what’s going on at the farm!
I’m not an expert but I’ve learnt a lot! I’ve made (well helped) the food, picked the grapes and olives. Every summer, I’m given the honour of preparing the sundried tomatoes and figs as well as cooking the wine harvest team breakfast!
Join our family and fall in love with Terre Di San Vito and if you are ever in Puglia, you must book a wine tasting session with my cousin Giovanni – you will love it!
Do you know the history of your favourite wine?
Our flagship award winning red wine is Il Vescovo. It is absolutely, hands down, my favourite wine. Maybe it is the history, maybe because I was part of the first harvest, maybe because it really is delicious!
Our incredible Il Vescovo red wine was the first of our five wines. Created from our organic grapes, on our website we describe it as: the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and unique Malbec (IGT) grape, makes this wine complex and elegant as well as rich and full-bodied. An incredibly tasty and generously balanced red wine that when presented won 2 stars of excellence at the London 2015 Bellavita awards
Off the record, it is all this and more! Red wine was never my first choice and to be honest, unless I am drinking our reds, I usually go for a white. But it really tastes like an old-style, deep and fruity wine – If you taste it, you will see why it is named The Bishop.
History of the land
Our land in Polignano had not been developed or managed for many years. To be honest, the pressure of work and life in the city had taken over. We used to go up for the odd Sunday picnic and sit on the rickety old walls and eat the delicious food my grandmother had made. Really, the picnics in the south of Italy are not like any picnic you’ve ever had before. I’m talking about 23 or more cousins auntie and uncles, as well as grandparents cramming into 3 original 1970s Fiat cinquecento and having to try and duck down when driving pass the police! No sandwiches here or boiled eggs! In those days – the late 70’s and 80’s our grandmother would make a pasta al forno, frittata and of course focaccia and some mortadella (recipes to come another time!).
But my family’s love for excellent food, delicious wine and the unmistakable azure waters of the Adriatic Sea lent them to readdress their lifestyles and priorities. So in 2005, our uncle Franco began the road to realising a long lost dream he had had – to restore and develop the small plot of land in Polignano.
The original plot was about 10 acres. It had the original house (Casa Madre) which comprised of a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, an outhouse surrounded by various olive, fruit and almond trees and a beautiful but tiny Trulli House. Neither building had running water, electricity or any indoor plumbing!
Being able to buy the land surrounding our existing plot was the first of many steps! The soil was analysed to determine the nutrient composition and content. When the geologist said it was an ideal viticultural environment – that was it – the vines went in and the rest as they say – is history!
If you watch the video, you will see how our uncle’s vision for Terre Di San Vito has come to life – you too will fall in love with it! You can see how the buildings have been restored and new buildings added and the view of the vines are incredible!
In 2006, we had our first harvest. The land really is incredibly fertile. It is a deep dark red, anything and everything grows there. We were trying something new – something no-one in Italy had done before – we planted indigenous varieties of grapes but one that was not: the Malbec grape. Yes, for those wine connoisseurs, it is an Argentinian grape variety but because the weather is so good and the land is so fertile, has great altitude and is full of the nutrients this grape variety requires – it flourishes. That is why this wine is unique, because we are the only producers of the Malbec grape in Italy! That was the first thing I learnt about this incredible wine. The next thing I learnt was harvesting the grapes was no picnic. A back breaking job but what an incredible life experience!
The first harvest
I had blown my own trumpet about the benefits of the ‘great British breakfast’ to my family in Italy for years. This time my uncle called me out on it. So, at 4.30am on the morning of the first harvest, for the team, I made my best ever scrambled and fried eggs (fresh eggs from the chickens on the farm), bacon (I had brought packets from the UK for my cousins!), toast, smoked salmon, tomatoes and a ridiculous amount of toast with butter from the UK! Of course we had the expected cornetto (the Italian version of a croissant – but nicer!) and espresso! Then off we went. Being careful how we cut the grapes, making sure we placed them into the crates so the grapes did not burst – was not allowed to throw them – not like in the films! Watch my short video of this harvest – seems so long ago now. And the soil gets everywhere! Inside your socks and trainers, hair, through your clothes and we had to do as much as possible before the sun was too much. Absolutely exhausting but completely exhilarating!
I learnt so much that first day. At the time, we only had small fermentation barrels and the room was tiny – it has grown since then! All the grapes were placed into a stripping machine where the grapes are removed from the stalks. Have a look at the video, you will see how small the room was!
Did you know that Grappa is made from the seeds, stalks and stems of the grapes? I didn’t until that day! The farm manager explained the process to me – oh, it really was a wonderful day. I can already hear you asking if we have a TDSV grappa but no! Perhaps that could be the next product we make, it would be wonderful to be able to have zero waste and add to the level of sustainability we are working towards.
Some months later, after fermenting in steel barrels and blending the wine with the Cabernet Sauvignon (many trials for the combination were undertaken – unfortunately I wasn’t there for that part!) our red wine was ready to be bottled. From the first harvest, we managed to produce around 700 bottles of wine. Since then Uncle Franco has been busy expanding the land and the vineyards! Did you know Puglia’s vinicultural history was thousands of years old? It is a sun-soaked area that boasts an ideal environment for growing grapes. Now there is a new emphasis on quality throughout Puglia’s regions and it has gained IGT appellation status – preserving the culture of the region alive. Puglia is the second-largest producer of wine grapes in the country (behind Veneto) and we at Terre Di San Vito are now part of this elite group!
Il Vescovo translates to The Bishop and this is the complete truth of how we named our first wine. In developing the land, my uncle Franco had added a small chapel and wanted to have it consecrated. In 2010 he invited Bishop Domenico Padovano from the town of Conversano to undertake the mass. Part of a Roman Catholic mass involves bread and wine that represents the body and blood of Christ. We thought we were ready but at the last minute we realised we were missing the wine! Not something we were short of! So, Bishop Domenico used our wine - in the bottle – no label, no name! He absolutely adored it and after using it for the consecration ceremony, he happily went away with a few samples!
There was no question, this wine had to be called Il Vescovo (The Bishop).
Now you know the whole story of our first ever wine! How many wineries have that sort of story?!! The history behind the style of the bottles and our other wines will come in my future blogs. To have a wine that is made with love and to have been part of nearly every step of the processes, is very special to me and an experience I can re live every time I see the wine and of course drink it! I hope knowing this history will give you a better understanding of what we are about and when you drink Il Vescovo, I am sure you will love it too.
But if you want to take the experience of drinking our wine to the next level – when the restrictions from COVID are lifted, then why not come to our farm in Polignano and let my cousin give you the tour and full tasting of all our wines? This can be booked via our website.
What does the future hold for Terre Di San Vito? We have plans! A new wine and maybe a grappa I mentioned earlier?
An exciting addition to the land will be small villas to rent! That part is really exciting – we will be able to share the wine experience and if you would like to sign up to stay while the harvesting is taking place – get your gloves and sun hat ready – we’ll let you know when they will be ready to book! A traditional Puglian experience is one to remember!
I would love to know what you think of the wine and will be happy to share tips and if you have any advice for me – please do drop me a line. Looking forward to possibly meeting you on a wine tasting experience at our farm.
Stay safe and salute!
From our family to yours – with love