So you have decided to go to Apulia, the heel of the Italian boot surrounded by the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Taronto. This is part of the south, in many ways the real, unspoiled Italy. The boot's spur is the beautiful Promontorio del Gargano (Gargano Promontory). You may want to visit the Foresta Umbra (Shady Forest), a real ecological delight bursting with animal and plant life. There's the mysterious eight-sided Castel del Monte. Don't miss the unique Apulian habitations, Trulli, that look like limestone teepees. Would you believe that some have been transformed into wineries? The Grotte di Castellana form the largest network of caves in all Italy. Finish your tour in the relatively unknown city of Lecce, sometimes called "the Florence of the south." You'll find baroque architecture, a cathedral, historic churches, a Piazza, and the remains of a Roman Amphitheater. Why not finish your tour at the inexpensive Wine Bar Corte dei Pandolfini?
Apulia, also known as Puglia, is a high-volume wine producer. The plains are hot and fertile, so that sounds like three strikes against fine wine. To some extent this is true, but forward-looking producers are making a real effort to trade quality for quantity. The region's best-known wine is Castel del Monte DOC produced near the capital Bari in the central north. It is made in a wide variety of styles, but I wouldn't usually write home about it. A usually better choice is the red or rosé Copertino DOC made from Apulia's signature red grape Negroamaro in the south near Lecce. If you can find any Aleatico di Puglia DOC, grab it. The same goes for Moscato di Trani. These wines are both sweet and perhaps fortified. They are unfortunately rare.
Common white grape varieties include the local Verdeca and Bombino Bianco said to resemble a child with outstretched arms, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia Bianca, and Chardonnay. Common local red varieties include the local Negroamaro, Uva di Troia, and Zinfandel's cousin, Primitivo. You'll also find the Italian Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
Companies selling wine tours of Apulia include iExplore, Rustic Cooking, Wine Lovers Tours, and Alabaster and Clark Wine Tours Worldwide. Apulia wineries that accept visits include Conti Zecca in Leverano, Leone de Castris in Salice Salentino, and Azienda Vinicola Rivera S.p.A. in Andria. A few words of warning are in order. Make sure that you check ahead of time for opening hours and whether English is spoken. Some places may charge admission; others may expect you to buy some of their products.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but prefers drinking fine French wine with the right foods. He teaches computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel website www.travelitalytravel.com and his global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about and tasting organic and kosher wines.