NERO DI TROIA

Nero di Troia is the Region’s third-ranked variety, after Primitivo and Negroamaro, in terms of vineyard total and commercial importance. Known also as Uva di Troia or Vitigno di Canosa, it is widespread mainly in central and northern Puglia. There are four different hypotheses regarding its origins. The Greek-origin theory links it to the legend of Diomedes, hero of the Trojan War and Ulysses’ best friend, who arrived in Puglia bringing with him cuttings from Asia Minor, and specifically from the legendary city of Troy (Troia). Some experts support a second hypothesis, which should warn against undervaluing the degree of civilisation achieved by the indigenous population of the Daunians and Peucetians even before Hellenic colonisation; they already in fact cultivated the grapevine, and so this hypothesis would see the variety as an ancient local grape.

According to a third hypothesis, Nero di Troia came from the city of Troia, in the province of Foggia, which was founded by the Greeks, although there are descriptions of this area already in the 18th century that cite the cultivation of Montepulciano, but no other varieties are mentioned. The last hypothesis would have it arriving from the nearby Albanian coast, and specifically from the small village of Cruja, which in the local language is called Troia. Whatever its origin, the first time that the term Uva di Troia (Grape of Troy) appears in official documents is in Prof. Giuseppe Frojo’s 1875 ampelographic studies; Director of the Cantina Sperimentale di Barletta (Experimental Cellars of Barletta) and steeped in neo-classical culture, Frojo re-proposed the Diomedes legend and re-baptised the then-named Vitigno di Canosa as Uva di Troia. Although today there are many clones available of Uva di Troia, two biotypes very different from each other are usually identified today, the Barletta or Ruvo version and the Canosa version.
The first exhibits large-sized clusters and berries, somewhat loose, while the second develops smaller, cylindrical clusters and berries. The Canosa biotype is quite difficult to find, although experimentation currently underway seems to promise excellent results; nor is it easy to cultivate, inasmuch as it is one of the latest grapes to reach optimal ripeness--on average, in late October--, thus running the risk of exposure to negative weather conditions. In the past, in the absence of modern vinification technology, the variety’s abundant tannin content in the skin was offset by blending it with other varieties, mainly Montepulciano. Over the last two decades, as a consequence of the re-discovery by international markets of the values represented by native grape varieties, considerable amounts have been invested to produce high-quality, elegant Nero di Troia monovarietals. The uncontested king of the Castel del Monte DOP and of many DOPs in central-northern Puglia, Nero di Troia became in 2011 the exclusive focus of two DOCGs, Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva and Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva.

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