From the hillslopes of the Murge to the plains of Taranto and the Ionian coast, the grapevine is truly iconic of Puglia.
In few places is this as true as in this area facing the Ionian Sea. It still bears the name Magna Grecia, a vivid reminder that it was the epicentre of the Greek colonisation of southern Italy in the 7th century BC, with Taranto as its illustrious capital city. Today, Magna Grecia corresponds to the province of Taranto, extending in practice from the hills of the Valle d'Itria to the sea, in a great arc around the Ionian gulf.
The climate is classic Mediterranean, with the nearby sea and its frequent breezes mitigating temperatures, particularly along the coast, and contributing to the healthiness of the vines by keeping in check harmful mould and pests.
The area is predominantly flat, with slight hills farther inland, where the largely sand-clay soils, the reddish terre rosse, heavy and rich-looking, give the landscape its intriguing forcefulness.
The epicentre of the area’s historic winegrowing activities is the countryside surrounding Manduria, homeland of the celebrated Primitivo grape that gives its name to the entire zone’s most well-known DOP. The main characteristic of the high-vigour Primitivo is its early-maturation--hence its name: primitive means “first” in the local dialect--, as well as its tendency to yield high-alcohol wines. The expansive Primitivo vineyards here, historically trained to the alberello, or bush-trained, style, are the constitutive visual element of the landscape, and represent a priceless patrimony for the local winegrowers, who inevitably identify themselves with vines of exceptional value, many of them exceeding even 80 years in age. The Negroamaro is another important local grape, which adapts extremely well to these soils and weather.
A more recent viticultural development, however, is a focus on the western side of the Taranto-Ionian arc, as evidenced by the Colline Ioniche Tarentine DOP. Located just beyond the final reliefs of the Valle d'Itria, this denomination partially shares the former’s suitability for white grapes, since alongside its Primitivo are other varieties such as Verdeca. It has flourished in this habitat, and sapient winemaking practices have produced impressive, high-quality wines.
Summing up, the denominations of Magna Grecia are the DOPs Primitivo di Manduria, Lizzano, Terra d'Otranto, Colline Ioniche tarentine, and Negroamaro di Terra d'Otranto; the Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG; and the Tarantino IGP.