The Murge (from the Latin murex, sharp rock) is a high, rectangular-shaped plateau located in central Puglia. Covering a total of some 4,000 square kilometres and bordered on the north by the Tavoliere delle Puglie and on the west by the region of Basilicata, the land descends gently to the coast and to the south, until it reaches the Terra di Bari.
The interior of this vast region is composed of three sub-zones. In the northwest, on the border with Basilicata, lies the Alta (Upper) Murgia, with two important wine production centres, Minervino Murge and Gravina di Puglia. A distinctive characteristic of this area is karst formations, which give it a strikingly “lunar” appearance; although it seems at first sight a rocky desert, it is rich in aquifers, which are in some cases quite deep, and boasts a myriad caverns, strata, and ravines, with crevasses exceeding even 100 metres in depth. In addition to karst, the pre-Murgia has tufaceous soils as well, in the Castel del Monte area, with low hills that slope gently to the sea, near Barletta and Trani on the coast.
The interior climate is typical of hillslopes, with significant day-night temperature differentials and generous rainfall; the weather grows milder as one approaches the coast, thanks to the mitigating influence of the Adriatic, which reduces both the severe temperatures of the winter winds from the Balkans as well as the summer heat spells.
The star grape variety of the area is the native Nero di Troia; its monovarietal wines are elegant and fruit-rich, with notes of blossoms and subtle spice. Likewise thoroughly at home here are Bombino Nero, Aglianico, and Montepulciano, and the white grapes Bombino Bianco, Pampanuto, Greco, and Malvasia Bianca. On the coast, the native grape par excellence is Moscato Bianco, which yields Moscato di Trani DOP, a dessert wine that is the standard-bearer of many of the local producers.
Nero di Troia is the focus of fully two DOCGs, Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva and Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva, plus Castel del Monte DOP and Rosso Barletta DOP. Castel del Monte Bombino Nero DOCG focuses on Bombino Nero, while among the whites, the Murgia boasts one of Italy’s oldest whites, Gravina DOP. Finally, the Murgia IGP denomination embraces the entire area.
The viticultural history here is deeply rooted in mythology as well. The Greek hero Diomedes is said to have landed here on his return from the Trojan War, and here he planted a shoot of what was destined to become the area’s iconic variety, Nero di Troia. In the 13th century, Swabian Emperor Frederick II chose this as his favourite domain, and the Murgia jealously preserves to this day precious relics of his power, such as the magnificent Castel del Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.