The southern Italian odyssey

Southern Italian wines don’t make me think of easy to drink wines. When I think of Southern Italian wines I think more of wines with a very high alcohol percentage, about wine makers that prefer quantity instead of quality… But times change and they understood it is better to make a qualitative wine and maybe have less volume, than having a big volume and not selling the wine 🙂 I mean Southern Italy (or southern Europe) has something lots of other places wish they had, the sun almost whole year round!! So they would be crazy not to take advantage of this benefit!! BTW when I speak of Southern Italy I mean everything under Rome.

Zonin Logo

My statement about the tide having turned actually got confirmed at a lunch/wine tasting from Sicilian wines from ‘Feudo Principi di Butera’ and Puglia wines from ‘Masseria Altemura’ both vineyards from the Zonin Group that has already been making wine since 1821. I also couldn’t imagine a better way to taste these wines then accompanied by dishes prepared by one of my favorite chefs Ingrid Neven (Pazzo) and in Company of some of the best Belgian Sommeliers including this year’s winner Yannick Dehandschutter (Sir Kwinten), Kris Lismont (Mondevino), Sepideh Sedaghatnia (‘t Zilte), Luc Dickens (Schone van Boskoop) to name a few and last but not least Lorenzo Zonin 🙂


Now I’ll first tell you guys something more about the vineyards. I’ll start with ‘Feudo Principi di Butera’. This vineyard owned by the Zonin Family since 1997 has a history that goes much further back in time, I might even say for centuries (read more on following link). What I think gives the Zonin family the  know-how to make wines is first of all the fact that wine making is in their veins and already goes back a few generations. On top of that they also own Vineyards all over Italy which also teaches them how to work with (mostly local grapes) in different weather conditions, soil types, etc… and this could maybe even lead for them to write an own piece of history.  For their Sicilian wines they make use of the grape (amongst other) that has actually put Sicilian wines back on the map ‘Calavrisi’ aka Nero D’Avola (Calavresi is the name used in Old Sicilian Dialect). Which means Red wine (Nero) from Avola (D’avola). The taste of the Nero d’avola can be compared with a Shiraz, that has round tannins  (you know, the circles that stay on the glass when you turn the wine in your glass) and has spicy-red peppery smells to it.

Location Feudo Principi di Butera

Nero d'avola grape

As for their vino Pugliese Masseria Altemura, this estate joined the Zonin group in the year 2000 (No millennium bug for them :-)).  Puglia is an often forgotten region in Italy, not sure why, but it sure is a pity! Like in all their other Vineyards Zonin chose to give the tradition and authenticity a high value and make mainly of a local grape. In this case the ‘Primitivo’, which is also a grape often used in California where it got brought from Puglia mid 19th century. It is better known in California as Zinfandel :-). Although If I want to be entirely correct I should mention this grape has an identical DNA as the Crljenak Kaštelanski grape which is from Croatia (so basically from across the street if you wouldn’t count the Adriatic Sea ;-))…  but try to pronounce that Croatian name, let’s just stick to the origin from Puglia :-). What this wine has as a similarity to the Sicilian ones is I think the red peppery smell .

Location Masseria Altemura

To make our extensive lunch more interesting, with every course we were served 2 different wines from which we had to guess its vintage and to make it more confusing or difficult, 2 times they even gave the same wine but both from different vintage 🙂 The price for the ‘winner’ a magnum bottle of wine 🙂


Unfortunately I wasn’t the winner of the bottle, but I did win something  during this tasting!!  I have learned a lot about wine again from all the pro’s around me. (no I’m not sucking up to anyone 😉 )

  • With the Sashimi of mackerel , mousseline of Green apple and Japanese vinaigrette  we got served a 2012 Insolia (Feudo), which is a grape that finds its origin in Sicily and some say Tuscany. But also seems to  like the soil and sun in Puglia. Insolia has a typical nutty aroma. BTW this is white wine, which is not that common in Southern Italy (with a few exceptions). Most white wines in Italy come from Friuli/ Veneto.



  • The risotto with wild mushrooms came with:

Sasseo 2011 (100% primitive) and a 2011 Deliella (100% Nero d’Avola)




From this point it started to become tricky as with the following 2 dishes we got the same wine, but from a different vintage… if only I had more experience as I only guest 2 out of 4 correct.

  • Filet of pheasant, crushed potatoes with tartufata and a light sauce:

2010 Altemura (100% Primitivo) and a 2008 Deliella (100% Nero d’avola)



  • Cheese assortment (I got something else as I’m not a huge cheese lover, I confess)

2010 Altemura (this was clearly a trick question) and a 2006 Deliella


Drinking these wines made me feel on holiday in Southern Italy… I’m not sure if my preference goes to the Sicilian wines or the Puglia wines. Maybe I have to try them all over again 😉  Although I think it depends of the moment you’ll be drinking them which one will get your preference.

OMG, I did again… ah well better writing it all than having an empty page I always say 😉

Oh and I know it might seem like it, but I’m not turning this blog into a wine blog 🙂 It is just coincidence there’s a lot of wine involved in my meals lately.

For more info on where to buy these wines check with Hasselt Millesime.