Puglians, especially those from the Salento peninsula, are passionate about their favorite dance, the Pizzica. Once believed to be the remedy for a tarantula spider bite, this frenzied dance was originally accompanied by only tambourines. There has been renewed interest in … Continue reading
Wine in Puglia
Wine grape cultivation on this region’s hot plains goes back to at least 700 BC, and the geography and conditions could hardly be better suited. The Salento Peninsula, which makes up Italy’s narrow heel, is mostly low-lying and flanked by the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. This makes for breezes from both sides that help to temper the heat of the fierce summer solleone (lion sun). Winters are usually brief and mild in this part of Italy.
In the 20th century the priority was quantity; not quality, as many growers participated in the frowned-upon business of cultivating high yields and shipping their masses of strong, dark grapes north in bulk to French, German, Spanish and northern Italian wine producers. By adding the powerful Puglian grapes producers could beef up their own weaker vintages in years when their grape harvest was poor.
It was rare to find estates bottling their own wines. Although there are still co-ops sending grapes to France to make Vermouth over the last 20 years or so this activity has declined, as a host of new bottlers have been set up to make their own labels, with often fantastic results.
Primitivo is known to many wine enthusiasts for sharing the same DNA as the Californian Zinfandel. It is grown mainly in the south-western corner of Puglia, just in from the Ionian coast. Here the landscape is dry and stark, the horizon obscured only by olive groves and the occasional whitewashed village. This grape produces strong wines with an alcohol content as high as 15%, which has much to do with the glaring summer sunshine in Puglia. The sun also helps to lend these wines hints of liquorice and red cherry, which is balanced by a crisp inherent acidity. An excellent example is the full-bodied DOC Primitivo di Manduria.
Another variety is the Susumaniello grape that is only grown in Puglia. Formerly this variety has only been cultivated and sold as a wine to be added to other wines. More recently many wine-makers are now experimenting with this grape making new wines with delicious results. Read more about this variety here.
The Negroamaro grape tends to be grown closer to the Adriatic coast in northeastern Puglia. The scenery in this part of the region is a little rockier. Wines made solely with Negroamaro are often on the sweet side, so the grape is usually blended with Malvasia Nera—known for its softening qualities—to create robust reds and rosés that have spicy characteristics. Many reds made with Negroamaro can also be chilled. The most famous name here is Salice Salentino, a DOC producing reds, rosés and whites. These whites tend to be made from chardonnay grapes.
Whites are grown less frequently, but there are some excellent local varieties to discover in Puglia like the ancient Fiano, the rare Verdeca and Bombino Bianco, which were traditionally only grown en masse to be used in blends, but can be cultivated to craft wonderfully delicate and subtle wines.
In 2013, Wine Enthusiast Magazine declared Puglia as the best wine destination in 2013. Read more here. And Wine Spectator’s very informative iPhone/iPad app, Wine Ratings+, lists 18 wines from Puglia with ratings of 90 or above.
Discovered in 1940 by a teenage boy, the cave of Lascaux, located in the Dordogne region of France, opened the world’s eyes to the beauty and sophistication of prehistoric cave art. Preserved for over 17,000 years, the images are life-like and depict the animals that roamed this area of France at the time the paintings were made. The paintings are striking not only for their rich color but also for the realistic reproduction of the animals, the shading to indicate form and shape, and the primitive attempt at the portrayal of perspective, something that would not be addressed, let alone mastered, until the Renaissance.
Since the discovery of Lascaux, many more sites have been found in this region. In 1979 UNESCO designated the Vézère River Valley, of which Lascaux is a part, as a World Heritage Site that includes 197 prehistoric sites and 25 decorated caves.
According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux the original cave was closed to tourists in 1948 because of severe deterioration of the paintings due to the carbon dioxide humans introduced into the cave. Since that time, the French government has made it possible for us to see the main part of Lascaux with an exact replica called Lascaux II.
A Day Visiting the Vézère River Valley
During the upcoming boutique tour to the Dordogne, we will spend an entire day exploring the Vézère River Valley including a guided tour in English of Lascaux II. During the day, we will visit a giant limestone cliff on which there is evidence that ancient, as well as medieval, man lived and a medieval village. There will be an opportunity to visit Les Eyzies (considered the town of prehistory) and the famous Museum of Prehistory, which has the 3rd largest collection of prehistory artifacts in the world. (Photo of St. Léon-sur-Vézère courtesy of Rob at http://www.ourfrenchgarden.com)
Lascaux II has a website where you can get an idea about what the cave looks like and some of the drawings and symbols seen in the cave. Click here for the English language site. The site is vast and takes a little time to get acquainted with it. The music can be turned off by clicking the word ‘sound’ at the bottom of the page. After clicking on ‘Visit the Cave’ just under the word ‘Lascaux,’ an informative map appears in the lower right hand corner indicating where in the cave the photos are located. Also, a menu will appear by moving your curser to the left of the screen. Clicking on the separate photos will bring up a menu with links to additional, and more detailed, information. Screen
- Stepping-Stones: A Journey through the Ice Age Caves of the Dordogne by Christine Desdemaines-Hugon
- The Cave Painters by Gregory CurtisThe first book I read about cave art was
- Mapping Human History, Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins by Steve Olsen
The Bradshaw Foundation offers an interactive map showing the migration patterns of humans out of Africa with a timeline. It also indicates periods of different ice ages.
There is an opportunity to see another splendid painted cave near Les Eyzies, Font-de-Gaume. This beautiful bison is from that cave as did the tender painting of the reindeer above. All painted caves have similarities and differences. In my opinion, would be well worth seeing this second cave to get a sense of how other caves differ. Also, one day these beautiful prehistoric masterpieces may be closed to the public. The following paintings are found in Font-de-Gaume.
Several times I have commented on just how beautiful and lush the Dordogne is. The land and what it can produce seems to be endless and bountiful. There is something about the proximity of the warm colored stone of the buildings and the plants, flowers and trees that contrast and heighten each ones’ essence.
A dear friend, Nancy, who may love flowers and gardening as much as she does travel, sent a link to a blog that fully illustrates not only the beauty of the area but furnishes photo after photo of the beautiful contrast described above. The owner of the blog, Our French Garden, Rob, has graciously agreed to allow me to post some of his beautiful photos of his garden and the Dordogne. Check out his blog at http://ourfrenchgarden.blogspot.com/ Thank you Nancy and Rob. Our small group journey in June will be a perfect time to visit the Dordogne. As we travel around the area the flowers should be beautiful.
France as it used to be.
An ancient land of lush valleys, majestic castles, soaring limestone cliffs, meandering rivers, painted caves and a star studded cuisine, the Dordogne is a place where you can lose yourself for a while. It’s a place to step back in time while visiting fortified bastides, ancient pilgrimage sites and medieval towns and villages considered to be some of the most beautiful in France.
If you like slightly off the beaten path destinations rich in a culture and tradition that still thrives, join our small group of like-minded travelers to this unique area of southwest France. It will be a journey to delight each and every one of your senses and bring your camera, there’s an award-winning photograph at every turn and from every vista.
Solo travelers are welcome. We will be happy to match you up with another solo traveler if desired. Single rooms are also available.
Each outing on the itinerary includes a professional, English speaking guide, van and driver.
PLEASE CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK TO READ THE DETAILS OF THE ITINERARY. Dordogne Itinerary 2013
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