San Pietro Vernotico, Puglia.
How grapes get into and wines get out of this little cooperative is a miracle, the village of San Pietro Vernotico has overrun the winery and where there were fields there is now a maze of housing. Change has been rapid in rural Puglia, the wineries that once traced the railway are now empty warehouses, only Sampietrana remains.
The boom of the cooperatives came in the early 1950s, with land re-distribution and the thirst of the newly industrialised towns, Puglia was perfectly placed to supply and the great wine houses of the north who bought heavily. This market has dwindled and transport has moved onto the roads, something that caught the town planners (if they ever existed) totally off guard. Fortunately, Sampietrana saw the writing on the wall and have gently sailed through these changing times, applying a little pressure to their members and moving gradually into quality estate bottled wines which demonstrate that the old ways work, if done right. The number of members has gone from a high of two hundred to the present fifty who have some one hundred and ninety hectares of vineyard between them covering the appellations of Brindisi, Squinzano and Salice Salentino. The key positions are held by their own members and Paolo and Stefano understand the aspirations of their partners and their place in the world of wine. Sampietrana where quick to spot that the future was on bottled wines, quality rather than quantity, a shift made with great consideration for the history of the Cantina where the original typeface (and slogans) of fascist Italy still adorn the walls, the concrete fermentation tanks are refurbished and used, there is little steel and few barriques. The output is just four hundred thousand bottles in total, though there is the potential to double this.