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 once fields, there is now a maze of housing. Change has been rapid in rural Puglia, the several huge wineries that once traced the railway are now empty warehouses, only Sampietrana remains. The boom of the southern cooperatives came in the early 1950s, with land re-distribution and the thirst of the newly industrialised towns. Puglia was perfectly placed to supply the great wine houses of the North, who bought heavily. This market has thankfully and finally 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, demonstrating that the old ways work best when practiced properly.
The number of members has shrunk from a high of 200 to the present 50, who between them have some 190 hectares of vineyard covering the neighbouring appellations of Brindisi, Squinzano and Salice Salentino. The cooperative’s focus is now completely on quality rather than quantity, a shift that has been made with great consideration for the history of the Cantina: the listed original typeface (and slogans) of fascist Italy still adorn the walls, the concrete fermentation tanks have been refurbished and are kept in use; there is little steel and few barriques.
For Puglia, this co-operative’s output is tiny, just four hundred thousand bottles a year in total, though the potential remains to double this.