Although Puglia's past is somewhat blighted by the
nondescript, bulk production efforts of its co-op culture
(a rather ironic situation, given the number of DOC regions
it comprises), the recent past has witnessed a seemingly
slight yet nonetheless valuable transition into value-oriented
production. While this may seem to amount to pure semantics,
many of these wines represent quality, as vineyard land
in Puglia is fairly inexpensive when compared to that of
other Italian regions.
Interestingly, Puglia has won the attention of an American
audience through the medium of the Primitivo grape, a close
relation of American Zinfandel. While the latter association
and the characteristics of Primitivo (plush fruit and soft
tannins) have garnered this overseas recognition,
Primitivo may realize significant depth via special viticultural
regimens. Also, Puglia's Negroamaro grape produces
formidably structured wines of significant aging potential.
A-Mano truly responds to and celebrates the American attraction
to Puglia, as it derives from an American's passion
for the Puglia region. Mark Shannon, in collaboration with
importer Neil Empson and Italian partner Elvezi Sbalchiero,
conceived A-Mano (which means handmade) in order
to realize the inherent potential of Puglia, particularly
as expressed through its old vines. He interprets this
native speciality through the New World's technical
provisions, thereby marrying regional typicity and modern
The A-Mano catalog comprises four bottlings, 2 of which—A-Mano and Prima-Mano—are
pure Primitivos sourced from 70- to 100-year-old vines.
Prima-Mano is produced only in years wherein the Primitivo
excels. Shannon and Sbalchiero also work with Puglia's
other quality red, Negroamaro, displaying its solo virtues
in the Promessa and blending it with a small percentage
of Primitivo in the Rosso Salento bottling.