Wine tour in Salento: a trip with American friends

We were asked by a lovely American couple to organise a Wine tour in Salento for them. It was a rainy, quite cool Saturday but that didn’t stop us for visiting 4 local wineries and having a nice lunch in a typical restaurant.

Wine Tour in Salento

Masseria Altemura wine tasting

During a wine tour, Natalia met Susan and James – or Susanna and Iacopo, as they liked to be called in Italy -, a super fun retired couple from Iowa, US.

They enjoyed Natalia’s explanations so much that asked her to organised another wine tour for them, driving them around Salento in order to see more wineries and taste more Puglian wines.

That was a super cool task that needed all Cultori del Vino involved, so Natalia asked Nicola to help her delivering the best wine experience this couple will ever had in Italy, and so they did!

A professional Wine Tour in Salento

Being Nicola a professional winemaker and Natalia WSET 3 qualified and currently student for WSET Diploma – one of the most sought international qualifications on wine -, organising a professional wine tour in Salento was actually a piece of cake.

We chose some of the most interesting but different wineries in the area, considering specially the ones that were opened on Saturdays and that could book a tour for us with just a short notice – we actually organised everything in a couple of hours, the afternoon before the tour!

Our guests weren’t interested in a cellar or vineyard tour, as they had already taken a full-immersion, technical winery visit with Natalia the day before: they were mainly looking for tasting more Puglian wines, in order to buy new interesting labels for their personal cellar. That’s why we chose only companies that shipped wines to the US at competitive prices, so Susan and Jim could taste, buy and ship their wines home. This is very important for American guests, as not all wineries in Puglia ship to North America, at least not at reasonable prices.

First stop: Conti Zecca

We picked Susan and Jim up in their accommodation in Lecce, and Nicola drove their car so they could just relax and enjoy all the tastings, without worrying about alcohol test at all!

wine tours in Puglia

Tasting at Conti Zecca’s wine bar

Our first step was a wine tasting at Conti Zecca (, grape growers since 1580 and currently one of the most relevant wineries in Salento.

In their lovely wine bar and tasting room, we were offered different packages of wine tasting with aperitif, but our guests – that had just finished their breakfast – chose the tasting without any food. The staff was polite and helpful, spoke fluent English and were very accommodating, offering us to taste only their most expensive wines as our guests asked.

Jim and Susan were actually looking only for the best Puglian wines, and – because there are so many wines to taste in our Region – they wanted to go straight to every cellar’s top products, something that Conti Zecca staff understood immediately.

They also gave them the chance to buy their old vintages of NERO, a super top Negroamaro & Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and so they did, buying 3 bottles of 2009 vintage.

Second stop: Masseria Altemura

We then headed to Torre Santa Susanna town, where famous Zonin 1821 group bought in 2012 a beautiful masseria (old Puglian farmhouse) to create a new winery, called Masseria Altemura (

Marco, company’s winemaker and Nicola’s friend, was waiting for us with a lovely aperitif of Puglian delicacies – despite the fact that normally the cellar is closed for visits on the weekends!

Zonin wines Puglia

Wines we tasted at Masseria Altemura

He offered us to take a tour of the cellar but, because of the pouring rain, our guests chosen to find shelter inside the 1500 farmhouse and to start the wine tasting. We anyway visited the old masseria’s rooms, beautifully restored and decorated, where the company organises events, business meetings and wine courses.

We tasted four amazing red wines with some cold cuts, different kind of olives and tarallini (a typical bakery product from Puglia).

The savouriness and gamy character of one of the Primitivo wines surprised us, and the velvety tannins and elegant structure of the Aglianico showed us that the concept of “powerful” wine might start taking a new direction in Puglia.

Giving the large distribution network of Zonin group in the US, our guests preferred to buy these excellent wines once they went back home.

A Puglian typical lunch

It was already 2 pm so we thought we could stop for a lunch before continuing our wine tour in Salento! We chose the trattoria Il Cenacolo dei Templari in San Donaci town, a place we know very well and always recommend to visitors due to its excellent homemade food.

Enzo, the owner, welcomed us and offered lovely little breads with black olives while we were choosing our lunch. Susan and Natalia had some typical orecchiette pasta with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese, while Jim and Nicola chose pasta with seafood, both incredibly tasty!

We needed a break from wine but Nicola still wanted our guests to try the restaurant’s house wine, because the way this wines are sold in Puglia (in bulk and per litre) intrigued Susan a lot!

After lunch and coffee, we started again our wine tour in Salento, happy to see that rain had finally stopped.

Third stop: Castello Monaci

wine tours puglia

Tasting at Castello Monaci

A French family, “escaping” from phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century (a disease that destroyed 2/3 of European vineyards), restored an old monastery to build one of the most beautiful castles in Salento, Castello Monaci (

Currently the castle if a well-known venue for luxury weddings, while the winery is part of the Gruppo Italiano Vini, a group owning 15 wineries in Italy.

Michela, former student of one of Natalia’s wine courses – Wine Talks -, was waiting for us despite it wasn’t possible to take a wine tour that Saturday because all the staff was busy in other activities. Nevertheless, she took some time for us and our guests tasted their two top wines, together with our favourite sweet Muscat wine.

Again, because of the extensive distribution network of Castello Monaci in the US, they decided to buy their favourite reds once back there, but they still bought a couple of bottles of the sweet white wine – just in case they couldn’t find it in the States!

Fourth stop: Consorzio Produttori Vini

Our fourth and last stop was the oldest wine co-op in Salento, located in Manduria, a premium area for Primitivo wines. At Consorzio Produttori Vini ( Katia, our lovely guide, lead us in a tour of the incredible museum created with objects donated by the co-op’s members, inside the ancient subterranean concrete tanks.

After that jump in the past, we tasted five of their top red wines with Monica, a professional sommelier. Shipping to US was possible at very competitive prices, but our guests chosen this time to buy a couple of bottles and take them with their luggage.

A great wine tour in Salento

We drove our guests back to Lecce after a lovely day spent together. We had the chance to talk a lot about wine industry both in Italy and the US, but also to share views regarding a thousand subjects, from food and travelling to politics, economic, culture and family stories. Susan is a retired lawyer and Jim a doctor, so given that Natalia is a former Vet and Nicola a winemaker (which in Italy is also consider “a doctor”), we had a lot of fun speaking about us as “the four doctors exploring wine in Salento“!

We just love having guests. After so many years of travelling and living in a lot of countries, as well as hosting people from all over the world through online platforms like CouchSurfing, HelpX, WorkAway and others, you could say we’ve developed a skill for making people feel comfortable, welcomed and happy with us. Specially when the main subject is wine, our greatest passion!

If you’re ever around Puglia and you’d like to spend some time with us taking a Wine Tour in Salento, just contact us at We’d love to show your around!

Condividi con altri Cultori del Vino!

No Replies to "Wine tour in Salento: a trip with American friends"

    Got something to say?

    Some html is OK