Mark Shannon and his partner Elvezia Sbalchiero have succeeded in making Primitivo one of Italy’s most talked about grape varieties. By paying high prices for the best grapes (sourced from 70 to 100-year-old vines) and focussing solely on quality and a modern style, they have revolutionised the style and calibre of Primitivo. The continued success of A Mano is at least partly attributable to the knowledge that Mark and Elvezia have gleaned from over 18 vintages in the region. Not only are they getting access to Salento’s best grapes, but their growers have also come to realise that if they want the higher price paid by A Mano, they need to provide even better grapes than in previous years.
The quality of fruit shines through in the resulting wines. A Mano Bianco is a blend of Fiano and Greco and displays aromas of ripe pear and orange blossom. The Rosato, made from 100% Primitivo, is fermented at low temperatures in order to retain the delicate perfume of the variety. The ‘Imprint’ Primitivo Appassito is made in the style of an Amarone and over-delivers on every front. Their ‘Prima Mano’ Primitivo is produced only in excellent vintages. Sourced from two ancient vineyards on the red sand soils of the Ionian coast, it is extremely dark and concentrated, with the spiciness typical of Primitivo. The ‘Prima Mano’ Negroamaro is made from 70-year-old vines. The wine is beautifully complex, with velvety tannins and notes of rose petals, violets, black cherries, and damask plums.
A rare and ancient red Puglian variety, Susumaniello was used mostly as a blending component until a few years ago. The name means ‘little donkey’ in local dialect, referring to the enormous load the vines bear when young. Others argue that it is so-called because it is stubborn and difficult to manage. The wine is deep, inky purple and full bodied with intense aromas of blackberry and violets.
This wine is made from the Fiano Minutolo clone from Puglia which resembles Riesling or Viognier, as opposed to the Fiano di Avellino which is used to make the DOC wines of Campania. The Fiano Minutolo vineyards are situated in the Itria valley in the heart of Puglia. The valleys provide constant airflow from the Adriatic Sea to the warmer interior area. Fresh breezes lower the night-time temperatures, encouraging the development of lovely perfumes in the grapes. Greco grapes for the wine come from a very old, non-irrigated, sandy hillside vineyard.
2021 proved to be one of the most difficult vintages of recent years in Puglia. Drought conditions persisted throughout the summer, impacting yields and prompting the need for both the use of irrigation, where possible, and careful canopy management in the vineyards. However, thanks to the dedication of the local growers, the harvest remained excellent in quality with the grapes displaying vibrant fruit flavours and aromas.
Upon arrival at the winery, the grapes were gently pressed with fermentation taking place in temperature-controlled resin-lined concrete tanks for 10 weeks. A small portion of the Fiano grapes were dried until the end of October, after which they were pressed and blended into the wine at the very end of fermentation.