Shopping at the Cantina

Let me tell you two things that are delicious and inexpensive in Puglia: wine and olive oil. But don’t buy them at the shops in the bigger towns toting “traditional Apulian products.” Find the co-ops and cantinas.

We asked the hostess at our rental where to buy local wine, and she told us to visit the Cantina Sociale del Locorotondo. (Having been there, I am now amazed to find that this place has a website, let alone a website with multiple language options.) We thought this would be a wine shop, perhaps, and followed the signage in Locorotondo to a large warehouse-y building with flags flapping out front and a huge parking lot.

It appeared deserted, but the sign said “Aperto” so we wandered in (getting a confidence boost from another family showing up at the same time). My first impression was that if this was a store, it was not a store I knew how to navigate.

It seemed that you did not wander around and shop, but there was a glass case near the door showing which wines were available. There was also a small table for tasting. Tim, not daunted by unfamiliar circumstance, hung around to watch how the locals did it. Shortly thereafter, he engaged in conversation with a local man who spoke some English, and had come to refill his wine jug: from the taps, of course.

Protocol, it turned out, was minimal. You could buy bottles, or you could bring any receptacle you had your hands on and pay by volume from the taps. The man kept impressing this upon Tim: “Don’t you have a bottle? A water bottle, anything? It’s cheaper!”

At this point it should be noted that the bottles of wine were starting around €2 (with the “high-end” running around €10). We considered filling up our Nalgene just to say we did it, but in the end kept our water and bought the wine bottled.

The cost was so low and our taste buds so curious that we decided to be extravagant and do a tasting at home that night of several of the local wines.

We later had a similar experience tasting and buying olive oil at a cooperative outside Ostuni, and made a quick stop at the Cantine di Marco (again, great website) outside Martina Franca. The Cantine di Marco had a more upscale setup with a little wine bar for tasting, but by this point we had loaded up our suitcases and could buy no more.

Tim had returned to the Locorotondo cantina after our tasting to pick up a couple bottles of what we liked (ask us sometime about packing wine for checked luggage—our track record is excellent) and had arrived at a fortuitous moment.

The cantina was receiving a fresh drop-off of local grapes—ready to be turned into new wine.

*If you go: the cantina also has a small shop in the center of Locorotondo (which also sold pastas and some gift items), but for the full experience head to the warehouse. It’s completely walkable from the town center, and there’s plenty of parking.

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