The vine

Soul of Salento, tradition of Brindisi: it is in this specific area of Puglia that the black grape variety Susumaniello has found its ideal home. Its true origins can possibly be traced further back to an import from ancient Dalmatia, but to this day experts have not come up with a definitive answer. What we know for sure, however, is the unique character of this exceptional grape, and the origin of its name.

Also known as Somarello, Zuzomaniello, Cozzomaniello, Susumaniello is renowned for the very generous yields produced by this vine in the early years, an abundance of clusters which weigh down the plant like a donkey (‘somarello’ literally means ‘small donkey’ in Italian). Despite its notorious hardiness and resistance to pathogens, for many years Susumaniello was on the verge of falling into oblivion, until Tenute Rubino recovered it, enhancing its versatility and making it the emblem of its production philosophy.

With every harvest Susumaniello’s bountiful yields tend to decrease significantly coming down to just below 1 kg per plant on average. It is precisely when Susumaniello’s yields decline, however, that the vine reveals all its extraordinary qualities, giving life to black-bluish grapes from which wines of great structure and highly concentrated aromas can be obtained.

Susumaniello | Famiglia Rubino | Tenute Rubino | I Vini della Puglia

The Recovery Project

The popularity of Susumaniello declined sharply in the early 90s, as many Apulian growers were driven to explant their less productive vineyards. Luigi Rubino, a long-time connoisseur of this grape’s unique qualities, chose to stake his company’s fortunes on the rediscovery and promotion of one of Puglia’s most identitarian varieties. It is grown in the estate of Jaddico, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, 8 kilometres north of Brindisi, in a 20-hectare single vineyard.

The vines benefit from the influence of northerly winds and are protected from the drying effects of the sirocco. During the grapes’ latest ripening stages, the diurnal temperature ranges increase, promoting the accumulation of polyphenols and higher concentrations of aromatic compounds.

Trained either as espalier or as bush vines, the plants grow on calcareous soils rich in sand which allow for a luxuriant development of the root system and ensure that excess water is effectively drained. Obtained from the massal selection of a 75-year-old vineyard, the number of Susumaniello plantings was increased in the early 2000s. The vineyards are constantly monitored according to a rigorous production protocol aimed at maximising the grapes’ extraordinary qualitative impact.

Susumaniello | Famiglia Rubino | Tenute Rubino | I Vini della Puglia

Alberello – protecting the Apulian bush-vine

Since ancient times, the bush vine has been identified as the best system to overcome a number of problems such as droughty soils, excess wind exposure and scarce rainfall. In the not too distant past, the vineyards of Puglia, and of the Salento area in particular, were mostly planted as Alberello bush vines, veritable vegetable sculptures shaped by the labour of generations of farmers.

This ancient training system has played a key role in the local agricultural development, characterised by a dry climate and poor soils (as in the case of those we find in the area Brindisi and down towards Santa Maria di Leuca) allowing growers to obtain small yields of high quality grapes despite the lack of water. The bush vine enabled the cultivation of the region’s noblest red-skinned grapes such as Primitivo, Negroamaro and Susumaniello. Balancing the interaction between dry soils and a harsh climate, this system allows for optimal arrangement of the grape clusters on the plant, good sun exposure and protection from excess heat. At night-time, the closeness to the ground of the fruit-bearing stems keeps the grapes warm as they ripen. This is an ancient viticultural practice, and yet so modern, preserved by Tenute Rubino with pride and dedication.

Tenute Rubino has always adhered to a philosophy of recovery, protection and enhancement of Puglia’s wine heritage. The company’s focus on the Apulian bush vine embodies a capital of agricultural know-how and cultural heritage that deserves to be preserved. It is from traditions such as these that the identity of an entire farming community lives on, but also the secret recipe behind a wine of inimitable quality. In the vineyards of Tenute Rubino, the ancient art of bush-vine training comes to life just as it did thousands of years ago.

The company’s total area under alberello vine is divided among the family’s estates and comes up to about 90 hectares in total, all dedicated to the farming of native varieties such as Negroamaro, Primitivo and Susumaniello. The oldest plantings date back to the decades between 1914 and 1984: a real window onto the age-old traditions of Mediterranean agriculture. The vines grow to be no higher than one meter, standing one and a half meters apart and first established in pots – a farming practice which, thanks to its complexity and the typical hot-arid climate of the Mediterranean basin, is able to give life to grapes of high quality and wines of unparalleled structure.

Vite ad Alberello | Famiglia Rubino | Tenute Rubino | I Vini della Puglia

The wines

Susumaniello grapes are harvested at different times as they are used in the making of several of our labels. Our flagship wine is Torre Testa, a cru obtained from grapes harvested in late September: this wine is a true emblem of its territory, the perfect synthesis of complexity and elegance.

Oltremé, on the other hand, is obtained from grapes harvested in mid-September. Exuberant and fresh, approachable and seductive on the palate, this is a wine rich in fruity aromas, pleasant and elegant. The grapes selected for the vinification of Sumaré, Tenute Rubino’s first classic method sparkling single-vintage, are harvested ahead of their normal ripening time to ensure adequate acidity for the required in-bottle second fermentation. This dosage brut sparkling wine rests on ambient yeasts for over 30 months and its success has led to the creation of Sumaré BrutNature, a vintage dosage-zero sparkling wine ready for disgorgement after resting 42 months on ambient yeasts, and Sumaré Brut60. Finally, the family of Tenute Rubino’s Susumaniello labels is completed by Torre Testa Rosè obtained from grapes harvested within the first ten days of September: freshness, flavour and persistence with a bold Mediterranean personality.

Susumaniello | Famiglia Rubino | Tenute Rubino | I Vini della Puglia
Torre Testa Rosato | Tenute Rubino | Casa del Susumaniello