Cantine San Marzano: A Puglian Wine Legacy in the Making

Nestled in the heart of Puglia, a region celebrated for its rich tapestry of culinary and vinicultural heritage, stands Cantine San Marzano, a beacon of winemaking excellence and innovation. With its roots deeply embedded in the fertile soils of the renowned Salento area, this winery has become synonymous with producing wines of unparalleled quality and character, notably its primitivo, which has captivated the palates of connoisseurs worldwide. The legacy of San Marzano is not just about the exceptional wines it crafts but also its dedication to preserving the tradition while embracing modern techniques, making it an integral piece of the region's vinous identity.

This article will delve into the rich history of Cantine San Marzano, exploring its establishment and evolution in the picturesque landscape of Salento. It will provide an insight into the meticulous winemaking practices that distinguish San Marzano in the realm of fine wines, focusing on its signature primitivo among other outstanding varietals. Additionally, we cover the variety of grapes that flourish in its vineyards, the awards and recognitions that underscore its commitment to excellence, and the global acclaim it rightly deserves. As we delve into San Marzano's storied wine legacy, you are able to discover the essence of Puglian winemaking prowess through the lens of one of its most esteemed ambassadors.

The Rich History of Cantine San Marzano

Cantine San Marzano stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of tradition and modernity, a philosophy deeply ingrained in its operations since its inception. This winery's journey from a small cooperative to a beacon of winemaking in Puglia is a narrative of passion, resilience, and innovation.

Early Beginnings

The story of Cantine San Marzano began in 1962 when 19 vine growers from the small town of San Marzano di San Giuseppe, armed with generations of farming knowledge, united to form a cooperative. This collaboration was rooted in a shared vision to elevate the quality and reputation of their local wines. The cooperative's foundational values of respecting age-old winemaking traditions while embracing modernity have guided its operations from the outset.

Growth and Expansion

Under the leadership of Francesco Cavallo, who became president in 1982, Cantine San Marzano underwent significant transformations. Cavallo's tenure marked the beginning of a cultural revolution within the cooperative, emphasizing the modernization of production facilities and the nurturing of a qualified young workforce. This period also saw the initiation of bulk wine exports to France, a move that set the stage for San Marzano's international presence. The establishment of a bottling line in the 1990s further propelled the winery into the global market, allowing its wines to reach consumers directly through an extensive sales network.

Challenges and Resilience

Cantine San Marzano's journey has not been without its challenges. The cooperative has navigated through economic fluctuations, changing market demands, and the inherent difficulties of winemaking in Puglia's challenging climate. However, its resilience is evident in its commitment to preserving old bush vines and its meticulous vineyard management practices. The introduction of the Sessantanni Primitivo di Manduria D.O.P., a wine that encapsulates the essence of the Primitivo grape in a modern interpretation, showcases the winery's ability to innovate while honouring its heritage.

Modernization and International Success

Today, Cantine San Marzano is synonymous with high-quality Primitivo and is recognized as a leading figure in the Apulian wine industry. The cooperative's modern vinification area, equipped with 3,000 barriques and state-of-the-art bottling lines, is a testament to its embrace of technology. The efforts of its dedicated team of winemakers have positioned San Marzano wines in approximately 80 international markets, reflecting the cooperative's successful export strategy. This international acclaim was further solidified when San Marzano was awarded the 'Cooperative Winery of the Year Award' by Gambero Rosso in 2021.

Cantine San Marzano's rich history is a vivid illustration of how a small cooperative can evolve into a global ambassador for its region's wines. Its journey from humble beginnings to international success is a narrative of enduring commitment to quality, tradition, and innovation.

Location of Cantine San Marzano

Cantine San Marzano, rooted in the town of San Marzano di San Giuseppe in northern Salento, Taranto, Puglia, Italy, epitomizes the essence of its geographical origin. This winery, founded in 1962, has grown from a small cooperative of 19 grape growers to a significant entity within the Puglian wine landscape, purchasing grapes from over 1200 growers. Its location in the Manduria region, approximately 10 miles from the town of Manduria, is pivotal, given the area's reputation as the birthplace of Primitivo in Italy.

Geographical Setting

San Marzano di San Giuseppe, positioned in the heel of Italy's boot, is a village that encapsulates the charm and richness of Puglia. The winery is strategically located in Salento, a region celebrated for its dual exposure to the Ionian and Adriatic seas. This unique geographical placement not only enriches the scenic beauty of the area but also plays a crucial role in the cultivation of vines. The vineyards of Cantine San Marzano thrive in this fertile land, benefiting from the Mediterranean climate and the limestone-rich soils along the coastline, which are among the longest in all Italian regions.

Climate and Soil Impact on Wine Quality

The climate and soil of the Salento region significantly influence the quality and characteristics of San Marzano wines. The area experiences a Mediterranean climate, marked by warm, sunny days and cool nights, which is ideal for grape cultivation. This climate ensures proper growth and development of grapes during the day while preserving their aromas at night. Furthermore, the occasional severe weather conditions, including droughts, frost, and desert winds from the Sahara, challenge the vines, contributing to the unique flavour profiles of the wines.

The soil composition varies within the region, with the oldest vines growing through lanes of calcareous rock. This rocky underground, rich in minerals, keeps the roots cool and aids in the maintenance of the grapes' aromatic integrity despite limited rainfall. For white wines, the winery prefers yellow soils with more clay, which better preserves the complexity of the grapes. The diverse soil types across the region, from clay to sandy and calcareous, play a significant role in the production of wines with distinct aromas and flavours, ranging from ripe fruit and spices in red wines to fresh, fruity aromas in white wines.

Regional Significance

The location of Cantine San Marzano in the heart of the Primitivo di Manduria DOC underscores its significance in the region's viticulture. This area is renowned as the finest for growing the Primitivo grape, and the winery's commitment to enhancing and preserving the Pugliese Alberello, an ancient cultivation technique, underscores its dedication to the historical heritage of the Apulian territory. The winery's efforts in vineyard management, aimed at conserving water and adapting to the thin, red soil, demonstrate a profound respect for the land and its traditions.

Situated in a region that is a bridge between the past and the present, Cantine San Marzano embodies the essence of Puglian winemaking. Its geographical setting, coupled with the impact of climate and soil on wine quality, and its regional significance, contribute to the winery's reputation as a producer of wines with unparalleled quality and character.

Wine Making Practices at Cantine San Marzano

Cantine San Marzano has established itself as a paragon of winemaking in Puglia, balancing the rich traditions of the region with forward-thinking innovations and a commitment to sustainability. This delicate equilibrium between past and future is evident in every aspect of their wine production process, from the vineyard to the bottle.

Traditional Techniques

At the heart of Cantine San Marzano's winemaking philosophy lies a deep respect for traditional practices. The cooperative's origins in 1962, when 19 vine growers united with a shared vision, set the stage for a winemaking approach that honours the legacy of their forebears. This reverence for tradition is most vividly seen in their meticulous management of old bush vines, a method that has been preserved and cherished over generations. These ancient vines, some over sixty years old, are the source of the highly acclaimed Sessantanni Primitivo di Manduria D.O.P., a wine that encapsulates the essence of the Primitivo grape in a modern interpretation. The cultivation of native grapes in the sun-kissed Puglian countryside, under the watchful eyes of families who have tended these lands for generations, ensures that each bottle of San Marzano wine is a testament to the region's rich viticultural heritage.

Modern Innovations

While Cantine San Marzano prides itself on its adherence to traditional winemaking techniques, it has not shied away from embracing modern innovations. Following World War II, the winery adapted to changing times by incorporating stainless steel fermentation tanks and temperature-controlled cellars. These advancements have allowed for an improvement in the consistency and quality of their wines, ensuring that each vintage meets the high standards set by the winery. The introduction of a modern vinification area, equipped with 3,000 barriques made of high-quality French, American, and Caucasian oak, and a state-of-the-art bottling line, underscores San Marzano's commitment to combining age-old traditions with contemporary craftsmanship. This fusion of the old and the new enables the production of wines that not only pay homage to the ancient Puglian wine traditions but also appeal to the tastes of international consumers.

Sustainability Efforts

In recent years, Cantine San Marzano has taken significant strides towards sustainability and environmental stewardship. Recognizing the importance of preserving the region's biodiversity and reducing its carbon footprint, the winery has invested in eco-friendly vineyard practices. These efforts align with global trends towards ethical and environmentally responsible products, resonating with consumers who value sustainability. The winery's commitment to sustainability extends beyond the vineyard, with initiatives aimed at producing better wines while protecting the territory and consuming increasingly less. This approach to winemaking not only ensures the longevity of the Puglian wine tradition but also secures a healthier planet for future generations.

Cantine San Marzano's winemaking practices embody a unique blend of respect for tradition, modern innovation, and a commitment to sustainability. This trinity of principles guides the winery as it continues to produce exceptional wines that capture the essence of Puglia, making it a true ambassador of the region's viticultural excellence.

Signature Wines of Cantine San Marzano

San Marzano wines offers a selection of wines that exemplify the rich viticultural heritage of the Puglia region. Each signature wine reflects the unique terroir and the meticulous craftsmanship of the winery.

Anniversario 62

Anniversario 62, a Primitivo di Manduria Riserva, stands as a tribute to the year Cantine San Marzano was founded. This exceptional wine captures the essence of the Primitivo grape, offering a bold and luxurious experience. Aged in barriques for 18 months, it features deep flavours of baked plums, blackberries, and a hint of sweet spice. The palate is richly textured with silky soft tannins and a long, complex finish that includes notes of cocoa, coffee, and vanilla bean. This wine has garnered acclaim, securing top awards such as the 1st Best Red Wine of Italy at the Yearbook of the Best Italian Wines with a remarkable 98 points.


The Sessantanni is crafted from Primitivo grapes selected from ancient bush vines in the Valle del Sessantanni, known for its iron-rich terra rossa soil. These old vines, ranging from 60 to 100 years, produce intensely flavoured fruit, giving the wine its distinctive character. The Sessantanni offers a sensory explosion of bright cherries, sweet plum jam, and subtle hints of liquorice and cinnamon. Its full body and smooth texture are complemented by a rich burst of ripe dark berries, making it a favourite among lovers of robust red wines.


Edda Bianco Salento IPG, named after the Salento dialect for 'she', represents the feminine and sensual soul of San Marzano wines. This complex white wine blends Chardonnay with local varieties like Moscatello Selvatico and Fiano, contributing to its aromatic profile and Mediterranean notes. Aged partly in stainless steel and partly in French oak barrels, Edda offers a bouquet of white flowers, peach, citrus fruits, and a touch of vanilla. The palate enjoys a balance of savoury minerality, enveloping warmth, and noticeable acidity. It pairs beautifully with seafood, light pasta dishes, and fresh cheeses. Edda has consistently received high praise, including the title of Best Absolute Italian Wine at the Annuario dei Migliori Vini Italiani Luca Maroni Awards for multiple years.

These signature wines from Cantine San Marzano not only highlight the winery's commitment to quality and tradition but also its ability to innovate and adapt, ensuring each vintage resonates with both connoisseurs and casual wine enthusiasts alike.

Grapes Used in Cantine San Marzano Wines


Primitivo, the flagship grape of Cantine San Marzano, is renowned for producing robust, intensely flavoured red wines. This variety, identical to California's Zinfandel, thrives in the region's climate, characterized by high temperatures and significant diurnal temperature variations. These conditions contribute to the development of rich plum, prune, and fresh herb aromas in the wines, along with a velvety mouth-feel. Cantine San Marzano's approach to Primitivo emphasizes maintaining the fruit's freshness, acidity, and sweet tannins, which balance the wine's substantial body and high alcohol content.


Negroamaro is another pivotal variety for Cantine San Marzano, deeply rooted in the viticultural tradition of Puglia. Known for its structured, rich profile, Negroamaro ripens later than Primitivo and is cherished for its classical structure with notable acidity and tannins. This grape is often used in blends, particularly with Malvasia Nera, to create wines that are both robust and aromatic. The cooperative's dedication to this variety is evident in their single-varietal offerings, such as the F Label Negroamaro, and their innovative blending techniques that highlight the grape's unique characteristics, for instabe their Collezione 50 Cinquanta.

Malvasia Nera

Malvasia Nera plays a crucial role in the portfolio of Cantine San Marzano, offering a lighter alternative to the more dominant red varieties. While it is often blended with Negroamaro, San Marzano also produces a 100% Malvasia Nera wine, showcasing its capability to stand alone. The grape is known for its aromatic complexity, featuring flavours of vanilla, baked orange, and a hint of thyme. The cultivation practices include aging the wine in French oak barrels to add subtle complexity, enhancing the inherent spicy and warm notes of the grape.

Other Varieties

In addition to its focus on local indigenous grapes, Cantine San Marzano cultivates a range of other varieties, both native and international. These include Chardonnay, Malvasia Bianco, Fiano, and Merlot, each chosen for their ability to express the unique terroir of the Salento region. The cooperative's modern winemaking techniques ensure that each variety's characteristics are fully developed, producing wines that reflect the diversity and richness of the Puglian landscape. This strategic cultivation of multiple grape varieties allows San Marzano to offer a broad spectrum of wines, catering to a wide array of palates and preferences.

Awards and Recognitions

National Awards

Cantine San Marzano has consistently been recognized for its excellence within Italy, a testament to its commitment to quality and innovation. The winery was honoured with the prestigious title of "Cantina Cooperativa dell'Anno" (Cooperative Winery of the Year) by Gambero Rosso's Guida Vini d'Italia 2022. This award, received as the winery approached its 60th anniversary, acknowledges not only the quality of its wines but also its significant impact on the social and economic development of the local wine sector. Additionally, for the second consecutive year, and third time overall, Cantine San Marzano received the "High Balance Sheet Honour" from Industria Felix Magazine. This accolade is awarded to top companies in the wine sector for outstanding management performance and financial reliability, highlighting the winery's robust business practices and its role in the economic recovery post-pandemic.

International Accolades

On the international stage, Cantine San Marzano has garnered significant recognition, positioning itself as a leading figure in the global wine industry. The winery was named the "European Producer of the Year" at the Sommelier Wine Awards, where it was praised for its professional approach and forward-thinking capabilities. This international acclaim is a clear indicator of Cantine San Marzano's ability to produce wines that resonate well beyond the Italian borders, enhancing the reputation of Puglian wines worldwide.


Cantine San Marzano's journey demonstrates the winery's profound connection to tradition coupled with innovation, its unique geographical advantage in the Salento region, and its commitment to producing wines that eloquently speak of Puglia's rich viticultural legacy.

The winery's fusion of enduring wine-making methods with modern technological advances underpins its acclaimed portfolio of wines, notably characterized by the full-bodied Primitivo, sophisticated Negroamaro, and refined Malvasia Nera. The dedicated efforts to maintain environmental stewardship while crafting exceptional wines highlight San Marzano's role as a steward of Puglian wine tradition, eagerly appealing to the palates of connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.

The significant national and international accolades amassed by Cantine San Marzano underscore its position as a beacon of quality and innovation on the global wine stage that not only celebrate the winery's dedication to excellence but also contribute to elevating the profile of Puglian wines worldwide.

For those who envision a sip of Italy in their glass, San Marzano offers an exceptional journey through the taste and tradition of one of Italy's most cherished winemaking regions.


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