Miali Wines: An Interview With The Winemaker

by Jennifer Miller


I’m always looking for an experience that’s completely arresting—a wine that makes me stop in my tracks, makes the room go silent and just pulls me into the glass. Meet Miali Wines Mater Primitivo I.G.P Salento: WOW.

Miali Wines is among the best that Italy has to offer. The winery started in 1886 and is currently run by the 4th generation, a band of brothers:

Michele, the oldest

Francesco, the middle

Marcello, the youngest

The winery is located where ancient meets tradition, in Apulia, the “land of the shady wood.”  Oh how I wish I was there tasting their autochthonous grapes right now….

Instead, I got the next best thing: the opportunity to chat with one of the wine makers, Marcello Miali, while he was doing a tasting at Bourbon Street Wine & Spirits in Califon.  Call it coincidence, destiny, fate or the store Manager, Kristin’s doing… Either way I was thrilled!

To start, Marcello is in New Jersey because this is “where all the Italian’s go.” I dug a little deeper and learned that it’s also because his girlfriend is here. Their relationship is a real life romance about a timely connection and a unions-mysterious bond that navigated fate and distance to bring them together and as a result, also bring great Italian wines to New Jersey. As Marcello poured samples of his wine to customers, I asked him a few questions:

MD: What is the biggest challenge as a wine maker?

MM: In a winery, the most important question to ask yourself is: should we make a wine that we like, one with our personality and terroir or one that is easy to sell? We try to keep our traditions alive while keeping an eye on the market. Every wine we make has a peculiar personality, due to the land, the weather, and the decisions of the winemaker during that year. But if we don't explain to the people why a wine has those characteristics, all the work would be wasted. The balance is the main Challenge.

MD: If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

MM: Before working with my family, I had different jobs: played volleyball on a professional team, worked in a call center, in a financial company as a stocks trader. And so, I don’t really know. Perhaps I could be a florist or an astronaut, a truck driver or a writer :-)

MD: What is your winemaking philosophy?

MM: No doubt: Let tradition and innovation coexist.

MD: What is the best non-Miali wine you have ever tasted?

MM: That is the 1 million $ question: When someone asks me what is my favorite among my wines, my answer is always the same: It depends! Wine is about feeling, connection and (I don't want to be boring) balance. I tried recently the Gattinara by Travaglini and is a great wine. I love the white wines from Saint Michel Eppan (that despite of the German name, is an Italian winery from Alto Adige). I love the Bukkuram from Marco De Bortoli, in Sicily. And I can go on... My favorite wine is the right wine for the right moment.

For the tasting, Marcello was pouring 5 wines:

Dolcimelo: a crisp, bold white wine that pairs well with shellfish.

FIRR:  a crisp Sauvignon with a long finish that pairs well with fish and sharp cheeses.

Lunalba: a bubbly Chardonnay with light-dry flavor that would compliment chicken or white fish.

Campirossi: the Grandfather of the zinfandel grapes that is an intense, fruity red wine that would compliment a bolognaise sauce.

Mater: the “over-ripe” wine that is aged 2 years in a barrel. It has a strong taste and is my personal favorite. It pairs beautifully with beef or a nice Italian Dinner.

Settarte: the “unfiltered” red wine that was produced in a steel vat. It’s really rich and smooth and would pair well with aged, stinky cheese.

Miali wine stopped me in my tracks and meeting Marcello, the passionate winemaker impressed me even further. You need to add Miali wines to your "need-to-taste list"…like immediately…go do it right now…