Morella – Australia Meets Organic Wine in Puglia


Improbabile would be the Italian way to describe being a successful female wineaker in Puglia. Throw in being an Australian, and the fact that the winery is literally an industiral garage, and you have an interesting recipe for some of the best organic wine in the region.

Winemaker Lisa Gilbee went to her first wine tasting at 9. She loved everything about it, particularly the concentrated musty aromas that permeated the room. She knew then that she wanted to make wine. She left her native Australia for Italy in 1994 and landed in Puglia’s lesser-known winemaking region of Manduria. Seven years ago she started her winery Morella, named after her husband, Gaetano Morella.

Four years ago she applied for a building permit. Italian bureaucracy being what it is, the permit has just been approved, to which Lisa laughingly says, “The good news is that in that time we learned a lot about what we need. The bad news is that loans got tighter.” The building, which will include a home for her family, will be in the country amid their vines, a field of young ones (40 years old) on one side, and the old vines (80 years old) on the other. Lisa was lucky enough to purchase the old vine section from an elderly couple who tended the vines themselves until they passed away – 8 months apart from each other.

Everything Lisa does is natural. She holds herself to very high standards and employs a biodynamic “coach,” Ukrainian Alex Podolinsky, whom she knew from Australia. Before going biodynamic, as she puts it, “I stopped using the ‘icides’ – pesticides, herbicides, fungicides.” For her region this was radical, because most of the growers were in the sway of the chemical salesmen who promised increased yield. Naturally, this resulted in poor quality wine, mostly sold in bulk to other winemakers.


By choice, Morella is neither certified as organic or biodynamic. It’s not even DOC. Lisa follows her own farming practices and believes that her fans will trust that she’s done the right thing.

Despite the dreary, rainy day of our visit, Morella’s fields, even in their post-harvest state, glowed. The land and its plants radiated vitality, beauty and health. No wonder Lisa’s dream is to build her winery and home for her family amidst these vineyards.

Morella grows 4 varietals: Primitivo, Negroamaro, Malbec and Fiano. From these grapes, 6 wines are made: 4 red and 2 white.

Lisa describes her garage as a “lego winery.” Hand plunging, slow open fermentation and a basket press are her building blocks. The basket press – an old-fashioned cage with pistons that squashes the grapes – extracts 60% by volume and the grapes can only be pressed once with this method. Industrial presses yield 80%, the remainder of volume being stems and leaves. What’s left from her pressing is sold to distilleries.

The juice is then put into 300 liter barrels, mostly to segregate one varietal from another, but also to allow for micro-oxygenation and settling. The latter is essential because the wine will not be filtered. After 12–18 months, the wine is moved to either stainless steel or cement tanks for another 2–6 months. Then it is hand-bottled. She said, “It’s refreshing as an Australian to have wines with natural acidity. In Australia we have to add acid.”

Her final thought; “It’s old fashioned wine making with attention to cleanliness. If you have good vineyards, you don’t have to do much in the winery.”

The winery’s production is 20,000 bottles. 2000 are white. Most is sold in Switzerland, followed by England. A few palettes find their way to the U.S. so do yourself a favor and look for them. They are imported by Piedmont Wine Imports.

Tasting Notes

Morella Primitivo Negroamaro, 2010

Albero Damiano, the Maitre d’Hotel at Palazzo Indelli in the seaside town of Monopoli, tasted the wine and weighed in with the following – “Stupendous!” It’s not necessary to serve with this with meat, it would also work well with vegetables and fish. \”Personally, I like wine that tastes of ripe fruit, which this does. Chocolate finish. Serve with figs, almonds, or biscotti.”

We agree with the expert. It’s elegant and sophisticated. Should be savored with a special meal, and if your meal isn’t special, this will make it so. This is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape-style wine.

Morella Old Vines Primitivo, 2010

Gorgeous wine. Full of ripe fruit, currants and berries, but not a hint of sweetness. Medium body. You can almost taste the gnarl in the vine. Legs linger on the glass leaving patterns like an historic leaded window. Deep ruby red (not as black as the Primitivo Negroamaro blend). Settles in after 10 minutes and becomes noticeably rounder and even more luscious. Albero Damiano added, \”the ultimo Primitivo for typical Puglian food, like orrchiette with broccoli rabe, sausage and mushrooms.”

Raise your hand if you\’ve justified a hefty pour of merlot on a Monday night with the words: \”But red wine is good for you!\” Honestly, same.

Regardless of whether you\’re a total wino who knows the difference between the base notes of cabernet and pinot noir or just enjoy pouring yourself a glass after a long day, you can probably attest to how great a good glass of vino really is. (It\’s no wonder that ancient Greeks used to overindulge in the good stuff, and millennials are following suit, apparently.)

And you\’ve probably told yourself that choosing red wine over white is taking the booze \”high-road\” in the name of your health-but is red wine good for you, really? Well, kind of, but it\’s not quite that simple. Read on so you never have to second guess that one glass of red wine again.

The Red Wine Benefits

1. It cuts your risk of disease. Red wine contains resveratrol, which is basically the magic elixir that gives red wine its benefits. It\’s been tied to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia.


2. It\’s good for your skin. Reservatrol can also slow the growth of acne-causing bacteria and may also give you glowing skin. (Hello, girls\’ night and buh-bye breakouts!) Read more about pelvic floor strong.

3. It helps you chill out. Reservatrol also stimulates the release of the stress-response protein PARP-1, which activates genes that are responsible for repairing DNA and promoting longevity. (If you prefer the green stuff, consider this red wine made with THC.)

4. It strengthens those pearly whites. While a glass of red wine may temporarily turn your teeth (and tongue and lips) a little purple, it actually has some healthy mouth benefits. Red wine contains polyphenols, which studies show help keep harmful bacteria from attaching to teeth.

5. It can aid in digestion. All those polyphenols are actually pretty hard to digest. This sounds like a bad thing, but a Spanish study found that they actually feed the good bacteria in your gut.


6. It might improve your fertility. A study out of Washington University in St. Louis found that drinking red wine might boost your fertility because it\’s been linked to an increased number of eggs in your ovarian reserve.

7. It could help you lose weight. Just listen to the positive results from these studies: one from Washington State University shows that resveratrol helps transform \”white fat\” into \”beige fat,\” the latter of which is easier to burn. Another by Harvard University looked at 20,000 women over the course of 13 years and found that those who drank two glasses of wine daily were 70 percent less likely to be overweight. Plus, other research found that resveratrol also helps suppress your appetite. Bam. (Keep reading: Does Red Wine Help You Lose Weight?). Learn more about one and done workout meredith shirk.

8. It could even boost your workout performance. Say what?! Really-two studies have shown that resveratrol may mimic exercise in the body and boost workout performance (see, told you it was magic). Prevent most temperature drops while making exercise with blast auxiliary portable ac. However, the studies were done on rats, not humans, and they show that it takes a lot more resveratrol than you\’ll find in one glass of wine to reap the benefits. In one glass of red wine, there are only about 0.29 to 1.89 milligrams per 5 fluid ounces (a serving), says Lauren Schmitt, registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, and owner of Healthy Eating and Training Inc. This is much less than 146+ milligrams used in the study. Which means, yeah, you\’d have to get pretty smashed on syrah before seeing any performance improvements (and your intoxication and the subsequent hangover would probably negate all that anyway).


14 responses to “Morella – Australia Meets Organic Wine in Puglia”

  1. […] “Improbabile would be the Italian way to describe being a successful female winemaker in Puglia. Throw in being an Australian, and the fact that the winery is literally an industrial garage, and you have an interesting recipe for some of the best organic wine in the region.” Read more here… […]

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