A•Mano is pure Apulia and ironically, neither of its owners is native of the region: Mark Shannon is a graduate of the University of California at Davis, a former “flying winemaker” who settled down on this superb ancient soil; Elvezia Sbalchiero is a marketing professional born on Italy’s opposite extreme, cool northern Friuli. They met in 1997, while both were consulting for a Sicilian winery. So successful was their professional encounter that in August, 1998, Mark asked “Elvie” to follow him on a tour of what is locally known as Primitivo’s “golden triangle”, an area between Torricella, Sava and Manduria where this native Apulian grape especially thrives. As a Davis graduate in winemaking, Mark was fascinated by the variety: a famous Davis research had proven Primitivo and California Zinfandel have identical DNA. The story is best told by Elvie herself: “We landed at Bari airport, rented a small Fiat car and drove to this celebrated area south of Taranto they call triangolo del Primitivo: the expanse of old, bush-trained vines is breathtaking to see; you can imagine what it was to an American winemaker. We both fell in love with the region on the spot; it was supposed to be a short vacation. In fact, we felt we’d come home, and stayed.” Mark takes over from Elvie, reminiscing: “Puglia is so easy to fall in love with: a history of grape-growing in harmony with nature; everything necessary for top-quality wines. I have not seen another region of the world where the quality potential is so high. After many years of technical winemaking, I had almost forgotten that the right way to make wine is with love. In fact, Puglia reminded me this is the way to do everything.” Mark and Elvie thus founded a winery of their very own, ideally located within the “golden triangle” and boasting vines that are 70 to 100 years old. They emblematically called it A•Mano, Italian for “hand-made”. More than a name, a manifesto: the Shannon/Sbalchiero team follow every detail from vineyard to bottle with the passionate dedication of artisans and artists. The superb alluvial soil is beautiful even to look at: deep red and sienna-colored, ideal for structured, extract-packed grapes… Vines are hand-cultivated and low-yielding, still head-trained as they were by the ancient Phoenicians. Mark has achieved a winning combination of California-style technology (jacketed rotary fermenters, heat exchangers, stainless steel equipment on a state-of-the-art scale etc.) and Apulian tradition and terroir. Add to all these quality factors Elvie’s strength, determination and logistic intelligence and the wines’ amazing value, and you have one of the premier wineries in Puglia, with a range of full, flavorful, fruit-packed and food-friendly native varietals that speak in the region’s finest accents.
Mark Shannon & Elvezia Sbalchiero