OK, I have a confession. I am a self proclaimed wine ‘geek’ who continues to be confused about- and then delighted by indigenous Southern Italian grape varietals. My current crush comes from the heel of the boot: Negroamaro.
Sure, I’m diggin’ those Sicilian volcanically influenced Etna Rossi, and I’ve always been a sucker for Primativo….Puglia’s ancient relative to Zinfandel. But did you know there are hundreds of indigenous varietals in Italy? That equals hundreds of reasons to explore.
Over the last couple of nights, I was re-introduced to a charming blend of Negroamaro (95%) and Malvasia Nera (5%). Now, take a deep breath, and don’t be scared. Negromaro may look like a bitter word, but this little dark grape is thought to have been named ‘black’ twice (Latin and Greek). This rustic grape is blended with the aromatic grape Malvasia producing an adventure in the glass.
The first example was in the form of Salice Salentino, a famous southern Puglian village and wine DOC, which by definition, calls for at least 80% Negroamaro (in this particular case, it’s 95%). Between us, it’s commonly blended with the Malvasia. Smelling the bouquet, I fell in love with the thought of the autumn.
Salice Salentino “Vereto” Riserva ’05 by Agricola Vallone $16
Palate: A rich, new-world mid palate with old-world acidity. This wine has an end that any palate would love.
This night’s treat was also a Puglian Riserva, from the Cantina Sociale Cooperativa. This is the cooperative from the Copertino DOC (a little south of where the previous night’s Salice Salentino hailed from….see the map at the end of this article). It’s a year more mature, and also sees the addition of 5% Malvasia Nera.
Copertino, Cantina Sociale Cooperativa Riserva ‘04 $15
Palate: Light at first, plush mid-palate, elegant in general… but short on the end. Rustic, and a natural pairing with savory cuisine.
Conclusion: Anybody who enjoys soft, traditional, evolved European red wines on a budget should absolutely investigate what Puglia has to offer. Aside from the regional wines mentioned above, also dig your heels into the communal wines of Brindisi, Gravina, and Salento Rosso. You may have to visit larger, more thoroughly stocked wine stores to find such selections, but your bounty will be worth the search.