Posts tagged ‘malvasia nera’
Given that all twenty regions in Italy are wine-producing areas, it stands to reason that some of these regions get overlooked when it comes to the quality of their products. You just don’t hear that much about the red wines from Puglia, so I thought I’d address that in this post.
Puglia is the region in the far southeastern reaches of Italy that everyone recognizes as the “heel of the boot.” The fact that more people know that piece of trivia as compared to its wines is a bit sad, but the overall quality of Apulian reds is quite good and improving all the time. Historically, this has been a region of large production, meaning much bulk wine, but thankfully that reality is changing.
The most famous red from Puglia – at least in the United States – is Salice Salentino. This is produced in the southern part of the region in a district north of the town of Lecce and southwest of the major city of Brindisi. Named for the eponymous commune, Salice Salentino is made primarily from a local variety known as Negroamaro, which literally means “black bitter.” The variety has deep color and offers aromas of black cherry and other black fruits; the acidity levels are not too high and the tannins are lightly bitter, but usually not overly aggressive. Salice Salentino must have a minimum of 80% Negroamaro, with the remaining blend often contaning another local variety, Malvasia Nera, which adds acidity and fragrance to the finished wine.
Most examples of Negroamaro are meant to be consumed within 3-7 years of the vintage. Some lighter, fresher examples are priced very reasonably ($12-$14), while the richer, more complex examples that can age for close to a decade are often priced around $25. Among the best examples of a complex, ageworthy Salice Salentino are the “Donna Lisa” bottling from Leone de Castris, the “Armecolo” from Castel di Salve and the “Selvarossa” Riserva offering from Cantine due Palme.
Here is a short list of the best producers of Salice Salentino:
- Agricole Vallone
- Cantine de Falco
- Castel di Salve
- Castello Monaci
- Conti Zecca
- Feudi di Guagnano
- Feudi di San Marzano
- Leone de Castris
- Li Veli
- Tenute al Bano Carrisi
Another well-known red variety in Puglia is Primitivo, used throughout the region, but primarily in the south (many producers that make a Salice Salentino also bottle a Primitivo). Most researchers believe that from DNA evidence, Primitivo is a genetic parent of Zinfandel, the famed red variety of California. Primitivo offers rich spice, zesty tannins, deep color and ripe black fruit flavors (black raspberry, black cherry, black plum).
Most examples of Primitivo focus on the ripeness of the variety and its fruit-forward nature. Generally, most bottlings of Primitivo do not offer the complexity or graceful qualities of a Salice Salentino, but there are examples that are excellent, especially the DOC wines of Primitivo di Manduria. Among those are the “Sessantanni” from Feudi di San Marzano (named for the average age of the vines – 60 years), the “Papale” and “Chicca” bottlings from Vigne e Vini and the “Feudo del Conte” from Antiche Terre del Salento.
CASTEL DEL MONTE
Another excellent wine district is Castel del Monte, in north-central Puglia, located a bit west of Bari, the region’s capital. The primary grape here is Nero di Troia, also known as Uva di Troia. While this has ripe black cherry flavors, there is very good acidity with medium-weight tannins, meaning a well-made wine made from this variety has a nice degree of finesse and elegance to go with its richness.
Other varieties used in a Castel del Monte DOC red (the wine is named for a famous castle in the area) include Montepulciano and Aglianico. There are monovarietal Castel del Monte reds as well; these include Pinot Nero and Bombino Rosso (there are also bottlings of Castel del Monte whites – Bombino Bianco is the principal variety here – and lovely rosés as well, often made from Nero di Troia or Aglianico).
Here is a short list of the best producers of Castel del Monte rosso:
- Tenuta Cocevola
- Torre Vento
One note on a special Castel del Monte red. The “Bocca di Lupo” from Tormaresca is a gorgeous 100% Aglianico with layers of fruit, rich tannins and beautiful complexity. This is reminiscent of some of the finest bottlings of Aglianico from the nearby Basilicata region. Given its seductive black cherry fruit and notes of chocolate, this is so tempting upon release, but this is a wine that is at is best some 7-12 years after the vintage.
As with other Italian regions, producers in Puglia are crafting some beautiful IGT reds. Among the best are the “Graticciaia” from Agricole Vallone, a wonderfully concentrated, beautifully structured 100% Negroamaro; “Duca di Aragona” from Candido, a blend of Negroamaro and Montepulciano that is a graceful blend of spice, tobacco and black cherry fruit; “Priante” from Castel di Salve, a 50/50 blend of Negroamaro and Montepulciano that is quite rich and ripe and shows a more modern approach with these varieties, yet is beautifully balanced and the “Torre Testa” from Tenute Rubino, a powerful offering made from the indigenous variety, Susumaniello.
Finally I have to mention one of the most enjoyable – and at the same time – most rarely seen DOC reds from Puglia. It’s Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera (pronounced kotch-ay meet-ay dee lew-chair-a) and it’s from a small zone near Foggia in the far northern reaches of the region. Only a handful of producers make this wine; the leading estate is Alberto Longo. This is a medium-weight red made at Longo from Nero di Troia, Montepulciano and Bombino Bianco. This is a delightful wine with moderate tannins and tasty red cherry fruit with distinct spice and earthiness – it has the fruitiness of a Dolcetto with the rustic qualities of a simple French Cotes-du-Rhone. It doesn’t cost much and it’s reminder of the simple charms of traditional Puglian red wine.
Ancient variety of Calabria; black cherry fruit and firm tannins. A few producers, most notably Librandi are working with this grape.
One of Italy’s most widely planted white varieties, this found in several regions, including Tuscany, Lazio, Sicily, Umbria and Basilicata. There are several clones and subvarieties of Malvasia. Generally produces a lighter, high acid white, but it can also be used for sweet wines, as in Malvasia di Lipari in Sicily.
Red subvariety of Malvasia found in Tuscany and Pugila. Generally used in blends for acidity (Salice Salentino in Puglia, e.g.)
White variety of Calabria, used often to produce dessert wines. Notes of pear and honey.
Red variety of Tuscany used in Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Deep color and good acidity. Almost always used as part of a blend.
Red variety of Trentino. Deep color and moderate tannins. Marzemino wine is mentioned in Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni.
One of the principal red varieties used in the Valpolicella district. Brisk acidity and firm tannins are the key trademarks of the variety.
Red variety found in Sardinia with light color and tannins. Bottled on its own as a stand-alone variety and also used in blends.
The leading red variety of the Abruzzo region – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – is the best-known example – the variety is also found in Marche and a few other regions. Deep color and plenty of spice – often notes of tobacco.
White variety found in several regions of Italy, perhaps best known in Piemonte for Moscato d’Asti (frizzante) and Asti Spumante (bollicine). Gorgeous aromatics of peach, apricot and honey.Usually fermented with a bit of residual sugar to make a lightly sweet wine. There are also excellent examples of Moscato found in Sicily, most notably in Pantelleria and Noto.
One of the most important subvarieties of Moscao, this is found in Alto Adige, where it is usually fermented dry.
Red subvariety of Moscato found in Alto Adige. Gorgeous aromas of rose petals, raspberry and strawberry. Wines are lightly sweet.
Found in several regions, from Trentino to Sicily (yes, a few producers in sunny Sicily work with this variety!), this has aromatics of pear, peach and apple and is usually made in a lightly sweet style.
The great red variety of Piemonte and one of Italy’s most important red varieties. The only grape used in the production of Barolo and Barbaresco, Nebbiolo has aromas and flavors of currant, red cherry, orange peel and tar. Quite tannic, so most wines made from Nebbiolo age quite well. Also found in the neighboring region of Lombardia, where it is planted in the Valtellina district and known there as Chiavennasca.
Important red variety of Puglia, literally meaning “black bitter.” Principal grape used in Salice Salentino; also bottled on its own. Deep color, big spice and firm tannins.
Red variety that is the lesser component (20%) of the Etna Rosso red of Sicily.
Red variety that is the principal component (80%) of Etna Rosso. Deeper color and more body that Nerello Cappuccio.
Arguably the most important red variety of Sicily, Nero d’Avola has flavors of marascino cherry with deep color, moderate acidity and tannins. Good examples of Nero d’Avola can be made at various levels; the more full-bodied examples offer more spice.
Red variety found in small plantings in the Valpolicella district. Masi is the leading proponent of this variety, which has more tannins than most of the other red varieties used in the production of Amarone.
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