Unless you are an Italophile, I am guessing that the title of this post has you a bit stumped. Don’t be too hard on yourself, when I was approached to try a couple of wines from Salice Salentino made from the Negroamaro grape, I was stumped as well. What? Where? Huh?
Like most of you, when I think of Italy, I think of Rome, Venice, Florence/Tuscany. The Amalfi Coast, if you are a romantic, and perhaps Milan, if you a fashionista. Lately, you can add Calabria to the mix after being bombarded by the Kelly Ripa, Ancestry.com commercial that ran every five minutes on TV during the holidays. You remember, Calabria, its the “big toe of the boot.”
Ah, now that you have that image. Salice Salentino in the Puglia region is in the “heel of the boot” that is Italy. At this point, I hope that you now have a sense of place. Still not there yet. Here is a map.
A Sense of Place – Region of Puglia
Anyone who has traveled to the region of Puglia will tell you it is a vastly overlooked destination and one that is a must see when visiting Italy. It is one of the richest archaeological regions in Italy. It is an agricultural area growing olives and grapes for wine production. The region boasts one of the longest coastlines on mainland Italy. It is also one of the most beautiful. It is also widely known for its cuisine and its wine.
WIne, you say? Absolutely. So you may not have heard of any Puglian wines, but that needs to change. True, the top four wine regions in Italy (Piedmont, Tuscany, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna) produce an estimated 55% of Italian wines and more than likely the ones you recognize. But you need to venture further south to Puglia where wines are an incredible value and absolutely delicious.
Of the 32 DOCG & DOCs (appellations) in Puglia, the wines from five of them are internationally known and available outside of Italy.
A Sense of Place – Salice Salentino DOC
Salice Salentino was established as a DOC in 1976. There are roughly 5,500 acres under vine. It is the most successful denomination of the Puglia region and one of the first to gain widespread recognition abroad. The wines are grown around the town bearing the same name and is located in the Lecce and Brindisi provinces. (see map above)
The vineyards love the soil and climate of this interior region with its deep groundwater reserves. These reserves make it possible to produce exceptional fruit and superior wines even in the dryer years.
While several varieties of both white and red grapes thrive in this region, it is the wines made from Negroamaro, either alone or blended with Malvasia Nera that command the world’s attention.
DOC wines labeled Salice Salentino Rosso (red) and Rosato (rosé), without specification of variety, the wine must have a minimum of 75% Negroamaro grapes with the remaining portion consisting of other local grape varieties.
Salice Salentino DOC wines labeled Negroamaro Rosso, or Rosato must be made with a minimum of 90% of Negroamaro grapes. Additionally, Salice Salentino DOC Riserva must have a minimum aging period of two years, of which at least six months in oak barrels.
A Sense of Taste – Negroamaro
There are more than 500 indigenous wine grapes in Italy. Some are recognizable like Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Sangiovese but most are unknown except to the most, educated Italian wine experts. In Salice Salentino the most common wines are made from a varietal that is grown in Puglia. So it will come as no surprise that you have probably never heard of Negroamaro.
Negroamaro is a red wine grape variety native to southern Italy. It is grown almost exclusively (99%) in Puglia (roughly 29,600 acres planted), and particularly in Salento, the southern peninsula, also known as the “heel” of Italy.
Negroamaro was thought to translate to “black-bitter,” but we have later learned that the name is just the word “black” repeated in two languages—Greek “mavros” and Latin “niger.” The skin of this grape is quite dark producing wines that can be very deep in color.
Negroamaro tends to make rustic, full-bodied wines that are earthy, herbal and spicy along with a decent amount of fruit. To balance out any bitterness that comes from the earthy and herbal notes, winemakers from Salice Salentino will blend Negroamaro with other grape varietals, usually Malvasia Nera. (see above for percentages)
A Sense of Taste – Sampled Wines
Falco Nero Riserva 2013 Salice Salentino, Puglia, Italy
Cantine de Falco
Salvatore De Falco started this winery fifty years ago. And now with his son, Gabriel they have produces terrior-driven wines that celebrate their sense of place. Through tireless hard work and a love for family and winemaking, these two have brought the Cantine de Falco wines to markets all around the world. In so doing, they have brought the world to Salice Salentino one bottle at a time.
This wine is dark purple with a ruby rim. The aromas were intoxicating and powerful including chocolate covered cherries, a bit of oak, mocha, and red cherries. I found back notes that are slightly medicinal and wet dirt.
My first taste was quite tart and my mouth juiced up from the acid. After all of the research that I have done, I was expecting a fuller body but found this to be pleasantly medium bodied. The tannins were a tad forward but allowing the wine to breathe for about 30 minutes smoothed them out and blended right in.
The flavors seemed to change as the wine rested capturing a tangy rhubarb and a bit of dried hay.
I sipped this wine for an entire evening. I loved the transformation and truly enjoyed this experience.
Details: 80% Negroamaro 20% Malvasia Nera.
My tasting notes for this wine are significantly different than that which you will find from the winemaker. I am OK with that as we all have varying taste receptors that bring out different flavor memories.
This wine sells in the range of $35-$42 dollars based on information from various online wine references.
Rosalbore Negroamaro Rosato 2017 Salice Salentino, Puglia, Italy
Cantine San Pancrazio
Cantine San Pancrazio has also been making wines for over fifty years as well. San Pancrazio Winery believes that making great wine requires excellent fruit. To accomplish this goal, they work with a cooperative of farmers who are farming in some of the best locations in the area. This practice began in the early 1960s and continues today. It is the farmer’s dedication to the land that enables the winery to take their exquisitely cared for fruit and craft it into wines that folks want to drink all the world over.
In my experience, Italian Rosato tends to be a darker color than the French or American rosé. I love the richness, and the intensity of the darker tones and this wine fits that bill perfectly.
This wine is a deep salmon color with a reddish cast. The primary aroma that came through for me was melon with a hint of strawberry.
The wine is tart with pleasing, cleansing acidity. The flavors include generic citrus and cranberry followed by a touch of grapefruit. The finish is lingering.
Details: 100% Negroamaro
As a rosé enthusiast, I fell hard for this wine. I could drink this wine all summer long through to Thanksgiving. It would be a perfect complement to the turkey dinner.
I could not find any pricing for this wine. When I do, I am going to order some.
One final note: I spent weeks researching the region and the wines. It was an incredible experience that I hope comes through in this post. The wines from Salice Salentino have an incredible quality to price ratio (QPR). The next time you see one on a wine store shelf or restaurant wine list. BUY it. You will not be sorry.
That is all for now,
Thank you to FABIO INGROSSO for answering my emails and agreeing to share his images of the region with me. Your images were the perfect complement for my post. stayciao.com is his website and offers vacation rentals in the region.