Puglia (also sometimes seen spelled “Apulia”) is Italy’s unrivalled southern breadbasket…and garden, and major fishing center too. This region’s terrain is largely flat to hilly (so it’s easy to till), mostly very fertile, sun-flooded, and is nearly surrounded by frothing azure seas whose briny depths are home to as many frutti di mare as fruits and veggies are grown on land in this region’s deep, generous soils…
And on the shadier, steeper, and rockier outcroppings of earth in this naturally blessed region are found many of the sites of Puglia’s thousands and thousands of vineyards – so many in fact, that Puglia ranks second only to Veneto in the overall production of grapes in all of Italy, though most of the fruit grown in Puglia that becomes wine is red (the particular composition of the soils, the intense heat, and incessant sun make white wine production in Puglia quite difficult).
Puglia’s single most famous red grape variety is known here by its local name Primitivo, but is known to most of the rest of the world by its American alias, Zinfandel…So if Primitivo/Zinfandel is Puglia’s most celebrated vine variety, Salice Salentino in southeastern Puglia is surely the region’s most famous appellation. Made primarily from the severely underrated Negroamaro (neg-ro-ah-MAH-ro) variety, and another local variety called Malvasia Nera (that include sub-varieties with suffixes like -di Lecce, and -di Brindisi ), this is a region that makes very little crappy wine, and from the best producers (like this one), the quality and depth can be flabbergasting, especially when considering price.
This particular wine comes from a producer whose entire production has been certified organic, and it is clearly made in a very gregarious, “natural”, unfiltered style as well. That said, because Puglia’s very hot, bright, and dry climate is so fundamentally inhospitable to pests, be they fungoid, insectoid or whatever, in many years most growers do not do anything that would disqualify them as organic, though their wines are not strictly so demarcated.
Tonight’s dinner consisted of pennoni pasta with a simple pureed sauce of fava beans, mint, scallions, etc. and then thin swordfish steaks marinated in lemon, olive oil, garlic, lots of oregano, S&P, floured, egg-dipped, breadcrumbed, and pan-fried, served with crispy roasted potatoes.
Azienda Agricola Natalino del Prete Salice Salentino “Torre Nova” 2009
Deep, opaque, cloudy and sultry blackish garnet color. Very complex and “pulpy” aromas of minerals, dried flowers, blackberry, barnyard, licorice, chimney, motor oil, country air, cucumber, mocha, and pine tar. The wine in the mouth is big, full-bodied, dense and chewy in texture, with a powerful, fine, deep, and polished tannic structure on which are hung rich, vivid, three-dimensional flavors of juniper, black cherry, black currant, prune juice, sap, and woody herbs. The finish is very long, intense, warm and dry, with clear flavors of blood orange juice and raisins. A wine of powerful, expressive, and profound rustic elegance.