The Italian wine scene can be a bit daunting, if for no other reason than the number of D.O.C.G. and D.O.C. appellations that can present themselves on shop shelves or wine lists. There are many, many hundreds of them and the names aren’t typically, but can be as rough as “Valdadige Terradeiforti” or “Cacc’e mmitte di Lucera” (these are not typos).
To further broaden and confuse the issue, there are hundreds more named “I.G.T.” (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) designations all up and down the peninsula, and on both islands, that follow a less restrictive set of norms, most of which are minutiae for the consumer, with the exception of permissable yields (the total mass of fruit than can be legally harvested, in this case, per hectare). In I.G.T. zones this figure is higher, which usually means wines more directed at the “mass market”. That said, the best I.G.T. wines can best some of the the two upper designation’s middle range offerings.
This brings us to Salento. For whatever reason, what in my opinion are two of the greatest grape varieties in Puglia -Negroamaro and Primitivo – can only legally be blended here in this I.G.T. As is the case with any great partnership, each half of the duo fills in the gaps of the other, and so it is with these two grapes. Negroamaro is feminine and elegant, but often a bit austere, with a very polished and detailed palate. Primitivo on the other hand, makes a chunky, earthy, rich, dense, and dark wine. If ever there was a “Yin and Yang” relationship between two grape varieties, these two varieties have one. Even without a bump up in standards in Salento, lots of really nice wine gets made there and this is one of them, but in such a singular region, it’s nice to dream about Salento with a higher set of standards.
This evening’s dinner was more about matching this wine with some leftovers that needed a re-working, rather than a strictly regional approach: First course – pepper and potato frittata. Main course – baked chicken scaloppine topped with pecorino and mozzarella cheeses, and mushrooms with herbs and wine on top of that. Side – browned Brussels sprouts.
Felline “Albarello” Salento Rosso I.G.T. 2008
Very deep and sultry crimson color. Tidy nose of tea, minerals, savory spices, plums, black cherry, licorice, sea water, and a slight smokiness. The palate is full-bodied and fairly corpulent but with a big tannic structure that still remains elegant and detailed, with a very fine mouthfeel and “modern”, juicy flavors of prune, watermelon, black raspberry, and currants, followed by notes of bitter chocolate and rose water. Pleasantly austere, dry finish.