Posted by: tomciocco | October 14, 2013

NEGROAMARO: PUGLIA’S “BITTER BLACK” (IT’S A WHOLE LOT BETTER THAN IT SOUNDS)

Puglia (Italy’s “heel”), along with the pianura padana (the flat plains around the Po river in northern Italy) are effectively Italy’s “bread basket”, providing the lion’s share of the nation’s grains, produce, and in Puglia’s case, grapes as well; a huge percentage of the table grapes consumed in Italy are grown in this mostly flat and very fertile region in Italy’s southeastern corner.

But Puglia’s bounty definitely doesn’t stop at veggies and table grapes.  Especially with regard to red wine grapes, Puglia is a nationwide leader with such bold red varieties as Primitivo, Uva di Troia, and tonight’s featured grape, Negroamaro. As alluded to in the title of this post, the name “Negroamaro” literally translates as “bitter black”, and on some level, this name fairly well characterizes the nature of this variety: it’s deeply colored and has a irrepressible tannic backbone, but the name omits as much as it captures. Negroamaro, for this wine guy, is also one of the most elegant but still easy drinking and balanced red wine grapes anywhere on the peninsula. And as a bonus, it also ages very gracefully.

In terms of quantities produced, most Negroamaro appears within the D.O.C. called Salice Salentino where it is typically blended with up to 25% of a semi -aromatic red variety called Malvasia Nera di Brindisi (Salice Salentino can be made exclusively with Negroamaro, though it rarely is) that serves to smooth, ‘sweeten’ and soften the final results.  This wine however, hails from the Salento I.G.T. appellation that allows for more leeway in terms of what ultimately ends up in the bottle, and in this particular example, the wine is produced exclusively from Negroamaro, and let me tell you, it doesn’t miss a beat without the Malvasia Nera. The wines from Puglia are very well known for their exceptional value, and this one hits that mark with sophistication and quality to spare, and the fact that it’s produced by a co-op makes it even that much more affordable. If you dig big and deep New World Pinot Noirs, and are looking for an extra layer of Mediterranean sex appeal, and at a small fraction of the price, this is a wine for you.

As noble a wine as Negroamaro produces, it doesn’t have the “snobbishness” of Nebbiolo let’s say, so it pairs as well with duck as it does with pizza, and pizza it was tonight – with onions and anchovies.

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Conti Zecca “Donna Marzia” Negroamaro Salento I.G.T. 2010

Blackish purple/garnet color. Very suave nose of black cherry and black raspberry fruit with beautifully integrated aromas of coffee, cocoa, licorice, wood smoke, and an underlying subtle and lovely perfuminess. The palate is medium-full in weight, with polished but firm and savory, smoothly dry tannins and a great overall balance with flavors of black plums, blood orange, rosewater and a fine minerality. Warm and long black tea finish. An elegant and complex but still very quaffable wine.

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