Posted by: tomciocco | June 30, 2014

ITALY’S FIRST OFFICIAL ROSE` WINE CELEBRATES AN ANNIVERSARY

As I’ve surely mentioned before, there is not a long tradition for the production of pink wines in Italy. There are many Italian wine regions and producers within those regions who have never made one, and in all liklihood never will. The Spanish and the French on the other hand do have a long tradition of making rose` wines and the for the most part, the Italians have left the production of said to these two cultural cousins and neighbors.

There is one region however that got onto the rosy wine train sooner than any other in Italy and that place is Italy’s “heel” region, Puglia, and this evening’s producer, Leone de Castris, was the very first to commercially bottle and sell an Italian rose`, just a few months after Mussolini fall in 1943, making this 2013 vintage the 70th edition of this groundbreaking wine.

The wine is classified as an IGT Salento that comes from the town of Salice Salentino in the province of Lecce in the southern portion of the Pugliese peninsula. The name Salice Salentino may be familiar to wine drinkers as the name of a D.O.C.-level red wine that carries the same name, and indeed both wines are made from the same grapes: the complex, elegant and structured Negroamaro and the the fresh, sweet-tempered and aromatic Malvasia Nera di Lecce. And whether the wine is red or pink, the percentages that compose each wine is quite similar, with the red version typically weighing in at 90% Negroamaro with the Malvasia playing the cameo role at 10%. With this rose` cuvee`, the blend is tweaked to 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera di Lecce in order to boost the wine’s overall levity and drinkability.

In most cases, pink wines are made for immediate consumption and are therefore usually not made from grapes from any given producer’s top vineyard sites, and at least in terms of its conception, this one isn’t much different from the rest, but that said, the vines that supply the fruit to produce this wine are all better than 50 years of age which directly contributes to make a wine that can benefit from a short aging, and further is a testament to Leone de Castris’ desire to not make their rose` as an afterthought or just as a seasonal, money making bottling to round out the line. To be clear, this rose` is still as fun and quaffable as any other out there, but what’s actually to be found underneath the cork brings to the table a depth, an intricacy and a wider drinking window than most other pinks that are now flooding the market – it’s a wine that is “serious” enough to not be just a hot weather guzzler, but while still retaining the affability that all rose` wines out to have, which makes this a very useful wine indeed.

I put this wine together with a traditional Pugliese pasta dish called penne con i broccoli (with tomato, onion, garlic, anchovies, raisins, pine nuts and of course, broccoli) followed by a main course of “smother fried” eggs with potatoes, leeks, lemon juice, mushrooms, thyme and oregano.

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Leone de Castris Salento I.G.T. Rosato “Five Roses” 2013

Slightly coppery, deep pink color. Forward nose of jarred maraschino cherries, strawberry, green olives, with prominent notes of dried red flowers on a fresh chalky base. In the mouth the wine shows a rich and warm but still bright medium-full body with flavors of stewed peaches, red currants, blood orange, dried herbs, sweet spices, vanilla bean and hint of cocoa. Fat but cleanly bitterish finish.

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