Negroamaro - January 2011

At the heart of popular Puglian blends


Last week, I talked a little about the Puglian wine scene and my thoughts on the matter. The response I received was interesting to say the least. In fact, I received several comments about similar wine markets: those trying to make the move from bulk wine production to premium wines. While the specifics for every region were and are unique, it’s surprising, at least on the surface, how the process tends to follow a certain path – a path that has necessarily changed with time. But the forces that cause these changes have also kept the process rather narrowly confined to a specific path.

Before I continue with my examination of the Puglian wine scene, it’s worth noting that today’s tasting report focuses on that Puglian workhorse of a grape: Negroamaro. You may not know Negroamaro, but it’s the heart of many popular Puglian blends, such as Salice Salentino, Copertino, Leverano, and my favorite (if only just to say it) the exquisitely named Squinzano!
Best Negroamaro Wines for the U.S. Market
Salice Salentino is one of the wines I first drank as a house wine so the wines hold a special place in my heart. I’ve always enjoyed the Negroamaro-based wines, but the better wines in this tasting really take things to a new level. There are the obvious -- excesses of modern winemaking -- too much extraction, new oak, and other tinkering that fundamentally changes the character of the wines -- but overall the wines proved why Negroamaro has such a long history in a starring role. The wines are rich and offer a lot of value, though most lacked that bit of distinction that would set them apart.

Let me immediately contradict that by saying it’s hard to override the character of Negroamaro; it is what is. By the same token, it seems very difficult to tease complexity and finesse from these grapes, but not impossible!

A few last words on these Negroamaro wines. Because of the power, richness and somewhat rustic quality of many of these wines, they pair wonderfully with game dishes, particularly stews and braises, though beef is a fine partner as well. I have enjoyed the earthier examples with dishes like a good pork molé, allowing that savory, earthy note to bridge the wine and food.

You’ll notice quite a few are not available in the U.S. market. In part that is due to the fact that many of these wines were tasted pre-release. In other cases, the producers are relatively new, or the specific wines are recent additions to the producer’s profile. That leads us back the discussion begun last week on what it is that Puglia’s wine scene is experiencing and going through.

Last week, I ended with this thought: “People are no longer gravitating toward the bigger is better mocha-choco-blueberry shake-style of wines. This is not to say that no-one is doing modern high-end Puglian wines well. Quite the contrary. A few of the producers I tried shocked me with the quality of their wines, but it was for a simple reason: they captured the essence of their most valuable asset.”

So, the broader question then is: “How did Puglia’s winemakers get here and why am I tasting so many wines from ‘new’ wineries or recent additions to a winemaker’s portfolio?” Let me propose a theory, next time on Snooth.

Go to pages 2 and 3 for tasting notes for 37 Negroamaro wines.

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Mentioned in this article


  • My first encounter with the Negroamaro grape was a wine called Coppertino. I did not notice it on your list. It was a wonderful wine and became a standard in my cellar, to be used with my Italian red sauces. Can't find it anymore. It started out at $8. a bottle, but when it went to $11., my local wine purveyors stopped carrying it. Guess they thought it wasn't worth the increase in price. I didn't agree. Ever heard of it

    Jan 10, 2011 at 12:33 PM

  • Snooth User: howie2
    Hand of Snooth
    419724 9

    Love Negroamaro, but amazed that you have not found room for both of the offerings from Cantele. They are a standout producer from Puglia, always reliable, often brilliant, and the basic and top end Negroamaro's are both wonderful and great value for money!! Howie.

    Jan 10, 2011 at 4:03 PM

  • Snooth User: JSScrappy
    682958 9

    Yes Howie is dead on! Cantele wines from Puglia are great and inexpensive!

    Jan 10, 2011 at 5:49 PM

  • Snooth User: howie2
    Hand of Snooth
    419724 9

    Thanks JSS...wherever you are?? Have you tried their Rosato and the Amativo. If I think about, they are one of few wineries who make no bad wines and you can sell the whole range easily. Cant say that too often about producers with several wines on offer!!

    Jan 10, 2011 at 6:04 PM

  • Snooth User: luca chevalier
    Hand of Snooth
    533661 2,535

    Feudi di San Marzano
    2009 Negroamaro F

    ...avayable at home always...suggestion to try also PRIMITIVO 60 ANNI
    Feudi di San Marzano...if not avayable in USA i can send it!!!!...
    i think so...someone knows if it's difficult to send 6 bottle overseas?! or it's enought an UPS?!?

    Jan 11, 2011 at 12:58 AM

  • Snooth User: loriep
    94142 21

    I think Negroamaro is the next up and coming Italian varietal. Try Sensi Negroamaro. Very food friendly, and a good sipper too. At around $12 a bottle it's a bargain!

    Jan 11, 2011 at 5:13 PM

  • Snooth User: mpilla
    727052 7

    filimei...l'astore masseria...small cellar and big wines

    Jan 12, 2011 at 5:41 AM

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