Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wines all around me...

Ok I thought I should do a little explanation of the wines of the Salento. I was going to say Puglia but then I did a little research and I realized I don’t know many of the wines from the Bari and Foggia area. Keep in mind I’m not an expert and I just drink a lot. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Anyway this is just a quick guide. Puglia is know for it’s wines that "for drinking" (i.e. more in quantity than quality) and there 25 DOC varieties and 6 IGT. Puglia alone produces twice as much wine as all of Australia so you have to drink a lot to get a handle on the different wines. The photo shows some of the bottles of wine that I like.

First the grapes and there’s THE BIG 3, Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Malvasia Nera, in Salento (for red wines).

The king of Puglian wine is the Primitivo, but not just any Primitivo. The Primitivo di Manduria is considered the best. So you have to have Manduria, a town between Taranto and Lecce near the Ionian coast, on the label if want to impress your friends with your knowledge of Salento wines. The Primitivo grape must be pretty tough because it can take the heat of Salento in the summer. I think most of the Primitivos are aged only about 12 months maybe a little more and you drink them within 4 or 6 years. I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Primitivos at first but the taste has grown on me. The wine has bite, as I call it, because it’s usually 14% or 14.5% alcohol.

The next grape is Negroamaro (I’m not talking about the Italian rock band!) I think I read that it’s actually the most abundant grape in Puglia so some people would say it’s the most important grape variety around here. There are a many wines that use the Negroamaro grape as you’ll see. I like a good wine that’s 100% Negroamaro as it has what I call a good fruity flavor to it.

In third place among the 3 is the Malvasia Nera grape. Just this week was the first time I’ve ever had a wine that was 100% Malvasia Nera grapes. And Mino warned me that it was sweet and it is the sweetest of the Puglia red wines. It doesn’t seem like a very popular wine because usually Malvasia Nera grapes are blended into Primitivo and Negroamaro grapes to make other wines. There are also two varieties of Malvasia Nera one “di Brindisi” and other “di Lecce”. When you start blending, as you’ll see below the types of wines seem endless.

One of my personal favorites of this blending is Salice Salentino. Salice Salentino is a town between Brindisi and Lecce and it’s also the name for a wine that is a blend of 85% Negroamaro and 15% Malvasia Nera. I think I like Malvasia Nera best in a small amount like it is in this wine. So I’ve decided that 100% Malvasia Nera is a little too sweet for me but 15% is a good hint of sweetness.

Then comes Squinzano, another town between Brindisi and Lecce, that has a wine that’s 70% Negroamaro and 30% Malvasia Nera so you get the picture. I prefer the Salice Salentino to this wine in most cases. I guess this confirms that I’ve discovered my level of sweetness I like in my wine about 15% Malvasia Nera but 30% is ok.

And it goes on and on and on like this usually with Malvasia Nera as the smaller percentage. The next wine I plan to try is Platone by Al Bano Carrisi. It’s 50% Negroamaro and 50% Primitivo. I don’t think I’ve ever had a wine that was 50/50. Well I probably have but I just didn’t realize it at the time. Wow this is getting too long quickly. I didn’t even talk about using oak barrels or steel tanks or bottles to age the wine. I guess I should encourage you to experiment and find out what you like. Start with a Negroamaro or Primitivo and then try some of the blends. Enjoy

How about a little on white wines…

White wines are little easier. In the Salento they are generally cultivated in the hills of Locorotondo and Martina Franca. Their wines are made with the grape varieties Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, along with Fiano and Bombino Bianco. There are some other varieties of white wines in the Salento including Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Pinot Bianco. I think the Chardonnay and Sauvignon are catching on, as they are more recognizable to people outside Puglia. If they want to export wines they need the right names. There is a Salento Bianco IGT that’s 100% Chardonnay and another that’s 70% Sauvignon and 30% Chardonnay. I like the Verdeca from Locorotondo myself.

This image below I took from the site but the link to their source of it didn't work. It was from some government website. This link will take to an ungly but informative version of this image.


Stelle in Italia said...

nice guide! i love primitivo, but i'm not sure if i've been trying the Primitivo di Manduria or not. i will have to look out for that.

Jeff Gromen said...

Sorry about yelling. I always think about the time Elaine was drunk on Seinfeld and screaming Stella. Absolutely, look for Manduria and it doesn't mean the wine has to be more expensive. Even Primitivo di Manduria is cheap.