I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, which is pretty clear to anyone looking at the site recently (and by recently I really mean at any point in 2014). With other projects stacking up a bit (a few of which also involve wine), it’s been hard to find time to blog. However, that’s hopefully going to change a bit in the second half of the year. This refocus on the blog is somewhat prompted by the discovery of a wine shop in my neighborhood that I didn’t realize existed (and has for many years), and which turns out to be maybe the best one. It’s somewhat frustrating that it took me nearly two years to discover it, though I supposed that also speaks to the large number of options in my area. It has a great traditional feel (I don’t think they have air conditioning, which is surprising given how hot and humid Boston summers can get), and is one of those shops with so many small rooms that you keep thinking you’ve seen the whole thing until you go around the next corner. It takes a good 20 minutes to decide if the place is really as big as it seems, or if you’ve simply been walking in circles the whole time (in this case, it’s the former).
The wine I dug up on my first trip in is from the southern Italian region of Apulia (or Puglia, in Italian. I never understood the English name for this region. Lombardia to Lombardy makes sense, Toscana to Tuscany I can see, but why add an “A” to Puglia? Why not just Pulia?). This region is the stiletto heel of the Italian boot, jutting off the southeastern end of the country in the direction of Greece. As I’ve mentioned previously, the four regions of southern Italian (Campania, Basilicata, and Calabria are the other three) don’t have quite the same reputation for fine Italian wine as their northern counter parts. And while Apulia produces more wine then any of those other three regions, this is as true here as anywhere else. Through the middle (and into the later) 20th century, most Apulian wine was reserved for blends in northern wines or, most commonly, in vermouth. Still today, roughly 75% of the wine made in the region is sent off for those purposes. However, there has been much more of an effort in recent years to make more quality wine in the region. As part of this push, many of the traditional vineyards have been replanted, often being replaced with French varietals in the process.
This wine that I grabbed, however, comes from a region where traditional varietals are still predominant – Negroamaro being the most popular. The region is the Salice Salentino DOC, located in the southern half of the Italian heel, which is actually called the Salento peninsula, centered around the small city of Salice. Wine has been produced in this area since around the 6th century BCE, with the red wines in ancient times were often praised for their sweetness. This is a bit at odds with Negroamaro, though, who’s name translates roughly to “black bitter one”. The reputation more likely came from Negroamaro’s sidekick in these parts – named Malvasia Nera. This grape is often blended with Negroamaro and adds softness to what are otherwise typically dark and intense wines.
This particular bottle is from the producer Leone de Castris. It is made from 90% Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia Nera. It’s appearance is dark and inky; ruby in coloring and deep in intensity. The nose has notes of dark fruit and herbs, along with some oak-related scents such as cedar and vanilla. It has a lot of body and good acidity, with smooth tannins that stick around a while after everything else has left. There are more fruit notes, with lots of dark cherry, plum, and blackberry, along more oak-related flavors and some spice. Overall a very nice expression of what I would expect from a Salice Salentino – I look forward to my next bottle of Italian wine from this shop.