Here in Bordeaux, the temperature is stuck, hovering in the single digits with gray skies. We even enjoyed snow last week, a rarity. This means big sweaters, warming foods, and wines that remind me of sunshine. As such, over a few recent nights I reached for southern Italy and a less known grape variety found there in Puglia – Negroamaro*.
Head to the bottom of my post for all Italian Food, Wine and Travel group February articles. No Twitter chat this month means more time to enjoy reading articles!
Having visited the Puglian city Bari and environs a few years ago, I tasted many things this warm region offers. Of course, the food is amazing: pastas, vegetables (some less familiar like lampascione, a type of bitter bulb similar to an onion), cheese (Burrata di Andria is a local speciality which must be consumed within twenty-four hours of production), seafood, and the olive oil (Puglia produces more olive oil than any other Italian region).
Additionally, the wine from Puglia offers many options including sparkling, white, rosato, and reds, many made from less known grapes throughout the region.
One such wine comes from the Salento area and is often labeled Salice Salentino DOC or Salento IGT. It may strike a familiarity chord with you? (Americans think Trader Joe’s.) This is a region in southern Puglia that during the 19th century, mass-produced red wine used to boost the body and alcohol content of finer wines in northern Italian areas. Being associated with quantity versus quality, Puglian wines eventually lost market share, which lasted into the 1990s. Yet the region rebounded and winemakers reduced yields and changed their approach to make better wines. There was a period I walked past them on the wine shelf. But I also rebounded to give wines from Salento another chance.
Salento DOC (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) wines can be red, white, rosato, sparkling or fortified. Salento IGT (Typical Geographic Indication) produces the same and also sweet.
Negroamaro grows all over Puglia and also the Campania and Basilicata regions, the United States, and Australia. Its name derives from the Greek and Latin words Mavros and Niger. Both mean ‘black’ and refer to the color of the berries. And speaking of those berries, their skin is particularly high in polyphenols such as resveratrol and anthocyanins. One fantastic characteristic of the variety is weathering heat extremely well and not dropping its acidity, important as the climate continues to warm. It makes medium- to full-bodied wines.
Is it indigenous to Puglia? Not exactly as the ancient Greeks brought it to Puglia quite some time ago. Although today it is most identified with Italy and Puglia and connected to the Salento area (Lecce, Brindisi, and Taranto).
Negroamaro Three Ways
Now that you know a bit about Puglia and Negroamaro, let me share this grape three ways. Information about the wineries follows below.
First, although most everything you read tells you the grape is full-bodied, that wasn’t the case with these wines. In fact, all were medium-bodied and extremely approachable.
Next, I need to taste more Negroamaro to confirm, yet general descriptors are fruity, riper dark berries, plums and cherries, and an earthy side (things like leather, smoke, roasted things like coffee beans and tobacco, and dried herbs).
A deeply colored, purple-ruby hue, it’s fruity (almost jammy) with cherry and blackberry aromas with new leather, balsamic and tobacco notes (the earthy side). This is a ‘sit by the crackling fire pit and sniff’ wine, the aromas are so enticing. A bright and expressive start quickly subsides, greeting silky tannins and a subtle, deceptively long finish. Flavors of non-sweet ripe blackberry are layered over balsamic and bay leaf.
I was skeptical when I first saw the 15% ABV, yet it was anything but ‘hot’. I was in fact pleasantly surprised by its balance and evocativeness! Price: 11€ Whoa!
This organic certified (by ICEA Italy) wine has a bright ruby red color and garnet hints. It’s fruity like the Lizzano DOC wine above, yet fresher and of the red and black varieties: plum, cherry, and blackberry with a brush of dried Mediterranean herbs, espresso crema, and smoke. That fresh quality carries to the palate saying “Hello!” The zingy acidity enlivens its velvety texture, and ample fine tannins balance the whole package making it pleasurable by the glass and incredibly food friendly. Price: 11€ (Another whoa!) Alcohol: 13.5%
Brilliant pinkish coral, this is the most gourmand rosé I’ve had in some time. Strawberry and pomegranate soft aromas; it hits the palate lively, then quickly subsides, becoming round with soft acidity, barely a touch of tannins, and rich mixed ripe red fruit flavors and a hint of forest floor. Definitely not a citrusy bright rosé but in fact, if tasted blind, I might think a lively yet velvety soft light to medium-bodied red wine. Really a lovely sip. Price: 11€ Alcohol: 13%.
As I noted in a previous post about this region, Rosato from Puglia is the benchmark for rosé in Italy, and is a specialty of Salento.
Meet Claudio and Alessandra Quarta from Tenute Eméra
This father and daughter team are behind the Claudio Quarta Vignaiolo wineries, two in Salento and one in Campania. The Tenute Eméra winery is the largest with 50 hectares (124 acres) of vines in two Salento sub-appellations: Lizzano DOC and Manduria DOC. At Eméra they produce 400,000 bottles annually and the total of the three is 700,000.
They make a lot of wine annually, yet do a lot to minimize the mark of production:
- The winery is underground and thermally insulated with a garden roof which recovers rain and irrigation water after which, it is purified and used for cellar operations.
- Use of lighter bottles resulting in a CO2 savings between 250 gr and 1Kg, for each kilometer traveled.
- Use of a certified renewable energy electricity supplier.
- Use of integrated pest management.
- No chemicals used on vines, and more.
They also have an interesting vine diversity project underway. For more information on that and their sustainability efforts, click here.
While not currently certified, they will seek certification next year.
You can find these wines in the U.S. via Enotec Imports.
Meet Vincenzo and Maria Imperatrice from Masseria Meta
This ancient farm sits on the site of a 17th century monastery. Enclosed on all sides by a wall, considered a ‘clos’ in French and often seen in Burgundy, the modern winery rests inside. They farm 10 hectares (25 acres) of vineyards and 1200, old-age Ogliarola olive trees, all organically.
Negroamaro Food Pairings
Fruity, medium- to full-bodied Negro Amaro wines are a great companion to a variety of foods including vegetarian and vegan.
With big and bold flavored foods – think smoky grilled red or white meat (these bring out the earthiness and tone down tannins in fuller-bodied examples).
And roasted, caramelized flavors – Roasted items including roots, squash and other vegetables to braises (these compliment the earthy flavors and bring out fruity sweetness without being sweet).
Or bright, acidic flavors – pasta with red sauce (slam dunk!), Orecchietti pasta with pesto, caprese salad (these bring out the fruitiness and play alongside the acidity).
And also earthy, herb flavors – rice and grains like the traditional dish Tiella, or polenta-based dishes (these enhance the earthy, herby flavors in the wine).
I made Straccetti di Manzo con Rucola, an easy, any time of year dish with Roman origins. Roasted Potimarron (a.k.a. Red kuri) winter squash was a nice addition. You could also use roasted Kabocha, Acorn squash, or leave it out.
Straccetti di Manzo con Rucola (Beef ‘Rags’ with Arugula)
- 3/4 lbs lean beef roast (e.g. rump or top round)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- to taste salt and pepper
- 1-2 bunches arugula, washed and dried
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder (or 1/2 tsp finely minced garlic)
- Cut – the beef into thin strips about as thick as your pinky fingernail and about 2-inches long. Place in a bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss everything, then let sit for 5 minutes.
- Make – the balsamic vinaigrette by putting the oil, balsamic, mustard and garlic in a small container with a secure lid. Shake vigorously.
- Put – the arugula into a bowl. Drizzle with the balsamic vinaigrette and divide among the two plates.
- Cook – Add about 1 tablespoon of avocado oil to a large frying pan;set the heat to medium-high. Add all the beef, spreading it out as much as possible. Cook about 30 seconds, then using tongs or a spatula turn the beef;cook the second side until it has lost most of its color but retains some pink spots. This will take less than a minute. Remove the meat with tongs and arrange it on top of the arugula.
- Use a vegetable peeler to pare shavings of Parmesan overeverything. Drizzle with more dressing if desired and serve with a glass ofNegro Amaro!
Italian Food, Wine, Travel Group Share Pulia! #ItalianFWT
Camilla at Culinary Cam sharing “Killer Pairing: Spaghetti all’Assassina + A Negroamaro from Brindisi”
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog sharing “An Unconventional Style of Primitivo – 2020 Produttori Di Manduria Electric Bee Primitivo”
Susannah from Avvinare tells us about “Primitivo from Gioia del Colle, A Revelation”
Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy discusses “A Rare Puglian Grape – Susumaniello”
Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “A Family Tradition: Domus Hortae’s organic wines from the heel of Italy”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm sharing “Octopus with Polenta and a Rosato from Puglia inspired by The Food Club”
Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles reveals “Salice Salentino from Puglia with Ciceri e tria”
Katarina at Grapevine Adventures shares “Borgo Turrito Focuses on Nero di Troia in Puglia”
Lynn at Savor the Harvest discusses “Negroamaro – Three Styles from Puglia + Food Pairings”
A special thanks to Stefano Spagnolo for the wines!
*According to Italian wine expert Ian D’Agata, Negro Amaro is the correct spelling of the grape.
Next month, Jennifer from Vino Travels Italy continues the climb taking us to the Molise, Basilicata and Campania regions of Italy. Hope you’ll join us in March!