If there’s one thing I love, it’s wine. Especially wine parcels in the mail. Especially when they’re from Italy.
For anyone who thinks I’ve become a wine blogger for passion, think again. Free wine, that’s what I do it for.
Let’s be serious for a moment. I think it’s time to talk about Salento.
Salento? Why? Because it’s a bit of a forgotten wine region from Italy, mostly known for the not so special -under 5 euro- Negroamaro wines (which are nevertheless often juicy and tasty). Because the people work super hard. Nature is beautiful. The wines are full of alcohol, hello Primitivo of 15.5%! Sometimes a wine just has to have guts.
Sure, light-footed transparent Pinot Noirs are totally in fashion, and I’ll be the last one to complain about that, but sometimes you just want to stuff your face with a lamb-shoulder. And in that case those Southern Italian wines are what you long for.
What do we know about Salento
Salento lies in the heel of Italy’s boot, between the two seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic. Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto are the provinces that make up the area, so Salento is a sub-region of Puglia, took me a while to understand that.
Viticulture in Salento already existed around 2000 BC and has always been an important part of the region’s culture and economy. From the end of the 19th century, wine production took a big leap, growing from a plantation of 90 hectares to no less than 300 hectares in a very short period of time. The reason for this was the great demand for wines from this area because in France the Phylloxera had struck. In 1919, the Phylloxera crisis also killed almost the entire production here and the high tide days came to an end.
The years that followed were dominated by reconstruction, with the quality in mind, the production of bulk wines slowly disappearing into the background.
At this moment Puglia has 28 D.O.C. areas. Denominazione di origine controllata, the Italian version of a protected area of origin.
The soil is quite diverse. The largest part has a clay soil, some areas have a finer limestone soil that drains water better, and rarer are the terre rosse, red stony soils full of minerals.
Salento is mainly known for its blue grape varieties, white is certainly produced but the Primitivo and the Negroamaro are the most planted grapes.
Primitivo is the king of Salento, once born in Croatia under the name Crlenak Kaštelanski.
This beautiful early ripening grape produces firm, sweetish voluptuous wines that almost remind of a port wine. Fun fact: it is also the same grape as the Zinfandel that you often find in the New World and especially in California. Read my article about the Zinfandel in Lodi, California.
Negroamaro is a grape that can almost only be found in Puglia, and in Salento. It is the star of the D.O.C Salice Salentino.
Literally translated to dark and bitter, this grape survives in all climatic conditions, resulting in full-bodied, deeply dark, licoricy wines with great flavor and high alcohol. For softness, a small percentage of Malvasia nera is often added to the blend. The rosé wines are also often made from Negroamaro.
White grapes in Salento
The white grapes most commonly planted in Salento are the Fiano, Malvasia bianca, Bombino bianco, Verdeca and Chardonnay. White wines from this area are often firm and dark in color.
For this article I tasted the two best known red wines of Salento, received from AgrinSalento. Agrinsalento is a family farm from Salento with 200 hectares of land where besides wine also the most beautiful regional products are produced. Think of cereals such as pasta, extra virgin olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and honey. For private use but also for the restaurant industry. All high-quality products can be found in their webshop.
Tried wines and tasting notes
Negroamaro IGP – Dionisio
I immediately noticed this wine because of A. the name (my last name is Donisi, comes from Dionysius the Greek god of wine – what’s in a name!) and B. the blend Negroamaro with Susumaniello, this is a very rare grape that you only find in Salento.
The color is wow, ruby red, sparkling. Striking depth and thickness, sexy almost. Very fragrant, forest fruit jam of the Negroamaro, peppery spiciness of Susumaniello, a marriage full of love and spice. Warm and full, supple tannin, some vanilla from the barrel. Nice glass that washes away a pizza, a cheese platter and a juicy peace of meat.
Primitivo di Manduria in Barrique D.O.C – Mazzetta
It’s been a long time since I’ve tried a Primitivo di Manduria. I always think of winter days by a fireplace with this wine.
The wine is 100% Primitivo and has been in an oak barrel for six months.
Mazzetta is deep red with a purple touch, full of aromas of plum and cherry, spiciness and pepper. Sweet on the palate, fatty and warm. Beautiful tannins keep it exciting, and the acidity of cherries and blackberries never make it heavy. This wine is a meat wine. For the vegans among us, an eggplant from the barbecue might be a solution.
Visit AgrinSalento on Instagram for more great products!