Negroamaro - January 2011

At the heart of popular Puglian blends


Slideshow
Best Negroamaro Wines for the U.S. Market

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!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.



Masseria l’Astore
2008 Filimei Negroamaro
$NA (Not available in the U.S.), $15 in Italy
Leathery and lightly funky on the nose with beautifully perfumed red fruit tones. Rich in the mouth and both fairly weighty and tannic yet this is brimming with rich fruit that is both sweet and slightly bitter, finishing with a long resonant finish. 93pts
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Duca Carlo Guarini
2008 Nativo Organic Negroamaro
$NA
Smells organic, very soil-driven with rich notes of black tea and dried plums. Fairly velvety in the mouth with juicy acidity supporting transparent dark berry fruits. The fine-grained tannins here add the perfect support and draw the finish out with a lovely expression of fruit. 92pts
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Feudi di San Marzano
2009 Negroamaro F
$NA, $30 in Italy
Intensely aromatic with an initial blast of leather followed by notes of oak and international, anonymous fruit. Green undertones on entry are followed by a smooth, silky, polished mouthful of fruit that offers nice depth and intensity. This is packed with fruit and a bit tannic and tight today, but the long finish bodes well for the future. This may not turn out to be particularly Italian though. 91pts
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Duca Carlo Guarini
2007 Piutri Negroamaro
$18
A little too much raw wood on the nose seems to be obscuring nice clay soil tones and dried fruit notes. Smooth and polished in the mouth with bright acids and super fine tannin supporting blacker berried fruit. This is very aromatic in the mouth and exhibits fine purity of fruit. 90pts
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Castel di Salve
2008 Salento Rosso Negroamaro
$16
Aggressively aromatic with notes of earth, balsamic spice and wild red fruits. This initially comes off as a bit fruit-forward but it has a rustic feel that helps focus the clean fruit in the mouth. Real freshness here both to the fruit and in the mouthfeel, with wonderfully spicy red fruits that extend through the finish. 90pts
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Dei Agre
2007 Magrede Negroamaro
$NA, $16 in Italy
Intensely aromatic with liquory fruits framed by spice and wood toast notes. Big and rich in the mouth with lots of chocolaty fruit on the finish. This really shows nice polish for such a large wine but is a touch clumsy in the mouth. The finish is moderately long and intense with an extracted feel. 90pts
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Monaci
2007 I Censi
90% Negroamaro, 10% Malvasia Nera
$12
Smoky and mossy on the nose with flinty, struck rock notes. Refined and silky in the mouth with lots of spicy, slight jammy, deep berry fruits that are cut by solid acidity and slightly drying tannins. 89pts
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Le Braci
2003 Late Harvest Negroamaro
$NA, $50 in Italy
Very perfumed with rich notes of fresh and dried fruits accented with vanilla tones. Sweet and soft in the mouth with lots of wood tannins up front, though with enough sweet, dried fruit flavors to cover them on the mid-palate and on the moderately long finish.  89pts
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Palama
2008 Albarossa Salice Salentino
80% Negroamare, 20% Malvasia Nera
$12
Beautifully aromatic nose with fresh frutti del bosco fruits accented with a touch of pink peppercorn. Explosively fruity on the nose but very attractive. In the mouth this delivers fresh, juicy, nicely aromatic fruit that is brimming with red currants and wild raspberries.  A fine, juicy, fruity wine. 89pts
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Botromagno
2008 Negroamaro
$NA
Lightly woody on the nose with sweet spice notes and licorice accenting wild berry fruit tones. Soft and broad in the mouth with gently supporting acids. There are nice black fruits in the mouth with aromatic hints of rosemary and tomato leaf, particularly on the moderately long finish. 89pts
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Alberto Longo
2007 Capoposto Negroamaro
$25
High-toned aromatics with spicy, herbal tones to the black fruits and a nice candied violet top note greet the nose. Soft and very broad in the mouth with good acids emerging on the mid-palate. Nicely plummy in the mouth with a nice gentle bitter note on the moderately long finish. 88pts
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Candido
2007 Devinis – Negroamaro 
$NA, $9 in Italy
Leather on the nose with a light burnt edge to the soil and cow patty tones that feature a light floral top note. Bright in the mouth and rich with dried, lightly jammy red fruits supported by soft but present acids. Finishes with a hint of camphor and good persistence to the red fruits. 88pts
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Mottura
2008 Tenuta le Pitre Negroamaro
$15
Smoky on the nose with note of cigar box and smoked meats framing the sweet fruit. A bit thick in the mouth yet quite juicy with a rounded, fruity mid-palate that leads to a balanced, moderately long, fruity finish. 88pts
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Candido
2004 Duca d’Aragonna
80% Negroamaro, 20% Montepulciano
$NA, $25 in Italy
Tight on the nose with low smoky notes over a lightly nutty base. Bright up front with jammy wild blueberry fruits that turn red on the elegant mid-palate. The finish is a bit matte and compressed but shows a nice base of soft, gentle fruit tannin underpinning it all. This is quite refined, perhaps too refined, though with potential. 88pts
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Feudi di San Marzano
2009 Sud Negroamaro
$NA, $12 in Italy
Smells fairly sweet and dark with a grilled meaty underlay. Rich and smooth on entry with acids just below the fruit offering nice lift through the mouth. This has plenty of tannin but the rich, lightly plummy fruit handles it easily. Good length on the finish though it seems a touch sweet. 88pts
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Monaci
2007 Eloquenzia Copertino Negroamaro
$NA, $8 in Italy
Funky and a bit poopy on the nose. Silky and bright in the mouth with refined tannins lending an elegant feel to the wine with its dried cherry fruit and mineral finish. 88pts
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Schola Sarmenti
2005 Nerio
80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera
$NA, $15 in Italy
A touch toasty on the nose with sweet yet faded fruit. Soft and broad in the mouth with rich, nicely leathery red fruits presented in a rather smooth, seamless, well-managed style that is perfumed and fairly long. 88pts
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Conti Zecca
2008 Cantalupi Rosso
80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera
$10
The nose here is a bit shy, dusty and earthy with gentle spice undertones. Big stuff up front with lovely notes of dried red berry fruits supported by soft tannins that lends a lightly peppery spice to the mid-palate, which is joined by a touch of coffee on the moderately long finish. 88pts
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Leone de Castris
2006 Salice Salentino Maiana
90% Negroamaro, 10% Malvasia Nera 
$13
Pretty aromatic on the nose with a touch of sundried tomato and herb over earthy fruit with peppery and floral accents. Nice and crisp on entry, in a lighter style that accents the small but crisp tannins and bright acids of the wine. There's a nice core of burnished sherry fruit here with some cedary wood on the finish. Refreshing and cleansing with an engagingly rustic edge. 88pts
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Candido
2005 Salice Salentino Riserva
95% Negroamaro, 5% Malvasia Nera
$NA, $9 in Italy
Minty on the nose with a lightly funky edge accenting dried fruit aromas. Soft and rather rich on entry though it quickly turns a bit diffuse on the mid-palate before popping again on the finish with nice dried cherry fruit accented with mineral, and mint.  87pts
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Feudi di Guagnano
2006 Cupone Salice Salentino
90% Negroamaro, 10% Malvasia Nera
$NA
Complex aromatics include slightly gamy fruits that are topped with spicy white pepper notes, violet tones and integrated notes of lightly medicinal roots. Bright and drying in the mouth with a rather anonymous feel. Certainly doesn’t fulfill the promises of the nose, though this is powerful, it seems overly polished. 87pts
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Dei Agre
2005 Magrede
90% Negroamaro, 10% Nero di Troia
$NA, $15 in Italy
Complex on the nose with leathery notes and intense autumnal spice notes. Velvety in the mouth with great freshness to the dark fruits and fine balance. A bit simple and short. 87pts
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Cantine Menhir
2007 Salice Salentino
80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera
$NA, $9 in Italy
A bit tanky on the nose though with nice building black berry fruits. On entry this shows lots of fruit with a slightly chocolatey edge. The tannins poke through the fruit fairly quickly though they are ripe and add nice texture, resolving on the silky yet firm finish. 87pts
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Conti Zecca
2008 Donna Marzia
85% Negroamaro, 15% Malvasia Nera
$10
Earthy and funky on the nose with nice complexity to the notes of gently preserved fruits. Big impact on entry with big layers of fruit, spice and mineral tones that cut the slightly syrupy fruit and lend this good freshness in the mouth. 87pts
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Feudi di Guagnano
2007 Le Camarde
80% Negroamaro, 20% Primitivo
$NA, $12 in Italy
Spicy and sweet on the nose with aromatic bark tones. Soft and rather large-scaled in the mouth with a balanced, layered feel that supports red fruit and faded spice tones. 87pts
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Palama
2008 Fregi Barocchi Rosso Negroamaro
$NA, $6 in Italy
Spicy on the nose with dried leathery tones and a touch of earthy funk. Soft and round in the mouth with simple yet fresh fruit presented with gentle spice and earth accents. 87pts
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Feudi di San Marzano
2009 Negroamaro
$10
Fresh on the nose and lightly astringent-smelling with crisp, small fruits. A touch sweet on entry with a nice fruity quality and round feel that is accented by lightly astringent tannins. Nothing flashy here but an honest little wine. 87pts
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Cantine Menhir
2008 N Zero Negroamaro
$16
Ashy and burnt aromas on the nose with a touch of sweet licorice. Sweetly fruited on entry with lots of acidity balancing out the wild berry, blueberry fruits that remain a touch candied on the mid-palate. The finish is light with lots of gently fuzzy tannins. 86pts
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Monaci
2004 Simpatica
80% Negroamaro, 20% Montepulciano
$NA, $12 in Italy
Fleshy and leathery on the nose with attractive top notes of pressed flowers. Round and juicy in the mouth with a soft and slightly faded feel. The finish is juicy but there seems to be a lot of wood tannin that lingers. 86pts
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Feudi di San Marzano
2009 Salice Salentino
80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera
$NA, $8 in Italy
Nicely aromatic with a rich core of fruit accented with hints of flowers, licorice and mint. Soft on entry with a nice initial rush of sweet fruit that broadens in the mouth but loses some focus and then turns a bit monotone on the modest finish. 86pts
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Schola Sarmenti
2007 Negroamaro Roccamora
$16
Clean and simple on the nose with a hint of earthy funk. Broad, rich and velvety in the mouth with simple but fresh fruits. 86pts
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Candido
2005 Cappello di Prete Negroamaro
$NA, $14 in Italy
Lightly woody on the nose with cedary accents to the blue and black fruits. Bright on entry with rich dried fruit up front, nice decisive tannins adding cut on the mid-palate but turning a bit drying on the firm, short, slightly woody finish. 86pts
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Conti Zecca
2007 Negroamaro
$12
Earthy and dusty on the nose with hints of sapwood on the nose. Rich with deep, liquory fruit in the house’s seamless style. The fruit is dark if a bit imprecise in a rather earthy register. 86pts
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Candido
2009 Le Pozzelle Salice Salentino
95% Negroamaro, 5% Malvasia Nera
$NA, $9 in Italy
A touch herbal on the nose with soil and spice tones to the candied black cherry fruit. Finishes short and dry with some nice soil tones. 85pts
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Feudi di Guagnano
2006 Nero du Velluto Negroamaro
$NA
This stinks of cola, overcooked meats and diesel fuel. Velvety in the mouth with a resolved, savory, roast meaty core of succulent fruit. Very peculiar yet complex with dried clay soil tones, faded red fruits and a peppery final. 85pts
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Palama
2008 Mavro
90% Negroamaro, 10% Malvasia Nera
$NA, $12 in Italy
Toasty on the nose with notes of sweet wood and coconut. Smooth in the mouth with sweet dark fruits that yields to big wood tannins and rich vanilla notes on the finish. 84pts
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Mentioned in this article


Comments

  • 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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