Home Wine Regions Italian Wine Negroamaro – An Italian Indigenous Varietal

Wine Blogging WednesdayThis month Wine Blogging Wednesday is hosted by Tyler at Dr. Vino and the theme is Go Native, which means go with indigenous varieties.  I knew I wanted to do something Italian for this and I thought about it for a while.  Of course I make it more difficult with my own criteria.

The Criteria

  • It has to be an indigenous variety
  • It has to be in the $10 price range (this is Cheap Wine Ratings afterall)
  • I have to be able to find it (duh !)
  • I’d like to pick something that 4 other folks don’t pick
  • It would be really nice if I could find an example of the varietal grown outside its native region for comparison

I considered several: Primitivo, Nero d’Avola, and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo to name a few but I felt it was just too likely that someone else would pick one of those.  I also considered Aglianico, but the nativity of that varietal is questionable–it is believed to come from Greece.  That said, I did pick up some bottles of each of those for some future tastings 😉

I finally made my choice, Negroamaro.  But this choice is not without some controversy.  Why? 

  1. I had a hard time finding it and only ended up with two bottles to try.  
  2. I absolutely couldn’t find an example of this grown outside its native region (I’d be surprised if it even exists).  Oh well.

Negroamaro is grown primarily in Puglia (or Apulia), which is often referred to as “the heel of the Italian boot” and in particular Salento where Negroamaro dominates the vineyards.  The name comes from negro (black) and amaro (bitter), which describe characteristics of the grapes.  The wine itself is very dark and does have a hint of bitterness to it, but in a good way.

It’s rare to find a pure Negroamaro as it is typically blended with other varietals.  I was lucky enough to find a “pure play” to include in this review.  Typically, Negroamaro is blended with Malvasia Nera, Sangiovese or Montepulciano.  I tried two examples of Negroamaro for this review, one pure and one blend.  Both were enjoyable, earthy wines.

Pure Negroamaro

Casa Catelli NegroamaroThe first bottle I tried is Casa Catelli Negroamaro, which I picked up for $8.99 from Wines Til Sold Out.  This again reiterates the “somewhat hard to find” factor as Wines Til Sold Out only offers a wine for a day (until it’s sold out), so I can’t just go back there to find more, I’d have to hunt.

I found the Casa Catelli Negroamaro 2003 to be a pretty good, earthy wine.  Although I think it could stand a couple more years of bottle age.  I picked up four bottles and I think I’ll let the others sit for a while.  The Casa Catelli has a very nice bouquet of tobacco, plums and currants.  It has a good mouth feel.  The palate is cherry, currants, leather, earth and pepper.  It’s very smooth with a hint of smokiness in the finish.  The numbers came out to an 88 and if I can find it at the right price, I’ll definately buy more.

Wine: Casa Catelli
Varietal: Negroamaro
Alcohol: 13.5% 
Rating: 88

Negroamaro Blend

Salice SalentinoThe next wine I tried is probably the best known example of Negroamaro, Taurino Salice Salentino, which is a blend of 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera .  Salice Salentino is named after the town where it is produced, of course in the Apulia region of Italy.  The second grape in this wine, Malvasia Nera is an ancient varietal thought to have originated in Greece.

On to the tasting… To be specific, the wine I tasted is Taurino Salice Salentino Riserva 2001.  The color doesn’t have the greatest depth and I was afraid the wine would have a thin palate, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Cherries, herbs and leather on the nose.  Plum, apricot and earthy flavors with a peppery finish.  A nice, earthy, old-style Italian red.  This is an intense wine with interesting character.  I gave it an 86.   At $11.99 it’s still an affordable wine and probably worth a try.  But if I had to pick between the two I’d go with the Casa Catelli.  I think it’s a better wine and you’ll save a couple bucks, so how can you go wrong.

Wine: Salice Salentino
Varietal: Negroamaro / Malvasia Nera Blend
Alcohol: 13.5% 
Rating: 86

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