IGT Salento

I’ve taken a break, not only from blogging, but from the computer in general. Sometimes you just feel like reading a book. I read “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” (which is great; won the Pulitzer) and started “Dreams From My Father” by Barack Obama, because I’m getting pretty excited about the election. Is there any Kenyan wine? A little search reveals some papaya wine. Great, another category to study up on.

I still have to write more about the Spanish wine class and the Icon tasting. But in front of me right now is the Masserie Pisari Salento Rosso 2005. The wine, 100% negroamaro, is from Puglia, the heel of the boot of Italy.

What do we know about the grape?

From the Oxford Companion to Wine:

often written Negro Amaro, dark-skinned southern Italian grape variety that fell victim to the EU vine pull schemes with total area planted falling from 31,000 ha/76,500 acres in 1990 to 16,760 ha in 2000. It is particularly associated with the eastern half of the Salento peninsula, in the provinces of Lecce and Brindisi, where it forms the base, blended with small proportions of Malvasia Nera and (not necessarily legally) Primitivo, for DOCs such as Salice Salentino, Copertino, Brindisi, Leverano, and Squinzano. It is later ripening than Primitivo, with chunkier tannins. It is also used to produce some lively rosé. For more details, see Puglia.

Negroamaro is thought to have been brought to Puglia by the colonizing Greeks in the 8th and 7th centuries bc. While one school feels that its name derives from its colour (negro) and character (amaro, or bitter), Californian winemaker Mark Shannon, who now lives in Puglia, holds that the name derives from Latin and Greek roots for its dark colour; nigra in Latin and mavro in Greek, citing one of the grape’s synonyms, Nigramaro, as evidence.

Wikipedia says the “Salento peninsula is a rock of limestone dividing the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea.” As we all know, limestone is very hospitable to viticulture.

Steve Tanzer, for one, really liked this wine, giving it a 90.

Slightly lighter hue than the ’06 version but still very dark red. Marginally less expressive on the nose, with a brighter, fresher tone to the black and red fruit aromas. Nicely focused and light on its feet, with an engaging spicy sweetness to the ripe black fruit, mineral and shoe polish flavors. Finishes smooth and long, with slightly more tannic bite than the ’06. I am impressed with this winery’s negroamaro bottlings, which seem to pack in more ripe fruit flavor and less of the underbrush and leather notes normally displayed by this variety. – Tanzer (Jul/Aug 2008).

But what do I think about it? Given now that my initial impressions are clouded by Tanzer’s evident experience with the producer, I have to agree with him.

It is juicy, but light and rustic. Light ruby with a bit of orange at the rim, showing its age. It has medium to medium plus acid and would go terrifically with the pasta with anchovie sauce I made the other night.

But what about the shoe polish. Of course I taste it now, and I’m wondering if it’s typical of the grape. In the Spanish wine class, Pancho Campo, the teacher, founder of the Wine Academy of Spain and newly minted MW, said he came up with a one-word descriptor for each variety to help him pass the blind tasting portion of the exam. He gave a few examples. Tempranillo is an empty cigar box; there’s the lingering aroma of tobacco backed by cedar. But he gets cappuccino in tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, because it’s hotter there. Albarino is white peaches with pears and lime.

I enjoyed tasting in a group. I did Unit 3 of the Diploma as home study because I could not get to New York on Tuesday nights for class. Nor was able to be a part of a tasting group, because I live all the way the f**k out on the East End of Long Island. Tasting alone is a good way to develop what winemakers call cellar palate, which happens when you only taste your own wine. You’ve got to have something to compare it against.


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