Grape 44: Negroamaro

Denali in Italy
Italy is my Mount McKinley. I know I’ll never climb it and won’t ever have the view from the top looking down across the rest of the North American molehills. Most of the time it’s not even possible to see the top (only 10% of visitors to Alaska actually see it), let alone think what it’d be like to stand at the top of it. But on rare days, the clouds part and you can see the top of the mountain, what its side looks like and start to imagine what a model of it would look like. Yes, my parents just got back from Alaska and have lots of stories to share – especially about Mt. McKinley/Denali.

Confused? Join the Club
Italy is exactly that intimidating and obfuscated. Somewhere out there experts on Italy’s wines must exist but I’ve never met anyone who dares to claim that they’re an expert on Italian wines. That’s just outrageous given the hundreds of grapes grown around the country. Provinces, territories, and little towns all seem to have their own type of wine and grape that’s just grown in that area.

Wikipedia talks about 350 “authorized” grapes used in Italy’s wines and estimates another 500 grapes are unauthorized. No doubt each of those grapes has a history and culture associated with it, and it’d be many lifetimes to really conquer all that knowledge. Two of NYC’s more famous chefs have written a book on it and lived a good amount of wine indulging so maybe they’re experts. Me though, I’m just happen to get a look at the mountain on a clear day once in awhile.

Puglia Pleasure Pour
Today’s glimpse of McKinely is Negroamaro, a dark grape that comes pretty much exclusively from Puglia, the heel of Italy. Negroamaro showed up at a tasting of Puglia wines last weekend with my friends the Zapatos and a recent NY friend transplant who hails from Puglia, but sadly I did not show up at that same tasting. Friday night firedrills got the better of me so the Zapatos & Co. got all the Puglia pleasure pours. To grieve the lost Friday, this bottle was later ordered with friends to commemorate the night of Puglia.

Yanks of Puglia
Turns out – Negroamaro is not just a Puglian wine, it’s a new grape to me, and one that only the Puglians make. (Puglians? Pugliers? Pugilists? No idea) Earthy, rustic, and unknown – those are the words that I turned up the most looking through the internets. Best I can tell, it’s only in Puglia that people grown this wine but they make a lot of it down there. Primitivo (Italy’s Zin) takes some of the vines but Negroamaro is the Yankees in Puglia, and Primitivo is at best the Mets. Not that it’s bankrupt and finally at a break-even .500 winning percentage or anything – it’s just that it’s not as prevalent as the ubiquitous Negroamaro hats that all the celebrities wear in Puglia.

Latin-Greek Lovefest
Negroamaro – translated, somewhat strangely, as “black-black.” Negro is straight-up black in pretty much all Latin languages and amaro is actually “bitter” but the wine’s not bitter at all. Strange right? Right, except that Puglia’s about one trireme ride (thanks Civ 1) from Greece and the Greek word for black is “maru.” Hnce, in a rare application of Latin-Greek knowledge, Negroamaro breaks down as “black-black.”

No photo from me – just the notes scribbled on the crackberry before the food arrived and the wine disappeared. Strong nose, tobacco – taste of raspberry and black cherry, long finish with some tannins, not overpowering. Squid ink – guaranteed to spill on white shirts.

Detail Up!
Rocca Bella 2009 IGT from Puglia, Italy for $8-12. Sadly, nobody on the web has talked about this wine and the producer has no pics so next best thing is this really good blog that hits the 2007 version.

Random Googles:
* Puglia Pride runs deep with this guy – check out his Top 10 Negroamaro list if you like your wines squiddy.
* Negroamaro doubles as an Italian rock band that’s gaining mainstream popularity. Any guess where they’re from?
* Salice Salentino is Puglia’s most famous wine they say, and it’s a blend with mostly Negroamaro. Good value wine too.

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  1. zapatos’s avatar

    Missed you guys at that tasting. We wound up having a tasty branzino and monkfish, along with a very buttery chardonnay.



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