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Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 1999
Named “Oenotria” by the ancient Greeks for its abundance of grapevines, Italy has always had a culture that is virtually inextricable from wine. Wine grapes are grown just about everywhere throughout the country—a long and narrow boot-shaped peninsula extending into the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. The defining geographical feature of the country is the Apennine Mountain range, extending from Liguria in the north to Calabria in the south. The island of Sicily nearly grazes the toe of Italy’s boot, while Sardinia lies to the country’s west. Climate varies significantly throughout the country, with temperature being somewhat more dependent on elevation than latitude, though it is safe to generalize that the south is warmer. Much of the highest quality viticulture takes place on gently rolling, picturesque hillsides.
Italy boasts more indigenous varieties than any other country—between 500 and 800, depending on whom you ask—and most wine production relies upon these native grapes. In some regions, international varieties have worked their way in, but their use is declining in popularity, especially as younger growers begun to take interest in rediscovering forgotten local specialties. Sangiovese is the most widely planted variety in the country, reaching its greatest potential in parts of Tuscany. Nebbiolo is the prized grape of Piedmont in the northwest, producing singular, complex and age-worthy wines. Other important varieties include Montepulciano, Trebbiano, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and of course, Pinot Grigio.
Full-bodied and brimming with dark fruit, Negroamaro actually doesn’t taste much like what its name indicates, “bitter and black.” Full and smooth on the palate, Negroamaro doesn’t actually have a lot of bitter tannins. Instead it is typically brimming with sweet fruit like baked plum, raspberry jam and ripe red cherry and is often accented with sweet aromas like cinnamon and anise.
This dark-skinned southern Italian grape variety is found on the eastern half of the Salento peninsula, which is the backside of Italy’s “boot heel” and part of the Puglia region. Negroamaro forms the base (along with Malvasia nera and Primitivo) of the most well known wine of the area, Salice Salentino. It can also produce single varietal reds as well as some impressive aromatic and spicy rosé wines.
Try one with an easy pizza night or instead of a Chianti with pasta.