Salento Wine

by Chikashi

Portrait by Ron Oliver

Luigi, our Pugliese friend, is a bit of a history buff and knows the story of just about every town, village and building in his native region.  I like interesting stories.  I enjoy them especially when it is told by a natural storyteller over a good meal.  Luigi loves to eat and drink.  So do I.  We brought back some wine from Puglia, including the four that Luigi said we must take with us.  One was a familiar name, Taurino Cosimo’s Patriglione, which I think is, quite frankly, addictive and was therefore already on my list, which also included Taurino Cosimo’s Notarpanaro and Cantine Due Palme’s Selvarossa Riserva Speciale.  

Two of the remaining three on Luigi’s list are Cantele’s Amativo and Azienda Monaci’s Le Braci.

Luigi told me that the Cantele family is from the North.  They used to work for Taurino Cosimo many years ago but moved back up North after awhile.  Then, they returned to Puglia to start their own winery.  Puglia does that to you.  Rather than approximating Taurino Cosimo (albeit they are neighbours), they had the good sense to set up to be their own.

Amativo is a blend of Primitivo (60%) and Negroamaro (40%).  The first thing I noticed is its beautiful colour.  A rich appearance is always a good start.  I am not an expert on wine; I just enjoy them.  Therefore, my vocabulary is severely limited when describing the flavour, but there is a distinct spiciness and a hint of leather in Amativo.  The combination has a slightly bitter overall effect, which I think is the sort of thing that does not allow one to be equivocal about it.  The lingering charcoal at the end demands that care must be taken in matching it to the right sort of food.  We paired it with Harry’s Bar hamburger, but rather than complementing the food, Amativo seemed to overwhelm it.  I visited Cantele’s web site to read up on it a few days later and found that they recommend drinking it with a good cigar.  It is a shame that I had not read that recommendation, or thought of it myself (rather unlikely), before finishing the bottle because I can imagine that it would actually work quite well with something like Bolivar’s Royal Corona Special.  Perhaps next time.

In contrast, I think Le Braci (100% Negroamaro) is more versatile without being plain.  It is beautiful in appearance, which can be described as clear, purplish pigeon blood ruby.  It is full bodied but not chewy.  The caramel in the middle probably has something to do with its sweetness and tannin being complementary rather than competitive.  The language used in wine tasting notes can be a bit heavy on metaphors and sound faintly ridiculous, but ‘grand’ is the word that comes to mind.  May I have some more, please?

I have yet to open the fourth and last one from Luigi’s list, Agricole Vallone’s Graticciaia (2006).  I have high expectations for it…  I also look forward to seeing how Patriglione (2006) compares with the 2000 vintage.

All wines mentioned above were purchased from Nocco Giuseppe on via Palazzo di Conti dei Lecce in Lecce.  The shop is run by three generations of a very charming family, with nonno firmly in charge of the till.  The shop has the appearance of a wholesaler:  no fashionable furniture or fixtures, just excellence in assortment.  I recently had a quick browse in the Internet cupboard but was not able to find prices as competitive or an assortment as broad as theirs.  I would love to be able to claim that I discovered the unassuming but well stocked shop, but we were introduced to them by Agricole Vallone’s proprietor, who turned out to be an excellent source of information.  No surprises there, I suppose.