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Puglia Wines: Rosés Are Red, My Love

Posted: Wednesday, 27 June 2012 13:06

Puglia Wines: Rosés Are Red, My Love

June 27 : Violets may be blue but Roses are red in the region of Puglia where Italy's first Rosé was perhaps produced from Negroamaro several decades ago though Primitivo is now used too. Puglia could well be the 'Provence' of Italy with almost every bottler bringing out a Rose from the red grapes, writes Subhash Arora who tasted over 30 such wines recently at the Apulia Wine Identity and found that most were quaffable with local pasta dishes.

Click For Large ViewAs I arrived in Brindisi and was escorted to Hotel Palazzo Virgilio, a boutique hotel in the city center where I had enjoyed my stay last November as well, I rushed to the restaurant as it closes at 10 pm and ordered the local Puglianese pasta- a hand rolled pasta with red tomato sauce and some local sausages thrown in. To wash it down there was a chilled bottle of Tenute Rubino Saturnino Rosato 2011. It went down so well with the pasta that I cancelled the grilled shrimp as the Secondo Piatto  and instead concentrated on finishing the generous portion of pasta.

Next day we left the hotel to arrive at a beautiful resort-Masseria (farmhouse in Puglia) Bagnara near the small town of Lizzano, about 90 kms from Brindisi. I ordered green salad and the Puglianese vegetarian pasta with lots of cut cherry tomatoes and shared with my journalist colleagues a bottle of chilled Negroamaro Rosé from another producer. It was a welcome drink in the hot afternoon of 30° C + and again a perfect mate for the pasta.

Rosé as Red Category

Rose is an important wine for the Puglia region which is home to red wines like Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero di Troia, not known so far for white wines (though with technological improvements very interesting wines from Fiano Minutolo, Fiano di Puglia, Verdeca, Greco and even Viognier show good promise, as we found out later in the trip).

Puglia is a long region on the East Coast running almost 380 kms from North to South, with the Adriatic Coast on the East and the lower end facing the Ioninian Sea on the west. A need was always felt to have wines suitable for their local food, especially sea-food.  According to the local producers, Rose was introduced in the 1940s to fulfill this need.

Tasting Rose at Apulia Wine Identity

Click For Large ViewWith the growing demand for Rose in the international market, it was not surprising to find the organizers conducting a special tasting session of over 20 Rosés made principally from Negroamaro and Primitivo. As Marco Sabellico, Senior Editor of the Gambero Rosso, the well known Italian wine guide group collaborating with the project, explained, ‘Rose has become popular not only overseas but also in Italy-it is an important wine. Puglia has a cultural identity with this wine. With rich structure, colour and other features, Primitivo is an important grape for Rosé. It has the structure of red wines, can be matched with different foods, even ethnic foods, and is fresh and cool in summer time. It is not a compromise but good wine for several occasions.’ Of course he also clarified that it was not simply a mix of red and white wine- the EU laws strictly prohibit blending the two to get the pink.  It must be made from red grapes, a specialty of the region.

Diverse wine with structure

Luigi Rubino, President of Consorzio Puglia Best Wine which organised Apulia Wine Identity in Lecce on Jun 12-17, says, ‘Puglia has been enjoying Rosé wines for decades. Our chamber of commerce even organised a Rose wine competition this year and it was quite successful.  You will be hearing a lot about Puglianese Rosés in future. Our style is not light wine-sometimes they  may be as heavy as red-including the deep colour.’ In fact, the colour of wines tasted varied from onion skin-pink to roohafza rose syrup, the popular sweet sherbet to combat the  Indian summer heat. ‘Puglia has traditionally been a red wine area and so we introduced the Rose back in the 1940s,’ he elaborated.

Click For Large ViewMarco added that with rich structure, it had become popular for the last 10 years or so. But unfortunately, no production statistics are available as it had been categorized as red wine in Puglia so far and the producers did not submit their figures specifically for this wine. Rubino hoped that by the next edition of Apulia Wine Identity in June 2013, some separate figures might be available. However, he was confident that between Abruzzi, the neighbouring region that also produces a big amount of Rose and Puglia produced around 70% of total Italian Rose, followed by Lake Garda in Veneto. Marco also emphasized that 10 years ago one might have found only one Rose on the entire restaurant wine list whereas today there is a chapter on it and many Italian regions were trying to launch their own product to meet the anticipated demand.  But Roses are now blooming in Puglia!

The sudden spurt may have bruised the quality to some extent. Though the wines had the quaffable quality, some wines gave hints of minor defects, excess of Sulphur being the most visible problem, interfering with the aromas. Negroamaro was generally lighter in colour and drier than Primitivo a few of which were quite dark in colour and also sweet styled. Of course, this also depends on the style the producer likes, keeping in view his individual market.

Tasting the Roses

The Tasting was divided into two sessions-the first one being Negroamaro with a couple of wines having a blend that included small quantities of Montepulciano or Malvasia Nera as well. Most wines were fresh, juicy and delicious with red  and black cherries and strawberries in the flavour; a couple of them even reminded me of Vimto- the interesting rose drink that was popular in India decades ago.

Click For Large ViewThe first session had the 2011 vintages of Accademia dei Racemi Salento igp Negroamaro, Valle dell’Asso doc Galatina, Agricola Vallone Vigna Flaminio dop Brindisi Rosato, Torrevento Veritas, Castel del Monte docg Rosato, Candido Le Pozzelle, Salice Salentino doc, Tenute Rubino Saturnino igt Salento Rosato, Cantine Due Palme Velorosa Salento Rosato igp (zinfandel), Tenute Mater Domini Marangi Salento igt Rosato, Castello Monaci Kreos  igt Salento  and Schola Sarmenti Masserei Nardó Rosato doc. I found Rubino Saturnino and Cantina Due Palme Velorosa my top picks in this session.

The second session had wines based on Primitivo though they had a couple of blended minor grapes. Consorzio Produttori Vini di Manduria Amoroso Salento igp, Rasciatano Rose igt Puglia, Conte Spagnoletti Zeuli Mezzana doc Castel monte Rosato, Polvanera Puglia igt Rosato, Conti Zecca Cantalupi Rosato igt Salento, Milleuna Ori di Taranto Rosato (2010) igt Salento, Cupertinum-Cantina Sociale di Coperti Spinello dei Falconino igt Salento, Masseria Le Veli Salento igt, Fatalone Teres 2009, Puglia igt, Giuliani Topparello igt Puglia and Feudi San Marzano Salento igp were tasted.  

Click For Large ViewPolvanera, Masseria Le Veli and Conti Zecca were my personal top favourites. The wines were generally more plum flavoured, fuller on the mouth, with good structure but a few were too tannic for a pleasant Rose; though they might be suitable for meat dishes as well. More wines in this session were sweeter-that might be good for matching with spicy Indian food- but not for me.

Rosés of Puglia are definitely well suited for sea-foods, pizzas  and pasta. As Rubino says, it is our tomatoes that make the pasta suitable for the Rose- in which case they would be delightful for vegetarians in India and the summer heat. But as of now, they are still red as a category. In the near future, there may be a new classification as Rose. In the meanwhile, one hopes that the push to improve its quality will continue into the next edition of Apulia Wine Identity—and after.

Subhash Arora

List of Participating producers
For an earlier related article, click Apulia acts to establish Wine Identity

For a short video chat with Subhash Arora, click HERE

Tags: Palazzo Virgilio, Masseria, Lizzano, Fiano Minutolo, Ioninian Sea, Abruzzi,


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