The only good thing about inflated California wine prices is that importers will search far and wide into territories they normally would not have, to discover good bargains.
Salice Salentino lies almost at the very tip of Italy’s “high heel”; in the region of Apuglia (or just Puglia), known mainly for vast quantities of mediocre wine. The Pugliese, in fact, produce almost as much wine as there is made in the whole state of California! The very warm climate so far south yields generally dull wine of high alcohol content.
A few dedicated growers have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate that Puglia can produce fine wines if enough time and energy are expended. Exemplary among them is Dr. Cosimo Taurino who strictly employs meticulous viticultural practices in his 225 acre estate. Vines are kept low to the ground to produce reduced yeilds of higher quality grapes. Dr. Taurino avoids an overage of sugar at harvest by having the grapes picked at their most desirable point of maturity. Abundance of harvest sugar would result in unusually “big” wines that are common to this region. The final analysis shows a nice balance between sugar and acid; a balance that is crucial to all superior wines.
Salice Salentino is named after its geographic region, Puglia’s Salento peninsula (the region that is presumed to be responsible for the ancestor of the California Zinfandel). It is made from grapes virtually unknown on our shores: Negro Amaro 80%, and Malvasia Nera di Brindisi 20% (sometimes called Malvasia Rossa). These give a deeply colored full-bodied wine which can keep well for 10 years or more becoming more velvety the while. The term “Reserva” indicates that the wine has been given at least two years of additional ageing.
Our selection exhibits a brilliant purplish color. The explosively rich nose, which has lots of grape aroma and a noticeable degree of bouquet garnered from the ageing process, precedes an equally explosive taste – cherry and raspberry flavors dominate. The body is mellow with great depth. It finishes nicely, crisp with just a hint of tannin and lingering flavors. Serve at room temperature with a hearty marinara sauce made with fresh tomatoes over wide noodles and/or a good lamb roast.
Cellaring Notes: Possible at its peak now or two years this side of it. A fun one to track.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper