Cantele Negroamaro Rosato: Summer Wine from the Heart of Puglia (#ItalianFWT)

Rainbow over Biscayne Bay
I think our view is about to change . . .

As I write this post, I’m keeping a wary eye on the weather report – and Hurricane Isaias – which is headed our way. Miami needs this storm like a hole in the head and, as I make sure Gabe and I are prepared, it’s easy to imagine looking out our windows at calmer waters. In southern Italy, perhaps.

While I can’t magically transport myself to Puglia, the heel to Italy’s boot, nothing prevents me from pretending: if I sip a lovely rosato from the Salento peninsula, it’s almost the same as being there. How about you? Need a quick trip somewhere – anywhere – else?

Join the Italian Food Wine & Travel bloggers tomorrow, August 1st, as we explore the pink wines made from Italy’s native grapes. Our chat starts at 11 am ET on Twitter, following #ItalianFWT. I can promise that for at least one hour, you’ll be immersed in good wine, delicious food, and beautiful landscapes. Hope you’ll chime in with notes on your favorite rosato wine.

Here’s a taste of what’s on the agenda (including a wide array of regions and grapes):

 

Puglia – About the Region

It’s easy to picture Puglia even if you’ve never visited: on the map it’s Italy’s chunky heel jutting into the sea, filled with vineyards, olive groves, and pristine beaches. The name Puglia refers back to Roman times and the term a pluvia, meaning lack of rain; perfect for this hot, dry spit of land.

Long a source of bulk wines of little interest, Puglia is etching itself a new wine identity: one based on native varieties (Primitivo, Nero di Troia, Negroamaro) grown with an eye toward quality rather than quantity. Co-operatives remain an important part of the industry but these days, there is a trend among independent growers to make and bottle their own wines.

Trulli houses in Alberobello, Italy
The traditional Trulli houses in Puglia, Italy (photo: Balate Dorin via iStock)

The Salento peninsula, home to the Negroamaro grape, is uniquely positioned to be a center of high-quality  winemaking. While basking in the hot, sunny conditions necessary for the vines to thrive, it sits between the Ionic and Adriatic Seas. Grapes lucky enough to hang here enjoy the cooling breezes that blow across the vineyards. These breezes also moderate temperatures at night, allowing the grapes to hold on to some acidity despite the hot daytime conditions.

For more information on the wines from Puglia, visit www.winesofpuglia.com.

Negroamaro – Full-Bodied Red Wines; Floral-Scented Rosatos

Rough translation of the grape’s name gives us “bitter black,” hardly an inviting – or correct – description of what wines made from Negroamaro taste like. The reds are full-bodied, with high alcohol and tannins, with a flavor profile of rose petals, ripe black cherry and plum. You’ll feel the tannins on your tongue and the kiss of acidity that refreshes your palate.

The rosato versions are similar, although less powerful. Lots of ripe fruit, medium + tannins, and enough acidity to make you reach for another glass on a hot summer day.

Negroamaro grows well in Salento because it thrives in a hot, dry climate. Many of the older plantings are traditional alberello-style bush vines, each yielding small quantities of fruit. But, even at high yields, the grape can retain enough complexity and acidity to make interesting wines.

Azienda Vinicola Cantele – a Love Story in Its Third Generation

In 1950, Giovanni Battista Cantele and his wife, Teresa Manara, fell in love with the town of Lecce while on vacation. Teresa convinced Giovanni that they should move there permanently, going against the tide of southern Italians who were heading north, hoping for a new start after World War II.

Third Generation from website
Cantele is now in the hands of the family’s third generation (photo: Cantele website)

By 1979, their sons Augusto and Domenico had founded the family’s flagship winery in Guadagno. This was a natural next-step for Augusto, who had studied oenology in Conegliano, in the Veneto region. Today the property has grown to include a state-of-the-art winery and an agriturismo phenomenon called iSensi: a gastronomic laboratory, event space, and cooking school rolled into one, iSensi features local artisanal products such as olive oil, bread, fruit, cheese and, of course, wine.

Cantele Winery from website
Modern winery in a traditional setting (photo: Cantele website)

But don’t assume the Cantele family prioritizes style over substance. They also work hand-in-hand with Italy’s Center for Food Science at the University of Bari, where they’ve been studying the properties of native yeasts associated with Negroamaro. On deck? A deep dive into the effects of Brettanomyces (a strain of yeast that can impart undesirable aromas and flavors) on wine. And, in the vineyards, they use predictive modeling to choose the most efficient methods of handling problems, from hazardous weather conditions to invasive pests and disease.

2018 Cantele Negroamaro Rosato Salento IGT (12.5% abv; $16.99 on wine.com)

Rosé wines can be made in a few ways: direct press, where the free-run juice of red grapes is fermented without any time macerating on the skins; blending, where red and white wines are combined (almost exclusively limited to Champagne), and saignée (called salasso in Italian) in which a bit of wine is bled off from the red wine to create a rosé.

Wines made via saignée are more deeply colored than their counterparts. Some in the wine world (I’m not among them) look down these wines as mere by-products of red wine making. I’d say those folks are ruling out a whole bunch of really enjoyable wines.

Cantele Front Label

The Cantele Rosato is a saignée wine, with a gorgeous coppery color resulting from 12-18 hours of skin contact. It makes me happy, just looking at it, calling to mind a seaside café in Puglia, at sunset, where the color of the sky matches what’s in my glass. And it sure tastes good!

The Cantele Rosato’s nose intrigues me: the expected cherry and strawberry aromas are lovely but what makes me get out of my chair are the pronounced floral notes of rose and geranium. The label’s description should have prepared me for them but, honestly, my own observations rarely align perfectly with what producers tell me I should expect. In this case they were spot-on. And such a lovely surprise.

Pork Chops and Wine All Done
Herb-grilled pork chops and roasted potatoes – not bad for a weeknight pantry meal!

On the palate there’s more of the traditional cherry, berry, and plum influence, with a savory-strawberry flavor. It reminds me of picking strawberries from my grandparents’ garden on a summer evening long gone, trying to sneak a few into my mouth as I go. Just as I wanted to eat all the strawberries back then, I want to drink all of this wine in one go.

Tannins, acid, and alcohol are the structural tripod, giving the wine perfect balance (although I suspect the alcohol level might be higher than 12.5%). I loved the Cantele Negroamaro Rosato, not just for how delicious it was, but also for the way it sent me elsewhere: to my childhood many years ago, and to a beach in Puglia, hopefully in my near future.

29 comments

  1. Puglia is on my bucket list to be sure…the whole South of Italy actually! It’s cool that you posted a pic about the Trulli…mia insegnante da Puglia (my Italian teacher is from Puglia) and she and her partner are looking to buy a Trulli to renovate! Negro Amaro is probably my fave Puglese grape as well…I don’t often see it in rosato form, but when I do, I snap it up!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for hosting Rosato round-up. I learned a lot about these wines. I got the common theme reading all of our blogs that these Rosato wines are in general more hearty than Rose, with yours that has “style and substance”. My Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosato is a “honest table wine”.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The work Cantele is doing with the Center for Food Science is fascinating. And they’ve certainly covered several bases with iSensi. Your article sends me to iSensi for a cooking class and tasting their wines!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We love that wine, too. When I was running a wine program in LA, it was one of our most popular by-the-glasses. Great post!

    Hey, how does one join the Italian Food Wine & Travel bloggers group? I want in!

    Hope you and loved ones are healthy and safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First, hope you’re well given the hurricane. The images of Puglia you share are so beautiful! Would love to be magically transported there about now! How cool to learn about all the research this winery is doing, and wine sounds absolutely delicious as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a spectacular weekend to dive in and learn so much about the variety of rosatos in Italy! That photo of the Trulli houses, has me daydreaming of visiting. I think your pantry pairing looks cozy and divine. Puglia is such an undiscovered area for me. This amazing facility is a revelation, i Sensi: sounds amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Umberto, Paolo, and Gianni are so very nice people. I haven’t met Umberto’s sister yet. I have tasted their Rohesia rosìe wine but not the Negroamaro rosìe you have written about here. Guagnano, where the winery is located, is indeed a village or commune where viticulture is part of the history.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m thrilled that you featured a Cantele wine. One of my last pre-COVID outings was at a tasting with Paolo Cantele. And he was gracious enough to chat with us last week at 2:30am his time for a virtual wine dinner. Just a solid producer all around.

    Liked by 1 person

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