#Giro2020 Stage 7: Onward to Puglia and the Wines of Salice Salentino DOC

I thought Thursday’s race was going to be a glory day for Peter Sagan: he started Stage 6 in the ciclomino (purple) jersey as the top sprinter, with two second-place finishes to his credit. All that was missing was a stage win.

After several hours on the road, it looked like he might finally claim victory, securing the jersey for at least a few days to come. Alas, it was not to be. With just a few kilometers to go, Sagan seemed to be in perfect position, surfing the wheels of his competitors, looking for the fastest line to the finish.

As the pace quickened, things got crazy: it looked like every team had a train barreling toward the front. None other than Vincenzo Nibali – not usually one for a sprint finish – was vying with the leaders as they dashed to the line. Sagan somehow ended up behind Nibali, who eventually peeled off to the side, leaving the former world champion far off the action and with too little road left to change position.

Ugh.

Out of nowhere, Arnaud Demare creeped up the right side, ultimately beating the rest of the challengers to the line. Sagan didn’t even finish in the money. I don’t know what happened: his form seems much improved since the Tour de France, and he’s been consistently good thus far in the Giro. But today, when he should have won, he didn’t have it.

So anyway, on to Friday’s race . . .

What’s Happening on Stage 7

Thursday’s stage will be a welcome relief to the riders after two tough, hilly days. The respite will be brief, however, as the Apennines loom in the distance over the weekend. Should be a day for the GC riders to steel themselves for what’s ahead, as their sprinter counterparts vie for one of the only true sprinting victories.

I’d like to bet on Sagan to come through but, well, you know . . .

Stage 7 Profile Map (www.giroditalia.it)

We’re Riding into Salice Salentino DOC in Puglia – Home to Azienda Vinicola Cantele

Puglia is the heel to Italy’s boot, a narrow peninsula of rolling hills, pristine beaches, and olive groves. Lots of wine is made here, too. The Salice Salentino DOC is known for its Negroamaro grapes, which grow on old bush vines near the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, which cool the fiercely hot summer temperatures.

Azienda Vinicola Cantele Winery (winery photo)

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.

About Azienda Vinicola Cantele

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.

The engines behind Cantele Wines (winery photo)

Today, their sons preside over a world-class winery that includes a full-service agriturismo operation, cooking school, and a scientific partnership with the University of Bari’s Center for Food Science. I’ve written about Cantele before, so if you’d like more details on the enterprise please click here or visit their website .

2015 Cantele Salice Salentino DOC Negroamaro Riserva

Known in local dialect as Niuru Maru, Negroamaro wine used to be shipped to northern Italy, where it was added to red wines that needed a boost of color, structure, and ripeness. These days, winemakers in Salento Salentino take the grape seriously, coaxing wines of nuance and balance from it.

With naturally high acidity and a unique aroma and flavor profile that combines black cherry-berry fruit with lovely floral notes, Negroamaro gives rise to well-structured, full-bodied red wines and tantalizingly aromatic rosato wines.

This Negroamaro Riserva was exactly as I expected: lots of ripe fruit, refreshing acidity, and a distinct floral-bitter finish. It made a wonderful match with oven-roasted chicken thighs and a mix of sweet and russet potatoes baked in a cast iron pan. In fact, sweet potatoes might be the perfect match for Negroamaro Rosso.

Enjoy this quasi-easy day on the road to Puglia; and get ready for the weekend because it’s gonna get real!

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