WBW #37 Go Native!!

Our assignment for this month’s WBW came from Dr.Vino, who challenged us to “go native.” By that, he meant go find a bottle of wine made of grape that’s native to the country where the wine was produced. Bonus points if you are drinking a native grape in that country. I tried my best to procure a bottle of Norton so I could drink this grape in Virginia, from whence it came, but unfortunately, none of the vineyards we visited in the last month (and we went to 6!) produced any Norton-based wines. I suppose we’d have to head to Chrysalis or Horton to find that, but they were not on the part of the wine trail we were stomping this month.

Instead, I decided to check out the selection of a wine store that is new to me, the Winery in Old Town Alexandria. While the selection of the store is not huge, it was very carefully chosen and well put together with many interesting wines lining the shelves. Tossing a twist into the mix, Dr.Vino asked us to avoid the obvious grapes, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, etc.

At the Winery, I found this bottle of 2003 Duca Carlo Guarini Piutri Negromara Salento. It’s 13% alcohol by volume, cost me $15.99, and had a real cork closure. The wine hails from Scorrano, Italy. The main grape in this red table wine is Negromara, a native Italian varietal.

Jancis Robinson in The Oxford Companion to Wine says the Negromara grape fell victim to the EU’s Vine Pull Scheme and hectacres planted fell by nearly half between 1990 and 2000. It apparently forms the base for several DOCs and is used to produce a rose. The grape is native to Puglia (aka Apulia which is located on the Adriatic Coast in the far south east of Italy) and Jancis Robinson says it’s the most interesting native grape from the area. Otherwise, there’s not a lot of information about this grape out there, either in my books or on the internet.

The wine! The nose was really complex, especially given the price point for this wine. Apparently it’s the week of complex wines for me and again Matt drained his glass before I even got my nose out of mine. I found leather, barnyard, bitter spice, dark dry cherries, an almost smoky bitter quality, and an earthy note on the nose. In the mouth the wine was bitter in a really interesting way. Overall the wine was medium-bodied with slight tannins. Intriguing. I got flavors of red fruit, red currants, and cherries. The wine was deep, earthy, with a bitter woody finish. I keep emphasizing the bitter part because that was what stuck with me most, it was a really intriguing flavor.

Matt and I really enjoyed this bottle of wine. And I’m glad I couldn’t find any Norton to review, it made me break out of the box and try something a bit different, as I often fall into CA, VA or NZ, ruts around here. Many thanks to Dr.Vino for being our gracious host this month, I certainly look forward to seeing what varietals everyone tried out!