Italian Varietals Abound in Temecula Wine Country – Part IX
The Negro Amaro grape
Today’s article is about the Italian varietal Negro Amaro or Negroamaro. This grape is primarily grown in the Puglia region and one of the most planted reds in Italy. It is the base for Salice Salentino and numerous other reds of the Salentine peninsula. The name means “black and bitter” and the wines are typically deeply colored and brawny, with hints of exotic spice. There's also a subvariety called Negoamaro Precoce.
It is grown almost exclusively in Puglia and particularly in Salento, the peninsula which can be visualised as the “heel” of Italy. The grape can indeed produce wines very deep in color. Wines made from Negroamaro tend to be very rustic in character, combining perfume with an earthy bitterness. The grape produces some of the best red wines of Puglia, particularly when blended with the highly scented Malvasia Nera, as in the case of Salice Salentino.
The grapes are used exclusively for winemaking. 100% varietal wines are usually produced but more common use is to blend with Malvasia Nera, Sangiovese or Montepulciano. These wines can be red, rosato or frizzante.
Negro Amaro is a favorite wine by the glass offering by restaurateurs. The wine's bitterness is so interesting that the customer is often enticed to order a second glass.
In Temecula Valley, two thousand cuttings of Negro Amaro (clone FPS01) were grafted to existing 110R rootstock in 2010 at Cougar Vineyard & Winery located at 39870 De Portola Road. The vines will begin producing grapes this year but wine will not be ready from these vines for 2-3 years. Look for this wine at Cougar in 2-3 years. This winery resides on the De Portola Wine Trail of Temecula Wine Country. As far as this author knows there are no other growers of Negro Amaro in the Temecula Wine Country. Cougar Vineyard & Winery is a member of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association.
Altamura in Napa Valley has produced a Negroamaro. Fox Hill Vineyards in Mendocino County has also produced a Negroamaro. This author is unaware of any Negroamaro planted in Southern California.
Cougar Vineyard & Winery is planted entirely in Italian varietals. The Negro Amaro is actually planted on the adjacent property to Cougar that is managed as an estate vineyard. The vineyard, La Vigna e Destra, is planted with two thousand of the eight thousand vines planted being Negro Amaro. Cougar hopes to release their first estate Negroamaro by 2013. We will be discussing all of these other varietals being grown and managed by Cougar in upcoming articles about the Italian grape varietals planted in Temecula Wine Country of Southern California.