My very first sip of rosè was when I was about twenty years old and gaining some familiarity with wine. As a fledgling wine-drinker, I was lucky to have a father who was deeply interested in wine and who, subsequently, became a large importer in Ireland; a mantle happily picked up and worn by my brother to this day. So I have always had expert hands to guide me through my wine choices. To be honest, I thought that first rosè was pretty ordinary compared to most of the red and white wines I was being introduced to simultaneously. As a result, I decided to give pink wine a miss and it was some years before I drank it again with any enthusiasm.
Visiting France on a regular basis, I always enjoyed a glass or two of chilled rosè, particularly on trips to Provence, but never became excited about them, preferring the wonderful French white and red wines always available.
Then it happened! Just five years ago, on my first visit to Puglia, I noticed several fellow diners drinking pink wine and decided to see what it was they were obviously enjoying. I sampled my first glass of Pugliese rosato (Italian for rosè). It was made from the Negroamaro grape and I was hooked on the spot.
The rosato wines from Puglia have terrific body and taste and are excellent with absolutely all the local foods. They are versatile enough to be served any time during a meal, from aperitivo right through to the end with antipasti, pasta, fish or meat. And even with dessert. Try a Malvasia rosato with fish, or a rosato from the Bombino Nero grape with pasta and the local burratina cheese. Result: Heaven!
Because of the geography of Puglia, being located on the peninsula which forms Italy’s iconic “stiletto heel”, it is surrounded by water. The mild winters and hot breezy summers, where the Tramontana wind from the north makes the conditions perfect for growing grapes and olives.
The soil is rich and bathed in sea breezes from the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The result is that Pugliese rosato wines, and others from southern Italy, are more full bodied than those from up north in the Veneto and other wine producing areas of Italy.
The three main grapes used in the Pugliese wines are Negroamaro, Primitivo and Malvasia Nera. These are all black grapes and are used to make the rosato wines along with Bombino Nero and Nero di Troia.
To make rosato, the black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for the first couple of days, then removed. This process is called “maceration”.
Most of the best rosato wines I have enjoyed from Puglia and its Salento peninsula are made from the local Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera or Bombino Nero grapes. Negroamaro (Italian for black-bitter) makes up about a third of the wine produced in the region.
Popular Primitivo, with its blackberry taste, makes a very popular red, and is also used to make rosato. The Primitivo grape ripens early and the result is a wine that is fruity and rich. Apparently, it is the same grape as California’s Zinfandel.
These photos are all of rosato wines that we have greatly enjoyed in Puglia:
Rivera Pungirosa. Bombino Nero DOCG. 100% Bombino Nero
Upal Foleggio Valle D Itria
Leone de Castris Five Roses IGT Apparently this was the first rosato bottled in Italy. Negroamaro 90% Malvasia Nera di Lecce 10%
Severino Garofano Vigneti e Cantine Girofle (means clove) Salento IGP 100% Negroamaro
Cosimo Taurino Scaloti Negroamaro Salento IGP
Vetrere Negroamaro Malvasia Taranta
Now about to move to Puglia permanently, I visit regularly to oversee the building of our new home and always stay at the wonderful Ostuni Palace Hotel. There, on arrival which is always late in the evening, I plonk myself at the bar where Stefano will invariably ask: “Rosato? Negroamaro?” And I respond “SI!”
Orna O’Reilly Weber