Wednesday, July 9, 2008

WBW 47 - S is for a Surprising Salento

The silly theme for this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday is, um, a letter. The letter S. As in "Today's episode of Sesame Street was brought to you by..." At first I thought this was lame, a cop-out, but then grew to embrace it, as it could mean just about anything I wanted it to mean — and I am nothing if not free range (read: Animal is my hero).

I toyed with the notion of "S is for Silent S," because tonight I had Chidaine's 2005 Les Bournais from Montlouis Sur Loire, and it's a terrific demi-sec from young vines that went beautifully with my creamy, walnut-flecked pasta. But I decided to hit a twofer instead: "S is for a Surprising Salento."

Perrini Salento Rosso IGT 2004

Salento photo
Salice courtyard photo by Nuez
You've undoubtedly seen Salice Salento in your local wine shop, probably on the cheap rack. These wines are frequently value-driven reds made from Puglia's native negroamaro grape. Given that Italy's boot heel gets hot, hot, hot, you'd be right to assume that most wines from this region are large framed, easy drinking reds made for early consumption, although one twist on this formula is that Salice Salentos can also have a stemmy / herby / spicy interest to them as well.

All this said, this tank-aged, organically grown blend of negroamaro and primitivo is surely unlike any Puglian wine I've ever had, given its brownish tint, its middleweight profile, and its very fresh acidity. It's a bit disjointed at first but everything smooths out with air. The mature nose features lavender, cinnamon, anise, lemon rind, and plum, and these characteristics are joined by blueberry and cranberry on the palate. This makes for a considerably more interesting wine than any Salice Salentino I've ever had. The tannins are smooth, and the wine finishes with decent structure and length.

So why the jump in quality over your regular wine from Salento? The first obvious answer is the Perrinis' dedication to organic viticulture. But the grapes are also grown on hillsides near the sea, which subjects them to temperatures cooler than those found in much of the flat Salento peninsula. Furthermore, as explained on the Polaner Selections web site, the Perrinis built an underground cellar, which as they say was "a necessary outlay to make truly subtle wines as opposed to the often too-heavy-handed fermentations of the native red grapes." Score another one for temperature-controlled fermentation.

All in all, this was a nice surprise from Salento. And now, I return to my Le Bournais...

1 comment:

Dale Cruse said...

I have a friend who adores Salice Salentino!