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What our expert thought of Tenuta Fujanera, Arrocco, Nero Di Troia




about this wine About this wine
 
This Italian red is from Puglia: the heel of Italy. More precisely, it’s from Foggia in the north of Puglia, about 150km inland from the Gargano peninsula, the spur on the back of Italy’s boot. This is the heartland for the Nero di Troia grape. Indeed, the historic town of Troia, which gave its name to the grape, lies only 25km from the vineyards of Tenuta Fujanera, producer of this wine.
 
It’s baking hot in the summers here with temperatures regularly exceeding 40°C - but this is a grape that likes heat. Even here, it ripens so late that they pick it in the second half of October, long after all the other varieties. Other Puglian grapes like Negroamaro and Primitivo often get so ripe that their wines suffer from excessive alcohol, but not so the Nero di Troia; this one’s 13% is quite typical. Another benefit of not getting overripe is that acidity remains good.
 
So, if this grape is so perfectly matched to the region, why haven’t you heard of it before? The answer is very much the same as for Carignan, another much-planted variety rarely seen on labels.
 
If you grow the fearsomely-tannic Nero di Troia with a view to maximising yields - and the peasant farmers in this traditionally poor region did just that - then the grapes ripen unevenly. Those in the centre of the bunches remain unripe, and contribute excessive acidity and mouth-puckeringly hard green tannins to the wine. Consequently Nero di Troia was always blended, usually with the much softer and fruitier Montepulciano.
 
Twenty years ago there were only half-a-dozen unblended Nero di Troia wines made - and none were exported. But winemakers have discovered that if they keep the yields down, and pick the grapes as they become ripe rather than all at once, they can tame the tannins and allow this variety to really shine. Today there are around a hundred wines with Nero di Troia proudly on the label.
 
Which is odd, because it’s not actually the grape’s real name! Textbooks list it as Uva di Troia (“Grape of Troy”). Nero di Troia (“Black of Troy”) is a recent rebranding apparently inspired by the success of Sicily’s indigenous Nero d'Avola. Since the name had never appeared on labels anyway, why not use a more butch-sounding version?
 
This wine’s name “Arrocco” means "castling" - as in the chess move. There's a secondary military meaning derived from that: to move troops behind the lines. Castel del Monte DOC is the best-known Puglian red based on Nero di Troia (though it’s usually a blend), and is named after a famous octagonal castle on a hill. This wine comes from just outside the DOC zone but its name is both a reference to Castel del Monte and an acknowledgement that the grapes have been moved “behind the lines” in the winery to make a pure Nero di Troia, rather than a more traditional blend.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
The colour is a lively medium ruby - properly red but not especially deep. Since Nero di Troia is a deep-coloured grape, I reckon the winemakers have limited the maceration time to avoid extracting too much tannin from the grape skins.
 
The medium+ nose combines rich, ripe fruit and sharp green herbs. It smells of dried black cherries, sage and black tea. There’s also a whiff of pungent spice - mostly liquorice. It’s unoaked which, along with those herbs and spices, keeps it fresh despite the richness.
 
The nose suggests a big rich wine but this is dry, elegant and medium-bodied with clean, unoaked flavours of blackberries and liquorice. Fresh acidity and fine, silky tannins give the wine good, food-friendly structure.
 
Ripeness returns on the medium finish, where the other flavours are joined by sweet blackcurrants.
 
Assessment
 
That sharp but ripe nose is very Italian, reminding me of a good Chianti. And like a Chianti, it’s made to accompany food. But the Nero di Troia has its own distinctive scents and flavours, giving this characterful wine a real sense of place.
 
I believe the best value wines are those produced in less-famous regions by small producers championing their local grape varieties. This wine is a great example of that; it’s cheap enough to drink as your house red but complex enough to keep your interest while you do so.


Tasting notes

Appearance
medium ruby
Nose

Intensity medium+

Aromas ripe (even dried) black fruits (black cherries), dried herbs (sage), pungent spice (liquorice)

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium+

Body medium - 13%

Tannins medium, fine-grained

Intensity medium

Flavours blackberry, liquorice
Finish

Length medium

Flavours sweet blackcurrants
Other notes
Unoaked. Surprising elegance after such a big rich nose.


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