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What our expert thought of San Marzano 'Il Pumo' Negroamaro




about this wine About this wine
 
Stop Press: Even our postcard got in on the cross-dressing theme this week, displaying the ‘Il Pumo’ Primitivo label instead of the correct Negroamaro one.  It wasn’t deliberate!  Rest assured it is Negroamaro in your pouches.
 
Negroamaro is one of the three main black grapes from Puglia in Italy’s south-west, along with Primitivo and Nero di Troia.  Its name translates as “black bitter”, and it does produce notably deep-coloured, full-bodied wine.  Curiously, though, it’s actually less tannic, and therefore less bitter, than the other two.
 
It’s particularly associated with the eastern side of the Salento peninsula which forms the heel proper of Italy’s boot.  In ancient times this was a Greek colony, and there is still a Greek-speaking community here.  The ancient Greeks brought winemaking to Salento, and it is likely that the second half of Negroamaro’s name is in fact derived from the Ancient Greek maru, which also means ‘black’.
 
Salento is flat, dry and hot, although the proximity of the sea on three sides helps moderate the temperatures somewhat.  Negroamaro is a vigorous, thick-skinned variety that resists drought well, but it does have a tendency to overripen in these conditions.  A range of good-value Puglian DOCs like Salice Salentino, Copertino and Squinzano are based on it, though usually blended with other varieties. 
 
Much varietal Negroamaro is sold as IGT Salento, like this one, which comes from the gentle hills around San Marzano di San Giuseppe, and is made by the dynamic local co-operative, Cantine San Marzano.  They do make a Salice Salentino, but most of their vineyards, including the ones for this wine, lie outside the western border of that DOC.
 
These vineyards lie around 100m elevation and are planted on clayey soils, which usually retain water well.  However, the soil layer is quite thin and filled with rocks and stones that encourage drainage.  Consequently they’re planted at a quite a low density, 4500 vines per hectare, to allow each vine to find enough water.
 
The grapes were harvested relatively early, in the second and third weeks of September, to avoid the excessive alcohol and low acidity that sometimes blighted old-school Negroamaro wines from this hot region.  After crushing, the grapes underwent about ten days of cold maceration, with the temperature kept low to discourage fermentation.  This extracts colour and flavour rather than tannins.
 
Then the temperature was allowed to rise and cultivated yeasts added for a relatively short, fast fermentation, again with a view to limiting tannin extraction to produce a wine that would drink well young.  The wine was then aged in stainless steel tanks for about five months before bottling.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
True to its name, this is a deep, almost opaque ruby colour.  It’s as dark as Cabernet Sauvignon, but perhaps a more vivid red.  It looks a year or two older than it is because it’s definitely more red than purple.
 
The nose is rich and spicy, with a bittersweet edge.  There’s damson jam, raspberry and sweet spices like allspice and clove.  Christmas is coming, and here’s a wine that smells of mince pies!
 
Although dry, the palate is filled with sweet ripe fruit: prunes, blackberries and dark raspberries.  There are bittersweet flavours here too: raisins in dark chocolate.  It’s full-bodied but not huge, with just enough acidity to keep it fresh.  Soft, velvety tannins provide structure.
 
The medium+ finish is spicy and warming, with more chocolatey notes.
 
Assessment
 
This is textbook Negroamaro, smooth and rich, with its characteristic bittersweet note and lots of dried fruits and spices.  Being unoaked allows the fruit to shine through, and makes the wine more versatile with food.  Clever winemaking has preserved decent acidity and kept the alcohol level reasonable (13.5% is quite moderate for this grape) while not skimping on any of that bold fruit-forward character.
 
Negroamaro is that rare beast, a dark, full-bodied and intensely flavoured variety that doesn’t need long aging.  The winemakers have taken full advantage of that to produce this big and bold 2015 that tastes absolutely ready to drink.  I would have guessed this as a 2013 or even older.  So drink it now; its hearty, warming character is particularly appropriate at this time of year.  Plus it smells of mince pies and tastes of fruitcake – how much more Christmassy can you get?


Tasting notes

Appearance
deep ruby, almost opaque, but vivid red rather than black
Nose

Intensity medium+

Aromas rich red & black fruits (damson jam, raspberry), dried fruit (raisins), brown spices (clove, allspice), alcohol. Smells like mince pies!

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness dry, but sweet-fruited

Acidity medium (good for this grape)

Body full, but not heavy

Tannins medium, but very soft and velvety

Intensity medium+

Flavours dried fruit (prune, raisin), dark chocolate, blackberry, raspberry, spice
Finish

Length medium+

Flavours spicy, warming, dark chocolate. Tannins noticeable but not drying.
Other notes
Unoaked. Looks & tastes more like 2013 than 2015.


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