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Details for Caiaffa, Negroamaro


CountryItaly
Region
AppellationPuglia IGT
Grape
Year2016
Producer
ABV13%


Puglia

Famed as the heel of Italy, Puglia actually extends north to just above the Gargano peninsula, the spur on the back of Italy’s boot. It has a wealth of native grape varieties, but this historically poor and remote area long concentrated on producing strong bulk wine for making into vermouth or for shipping north to beef up other regions’ blends.
 
All this is changing fast, as improved winemaking techniques and a new wave of quality-minded producers are transforming the region’s reputation.
 
The southern half of Puglia is the heel proper, the Salento peninsula. It’s hot and flat, but cooled by sea breezes from both the Adriatic and Ionian seas.
 
The signature grape of Salento’s south-western side, the Ionian coast, is Primitivo. This is the same grape as California’s Zinfandel and produces very full-bodied, richly dark-fruited, often over-alcoholic reds that nevertheless have the acidity and tannic structure to age.
 
Across on Salento’s north-eastern, Adriatic coast the Negroamaro dominates in DOCs like Copertino, Squinzano and Salice Salentino. These are less tannic and acidic than the Primitivo reds with more spice notes and red fruit flavours, though over-ripeness and over-oaking can be a problem here too.
 
The northern half of Puglia is dominated by another local black grape, the Nero di Troia. Traditionally blended with softer varieties to tame its ferocious tannins, improved techniques mean it’s increasingly used alone to craft savoury, characterful reds. Excessive alcohol isn’t a problem because this variety ripens so late.
 
In the far north there are extensive plantings of well-known varieties like Montepulciano and Sangiovese, while in the centre the local Bombino Nero breaks the heavyweight Puglian mould to make fresh lively reds and fruity rosés. Puglia is overwhelming black grape country, but the local Verdeco and aromatic Minutolo produce some interesting dry whites.


Caiaffa

Family-run Caiaffa Vini are based in Cerignola in northern Puglia.  The town sits on a ridge of high ground overlooking the Tavoliere delle Puglie, a vast and fertile plain known as the granary of Italy: almost 20% of Italy’s pasta comes from durum wheat grown here.  The yellow wheatfields are interspersed with green olive groves and, of course, vineyards.
 
Caiaffa’s 25 hectares of vines are all certified organic.  To the north of Cerignola on the plain proper, around Tressanti, their vineyards are planted with the local black varieties Negroamaro, Nero di Troia, Primitivo and Aglianico.  They produce varietal wines from the first three, along with an Aglianico / Nero di Troia blend.  It’s hot here but the vines benefit from cool sea breezes from the Adriatic just four kilometres away.
 
On higher, cooler ground to the southeast of Cerignola, towards Canosa, lie their white grape vineyards, planted with Fiano and Chardonnay vines.  These are blended 50/50 to produce both a still and a sparkling white.  Beyond Canosa, in the higher Castel del Monte, they have more Fiano and Nero di Troia, the latter used for rosé.

about this wine About this wine


The grapes for this Negroamaro come from vines growing in clay-over-limestone soils in Caiaffa’s beautiful black grape vineyards around Tressanti, a few kilometres north of their state-of-the-art winery in the outskirts of Cerignola (map link).  Their website has some great photos of the immaculately-tended vines here (scroll down for more) and of the gleaming winery here.
 
2016 was quite a challenging vintage in Puglia.  Spring and summer were good, but heavy rains struck during the first ten days of September.  White grapes and some of the early-ripening Primitivo had already been picked, but the ripening of other red varieties was badly affected.  After the rains, lots of work was needed in the vineyards to deleaf, exposing the grapes to more sunshine to boost ripeness and avoid rot. 
 
Caiaffa hand-harvested this Negroamaro during the last week in September and the first week in October.  Hand-picking reduces damage to the grapes and allows any rot-affected bunches to be discarded, which proved particularly beneficial in 2016.  Back at the winery the grapes were fully destemmed and crushed before undergoing spontaneous fermentation using only the wild yeasts from the grape skins.  Fermentation took 20 to 25 days on the skins in temperature-controlled steel tanks, after which the wine was aged for three months in oak barrels.
 
Its 13% alcohol is positively modest by the standards of Puglian Negroamaro.  This would seem to be a stylistic choice rather than a side-effect of the wet year because the 2017 version, made in a drought-afflicted heatwave vintage, is also 13%.


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