I want you to close your eyes – ok, so not right this minute (I’ll tell you when!) – and conjure up this vision… You’re sitting at a beachside ristorante. You’ve just despatched your aperitivo, Acquasale, (a pimped up Apulian bruschetta, featuring the local Collina di Brindisi DOP extra-virgin olive oil) you have Antipasti di Mare, Scapece Salentina and Gamberoni al Guazzetto all to come (this is a traditional Italian meal, after all!). You have a perfectly chilled bottle of Salento’s finest Calafuria rosé, nestling in an ice bucket, within stretching distance. Your view is of the Golfo di Taranto and the indigo water lapping the sand a few metres away. You may close your eyes and commence conjuring now!
3-2-1 and you’re back in the room! So how was it for you…? The scenario I describe is the typical imagery many people have of the ‘boot of Italy’ but there is so much more that lies beneath the surface of the ‘Mezzogiorno’ – especially in the realms of vini et cucina Italiana. OK, so I don’t work for the Southern Italian tourist board (I bloody wish!)* but I do have an abiding passion for S Italian wines and I desperately want for you to share this passion
You’ll definitely be aware of Primitivo (from Apulia). You’ll maybe have even enjoyed the spicy tingle from a dollop of nduja in your pasta sauce. There’s an outside chance you’ve tasted the famous Caciocavallo Podolico cheese of Basilicata. But, have your tastebuds ever been in thrall to the Aglianico wines produced in Basilicata; the singular Negroamaro rosés from the Salento peninsula; the robust Gaglioppo reds from Ciro in Calabria…? If they haven’t then, my friends, you are missing out on a whole new world of sensory pleasure
Forget your Super Tuscan’s, your Amarone’s, Barolo’s, Barbaresco’s and Barbera’s.
OK, on second thoughts, let’s not forget them entirely. I mean, how could we? Maybe we will just park them for the time being in the multi-storey, multi-sensory, cerebrum car park in our brain. The wines I’m going to tell you about easily rival these venerable wines but, and this is the important part, at a fraction of the price. Truly! You can thank me later
A belief in werewolf folklore was prevalent throughout the wilder regions of Apulia right through to the 20th century and none more so than the spur and heel of this spectacular province which includes the Gargano and Salento peninsulas. Fuseblower’s conversance with Lycanthropy is pretty much confined to movie representations such as Sir Anthony Hopkins & Emily Blunt in Wolfman or those ‘pesky kids’ in Scooby Doo and The Reluctant Werewolf. But, when you stop to think about the concept of werewolves, (what do you mean, you don’t think about werewolves?! I do this at least twice a day… stroking my goatee expansively in the mirror whilst howling plaintively at Marco – my Sphynx cat – as he shivers apprehensively at my lupine impression), it is, in essence. about a transformation. A transformation that reveals a powerful, unknown entity that has, hitherto, been hiding in plain sight. Much like, I contend, the very wines of Apulia
Take Tomaresca’s Bocca Di Lupo vino rosso. Translation: “Into The Mouth Of The Wolf” (appropriately!) I love this Italian expression for wishing someone good luck, don’t you? Here’s what the estimable – and now recent retiree – R Parker Esq has to say about this wine: “The core (of the wine) rests firmly on a thick foundation of dark fruit and dried cherry. The primary tones are backed by abundant cinnamon, tobacco and allspice” He concludes: … “the wine is gorgeous and powerful…” I promise you this valediction is nothing, if not, an understatement! It is one of the best wines I’ve had in 2019 and imperative I get more.
It is from the Aglianico grape which, in Basilicata, emerges as the immense Aglianico del Vulture (of which, more in my next post!) and, in Campania, goes into the historic wines of Taurasi. In this instance it is from Castel del Monte, in Apulia. But it was the man from Antinori, not the man from Del Monte, who said “yes” – when they visited the vineyards in the wild, Murgia region – and set up this wine estate in 1998. For history buffs, Castel del Monte boasts a splendid and unique medieval military castle (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that is approaching its 900th birthday and was built by King of Sicily & Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. Had Bocca Di Lupo wine been available back in the 13th Century, I vouch King Freddie would’ve had this wine in his noble cellar – alongside some cherished Riesling’s obvs!
Tormaresca have been making wines under this label for 21 years and this, I think, is the quintessential expression of their mission to produce wines with tradition; excellence, innovation and sustainability at their heart. Exemplary values, I think you’ll agree. I might add these tasting notes to those of Parker: liquorice, vanilla, white pepper and red fruit on the nose, then a full-bodied palate combining red and black fruit with spicy, meaty notes. I have spotted Bocca Di Lupo on the wine list at Roberto Costa’s ‘butchery with tables’ restaurant Macellaio, in London, where it is, not unsurprisingly, accorded star status. I absolutely adore it. Bravo Tormaresca. Ottimo!
Approximately 200 kilometres south, on the beautiful Salento Peninsula, Tormaresca are also beavering away to create further spectacular wines to add to their portfolio, this time from the Negroamaro grape, such as their Calafuria rosé. It takes its name from the 700+ bays on this spectacular Apulian peninsula. My advice to you this summer is ditch the Whispering Angel, Domaine Ott, Picaro del Aguila and Rosa dei Frati and, instead, get your hands on Tormaresca’s Calafuria rosé. As your friends and neighbours mooch round your garden or cluster at your barbecue let them sip this beautiful wine. It is the colour of pink peonies or delicately ripening peaches, has tantalising aromas of pomegranate, cherry blossom and peaches with perfect poise and a towel snap of acidity. These Negroamaro vineyards – facing the Mare Adriatico – on the Salento Peninsula, benefit from being part of the Marchesi Antinori firmament and this rosé is a steal at the price you can acquire it for
If Southern Italy deserves a rosé ‘brand’ to establish itself in the wine buyer’s psyche – in the same way that Whispering Angel, Miraval, Mirabeau and Minuty have done for the South of France – then Tormaresca’s Calafuria deserves to be it! I remember the name by thinking of Californication (the late, great, US sitcom – featuring David Duchovny and Natascha McElhone) but, hey, that’s just me! You might as easily go for pop classic California Dreamin’ Whichever mnemonic you opt for I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with this delicious rosé
Both these scintillating Tormaresca wines are widely available. In the UK they can be purchased from Berkmann Wine Cellars www.berkmann.co.uk
*Fuseblower is available for freelance writing assignments*
In my next blog post we will head east to Basilicata & Calabria – stay tuned!