This series of articles each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!
Vigneti del Salento I Muri
The I Muri Negroamaro has been a firm staff and customer favourite at Sweeney’s of Glasnevin (Dublin) for many years – it even featured as one of my favourite reds from their wine fair earlier this year. Now Sweeney’s are also stocking its twin, with a very similar looking label (don’t ask me the colour difference, I’m partially colourblind).
So where are they from and what is the difference?
Salento is the south eastern part of Puglia (technically Apuglia in English I suppose), the heel of Italy. This peninsula separates the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea, and thus no point is ever more than 30 kilometres from the sea.
The wine here has often been quite fiery – powerful but rustic – and was historically used to (illegally) beef up the paler reds from further north in Italy. The grapes most planted are the local specialities Primitivo and Negroamaro – and that’s exactly what we have here.
Winemaker Filippo Baccalaro is the driving force behind Vigneti del Salento, owned by the Farnese group. He likes producing fresh whites and soft, approachable reds with as little intervention as possible.
Vigneti del Salento I Muri Primitivo IGT Puglia 2013 (€16.50, Sweeney’s and other independents) 14.0%
After years of guessing it was finally proved that Primitivo is the same variety as California’s Zinfandel. Some Puglian producers are now even using oak to make their wines in a pseudo Californian style and using Zinfandel on the label for exports. Further research showed that the impressively unpronounceable Crljenak Kaštelanski from Croatia is the same grape, before finally (for now) finding the oldest ancestral name of Tribidrag down the Dalmatian coast a little.
This Primitivo is far from rustic – it has the expected dark colour, full body and firm tannins but delivered in a smooth package, where each of the components are well balanced. There’s a milk chocolate character to the texture, topped off by blueberry and red berry fruit.
Vigneti del Salento I Muri Negroamaro IGT Puglia 2012 (€15.95, Sweeney’s and other independents) 13.0%
Even a basic proficiency in Italian will give you a clue as to how Negroamaro tastes – black and bitter. But not so bitter that you can’t drink it; like many Italian wines there is a certain tartness or bitterness to the fruit, but all the better for it. Who would choose tinned black cherries over fresh ones?
The rougher edges of the grape have been rounded off by four months in French and American oak (not much of which was new, I suspect). Black cherry and blackberry fruit are accompanied by spice and dark chocolate. Acidity is prominent to keep it fresh but not so much that it tastes sour.
Comparison and Preference
This is very much a question of style and preference rather than a difference of quality; do you prefer dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Tasted side by side at a barbecue hosted by D, a fellow DNS Wine Club member and a food blogger, the group was almost evenly split on which they preferred – and everyone liked both of them, with just a minor preference for one.
So my advice is: buy both, and choose according to your mood!