Salice Salentino – Tasting Puglia Through A Wine Glass

Vino “Sei la ragione per cui vivo, per cui ogni giorno sorrido”…  Wine is my reason for living, for why I smile every day…

As the beam of sunlight pierced the skies over my house and illuminated the glass of wine in my hand I was lost in the depths of the perfect glass of wine that was in front of me.  A Falco Nero, a Riserva from Cantina De Falco in Salice Salentino, Italy.

With deep dark ruby-red colors from the bounty of the Negroamaro grape, it hinted at mysteries yet to be uncovered. The distinct flavours of blackberry, dark cherry and black currant lingered on the palate. The ephemeral notes from the berry flavours were complimented by notes of cigar, oak, and spice hinting at the long history nurtured by time in the soil of the Salice Salentino in Salento, Italy and the numerous kingdoms bygone.

Are you looking for a wonderful holiday destination – great weather, stunning beaches, cute historical towns and of course, amazing food and wine? You will fall in love with the Salento region of Puglia in Italy’s boot, which lies between two seas – the Adriatic on one side and the Ionian on the other.  It is a paradise that is set apart from the rest of the country.

Have you heard of the heel of the boot of Italy? Stunning and amazing destinations – the Salento, Puglia, Taranto, Ostuni? Well if you haven’t, I am going to tell you about one of the most magical places in Italy that’s off the typical tourist route. You will not regret it; a trip to create memories for a lifetime of joy.

Puglia has charming towns sprawling throughout its heel.  You will see amazing towns and cities and cute little village with incredible city centers. Hear about Lecce? Or Leuca? Or historic Gallipoli, with its origins in Greek civilization? Or if you are looking for “Greek” towns, check out Carpignano, Salentino, Martano, Soleto and a number of other amazing places.

South of Lecce, see the Greek past come alive  in the architecture and cultural ethos of these town.  Even the food is influenced by the Greeks in this region.

So go visit the region for its incredible beaches, dramatic coastlines and  crystal blue waters. August is a great time to visit – you can  check out the music festival, Night of the Tarantula. Well, the locals call it La Notte della Taranta.  Or if you are anything like me, you will want to visit a few vineyards, with its centuries-old Châteaux to brand new wineries with cutting edge facilities.

Salice Salentino

In the southern part of Salento, you will find the town of Salice Salentino. To the north is Brindisi and to the northwest is the province of Taranto. In the 14th century, Raimondo Orsini Del Balzo founded the town of Salice Salentino.

The region is known for the excellent olive oil and amazing, robust wines. Salice Salentino produces mostly red wine that is made primarily from the Negroamaro grape.  The wines of Salice Salentino have garnered the praise of poets and historians.

There are about 500 hectares of land that are cultivated in the Salice Salentino area. About half of it is old vines which produce better quality grapes. The remaining hectares are cultivated with younger vines.

The Indigenous Negroamaro

Negroamaro is the undisputed champion grape varietal of Salice Salentino. It has a characteristic black color and is an indigenous grape that is valued by winemakers due to its ability to produced highly structured red wines.

The grape originates from the time of the Greek colonization of the area in the eighteenth century BC. This grape was blended with the Malvasia Nera to create the first red wines of Salice Salentino.  New varieties of have been introduced over the years, and now you can find Negroamaro Rosato, the Pinot Bianco, the Aleatico and and the Flano.

The year 1976 was a seminal year, Salice Salentino wines were assigned the DOC designation  – Denominazione di Origine Controllata – an official label to signify the quality of the wine.

Salice Salentino DOC

Each wine has a specific set of grape varietals that are required. The Rosso and Rosato wines require at least 75 to 90 percent of the grapes be the Negroamaro and Rosato varieties. Aleatico wines require at least 85 percent of the Aleatico grape with the remaining being Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera or Primitivo. The Bianco has over 70 percent Chardonnay grape. The Fiano and Pinot Bianco must have at least 85 percent of the corresponding grapes.

Did you know that the Riserva versions of the Salice Salentino Negroamaro, Aleatico and Rosso are aged at least 24 months with at least half a year in oak barrels!

Wine and Food Pairings

Salice Salentino that is made from red grapes is excellent with meat-based recipes, matured cheeses and structured dishes. For instance, we can choose it for aperitifs or antipastos with hard sheep milk cheeses, such as PDO Pecorino Sardo or PDO Pecorino Romano. It also goes with red meat. Try it with your favorite salamis; you can choose, for example, the Emilia-Romagna products, such as Coppa Piacentina (PDO), Coppa di Parma (PGI) or Prosciutto di Parma (PDO), as well as some salamis from southern Italy, such as Salsiccia di Calabria (PDO).

The Salice Salentino Rosato represents a middle ground between the thickness of the Rosso (red variety) and the freshness of the Bianco (white variety). It matches perfectly with dishes that have less intense flavors, such as white meats, cured meats, delicate cheeses, salads and soups.

Last but not least, the Salice Salentino Bianco is best drunk  with delicate fish or vegetable based dishes, thanks to its fresh and scented fragrances. For example, we can pair it with salmon and swordfish, as well as with a tasty seafood risotto. It is also excellent with a caprese salad, prepared with mozzarella cheese, pomodoro grapes and a drizzle of olive oil.

Falco Nero from Cantina De Falco

The Falco Nero from Cantina De Falco is composed of 80% Negroamaro grapes while the remaining 20% is Malvasia Nera. The vineyards of Cantina De Falco are located in Salice Salentio, Guagnano and Campi Salentia. Most of the initial fermentation and maceration is done in steel tanks for about 15 days.   Served at 55° fahrenheit, it matches perfectly with meats like roasted veal, beef , hunting meats and ripe cheeses. The wine also pairs beautifully with hearty pasta dishes.

We paired this red wine with a classic pasta dish, orecchiette from Puglia.  Pappardelle is the prized pasta from Tuscany, farfalle is the signature pasta from Lombardy and orecchiette is the quintessential pasta of Puglia.  Orecchiette gets its name from its distinguishing shape, which translates to “little ears.” So even if you cannot travel to Puglia, you can always enjoy a hearty plate of orecchiette with fresh seasonal vegetable and spicy Italian sausage.  Pair it with a wine from Salice Salentino and you will be whisked away to a quaint beach side town in Puglia.

Rosalbore from Cantine San Pancrazio

Every moment of your life has a specific variety of Salice Salentino you can pair with.  Check out the Rosalbore from Cantine San Pancrazio. It is a Negroamaro Rosato, a rosé wine. This wine is made with 100% Negroamaro with vines that are 30 to 50 years old.

Rosalbore has a beautiful cherry pink color with bolts of salmon pink.  The intense nose gives off floral notes with a cornucopia of fruit including red berries, fruits, strawberries, raspberries and cherries. On the palate, it is fresh, balanced and persistent with the perfect blend of flavor and freshness. I suggest you pair this with salads, appetizers, first courses, fish soups, white meats and fresh cheeses.

I made a special Puglian dish to pair with the Rosalbore, fave e cicoria.  In a country that prides itself for its cuisine, and I have made many pilgrimages just for its wine and food.  Puglian dishes are some of my favorites because the vegetable are the best from Puglia.  The fruits and vegetable from the regions are hearty, flavorful and intense. Fave e cicoria is a simple, yet classic dish of Salice Salentino.  It is a satisfying mix of chicory, fava beans and herbs, drizzled with Puglian olive oil.  The flavors combined are so pleasing on the palate. The dish is fresh, simple, healthy and so satisfying.

So, if you’re looking for a holiday destination with a great weather, dreamy beaches, beautiful historic towns, delicious food and wine and fun for all the family… come to the Salento – it will capture your imagination and your heart.  Keep in mind even if you are not able to escape to this beautiful part of the world, you can bring a bit of Salice Salentino to your home with its incredible wine and food. Salute!

Salice Salento – il colpo di fulmine é la cosa che fa guadagnare piu tempo – love at first sight is something that lets you waste no time.