I recently had the pleasure of attending a wine dinner featuring the wines of Puglia’s Cantele Winery at Mascalzone restaurant. Puglia is the heel of the boot if you aren’t in the know. The dinner was organized by noted Italian wine expert, Dr. Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi, who is also the wine director at Mascalzone. Having a keen interest in drinking my way up and down the Italian “boot” (remember Sicily) I find that I’m quite interested in the southern part of the boot as those are the regions that don’t often get as much press as others such as Piedmont, Tuscany, and Veneto. And while I love the wines from those regions (you can bring me Barolo or Brunello anytime you like) I continue to be amazed at the quality wines from these areas and at such wallet-friendly prices.
While the wine tasting was certainly enjoyable, I loved hearing Paolo Cantele tell his family’s story. He visited with all of us throughout the night and ultimately this is what draws so many of us to wine – the stories behind the wine. From learning about the family’s roots in wine to their commitment to reducing the environmental impact from their operations, it was a pleasurable evening all around. Here are the wines we tasted.
2016 Cantele Chardonnay & 2016 Cantele Negroamaro Rosato
If you’ve read much of what I write, you know that my leanings of Chardonnay tend toward the cooler regions that are crisper and un/slightly oaked. I’m not a big buttery Chard fan. I like butter on my potatoes. I adore Chablis. This Chardonnay was quite a surprise and caught me off guard. Nicely crisp and unoaked (spent 12 months in stainless steel), this one had lots of green apple, pear and a bit of citrus. Great acidity made it food friendly. Divine with this hand pulled burrata with blood orange and arugula as well as the rosemary bread.
I’d buy this in a heartbeat and put it next to my Chablis.
Made from Negroamaro grapes, the Rosato exuded lovely floral notes and bright strawberry. There was also a herbaceousness that I can’t put my finger on. So vibrant and fresh. Great structure and on the fuller bodied side of Rosé so as not to be overpowered by food. This too was quite nice with the burrata.
2014 Cantele Primitivo
Having recently rediscovered my love of Zinfandel, it’s no wonder that I enjoy Primitivo which is what the grape is known as in Italy. I loved the dark plum and tart cherry aromas and flavors. Nicely structured with medium acidity and medium body. Many Primitivo wines tend to be smooth, easy to drink, and not too tannic. This one was no exception. Just like the American versions, this is a great BBQ wine. On this night, we had it with chitarra pasta with anchovy paste, olive and cherry tomato.
2013 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva
I still recall the first time I learned about Salice Salentino while studying for one of my wine certifications. For some reason, the name stuck in my head and I was itching to finally try one. Salice Salentino is a DOC (one of the higher rated designations) in Puglia and is made primarily with the Negroamaro grape. These wines are known as the some of the highest quality in Puglia and are known for the their baked and ripe red and black fruit, medium alcohol, medium, well-integrated tannins, and high acidity. Again, that acidity makes it great with food. This one was lovely with cherry, dark plum and blackberries as well as some leather, mineral, and spice. Braised and roasted meats are the name of the game here. We had it with a sauced stuffed pork served with spinach.
I seriously can’t believe this wine retails for around $13!