A San Marzano of a Different Provenance

The words San Marzano – to me – conjure up those delicate-skinned, super sweet, lower acidity plum tomatoes that are the darlings of so many scrumptious pasta sauces. So, I felt sheepish when I learned that the San Marzano cooperative is not based in Campania, like the (arguably) world’s most famous tomatoes, but rather on the Salento Peninsula – the heel of the Italian “boot”. Mea culpa. 

I’m so happy to have learned the difference, not just for geek cred, but also to have had the pleasure to taste a few of the wines from this family of over 1,000 growers (which started with just 19!) that is now 55 years strong. These two wines offer compelling drinkability without the frequently overbearing raisin and volatile character (think of balsamic vinegar’s pungency shooting into your nostrils) of lesser quality Puglian wines of the same varieties. These have balance and class that even a snooty restaurant somm could appreciate!

Salice Salentino Talò 2015 $16
Smelling of gingerbread and fig compote, this spicy red has an all-encompassing nose. This is a full-bodied red right from the starting blocks, but it’s shows an excellent freshness of fruit, brightness of acidity and mildly stringy tannins to keep it properly balanced on the palate. The mid-palate is densely fruited and highlighted by a plethora of dried spices. Engaging and vivacious, it should be easy to get to the bottom of this bottle faster than you expect! It’s holding on to its youthfulness well and shows no signs of letting go, but its moderate finish suggests it won’t be much more than a mid-term wine. This is 85% Negroamaro and 15% Malvasia Nera di Brindisi.
Drink: 2018-20 

Primitivo di Manduria Sessantanni Old Vines 2015 $29
Hailing exclusively from 60+ year-old Primitivo bush vines, this wine is an enticing mix of exotically dark fruits and sultry spices. It’s broad on the attack but has impressive composure for 14.5% wine. The structure is surprisingly bracing with a punchy tannic verve and vivid, mouthwatering acidity. Though showing slight development with its fallen autumn leaves character and damp cigar tones, this deeply colored wine still has oodles of lively, warm fruits that layer their flavors onto the palate well into the considerable finish to keep this wine on point for a while.
Drink: 2018-22