Duca Carlo Guarini ‘Nativo’ Negro Amaro Salento, Puglia 2017


This grape keeps surprising me. There is a very distinct style of lesser quality Negro Amaro wines: dried leather, over ripe and slightly bitter. But then you taste something like this. Fragrant black raspberries and red plums with just a touch of red licorice. Warm tobacco and savory black olive flavors – the more typical Spanish olives with the ‘fruity’ quality. Lastly, coriander seed. The acidity lingers and the fruit just camps out in your mouth, long after the wine is gone. This wine has such a precise and enjoyable balance to it, I hope to see more like it from this grape – either from Italy or California.

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Duca Carlo Guarini ‘Nativo’
Salento, Puglia 2017
Negro Amaro 100%

The ‘other’ red grape from Puglia, and one with amazing propensity to do well here in California. Primitivo is the grape more widely favored in Puglia – the same grape as Zinfandel here in the US (though it has taken on a new identity in our soils.) But Negro Amaro retains acidity far better in the heat than Primitivo and it has far better ageability due to its naturally higher polyphenols. It seems odd to say that this is some rising star grape – it’s been entrenched in Puglian culture forever – but there’s a great potential lying beneath the surface that makes it one to watch. Santa Rita Hills, perhaps?

The Guarini family has a mind boggling history in Puglia dating back to 1065,  as much intertwined with the local culture as it is with the development of the regional viticulture. Beyond wine, they are an important local farm resource:  fresh produce for their neighbors, and a high- end line of canned goods: tomatoes, olives, artichokes… This is a special place near in the southern heel of the boot, 4 kilometers from the narrowest point of the Adriatic where you can see Albania on a clear day. They also make a Negro Amaro vinified as a white wine. Definitely a first for me.