Wine Blog

Negro Amaro Rosé Wines at Their Best in Salento, Puglia

My travelling through Puglia during the last 15 days has just been an awesome experience meeting so many great people. There are so many things to tell you about wine and people in this region. I will focus on the Salento and the Terre del Negroamaro event in this article.

I wanted to start with an article about Radici del Sud’s event 100 vini bianchi del sud tra terra e mare (100 white wines from southern Italy between inland and sea) that was organized on August 8th in Cisternino (See Enjoying Radici del Sud in Puglia Under the Radar). However, I still want to finetune that article a bit so, therefore, I am starting with this one about the Negroamaro event in Guagnano.

I apologize beforehand if I will publish several articles about Puglia in the coming weeks. I hope you will enjoy them. 🙂

Entering the back door to Terre del Negroamaro…

When planning my trip to Puglia I knew I was going to the Gargano to visit Anna, Maria Antonietta and Girolamo from D’Araprì winery and to Cisternino for the Radici del sud event, but for the rest, I was thinking of going to the beach somewhere for a couple of days in total off-wine mode.


Then Gina, a friend of mine from Caserta, told me she had moved to Lecce and opened an art gallery, the Antica Saliera, there. Was this destiny? Well, it made my decision easy: I was going to Lecce.

When in Lecce I, of course, contacted Massimiliano Apollonio of Apollonio winery to see if he would have time to meet up and perhaps show me their winery. I was lucky because he had time. He gave me the VIP treatment by picking me up at my B&B and then taking me on a private tour of their winery in Monteroni di Lecce. I will tell you more about my visit to Apollonio winery in a separate article. Let’s just say that it was very interesting to learn more about their wine production up close.

While we were having lunch that day, he asked me if I would be interested in perhaps staying a bit longer in Lecce and go to the Terre del Negroamaro event. As usual, when it comes to learning more about Italian wine, I am not hard to convince…I said yes straight away. LOL

This resulted in me getting an invitation, via the back door so to say, to the masterclass on Negro Amaro rosé wines held by Master of Wine Elizabeth Gabay and the following 10th Premio di Terre del Negroamaro.

During my stay in Lecce, I contacted Stefano Spagnolo of Salento Wine Shop and met with him and his wife Sonia Luparelli and their children one night in the centre. We had a great time tasting rosé wines. During the days in Lecce, I am very grateful to Stefano and Sonia for their help and fantastic hospitality.

Getting back to the Terre del Negroamaro event, I cannot thank Massimiliano enough for having thought of me and asked Davide Gangi of Vinoway to invite me. Davide was very kind and organized my stay at Agriturismo Torrevecchia and my transfer to Lecce which must have been extra hassle for him as everyone else had their own cars.

Enough of the thank you’s and let’s get down to business and talk Negro Amaro rosé wines…

Terre del Negroamaro – A ‘Master’ education in negro amaro rosé wines


Let me start by saying something about the location of the masterclass and the event of the 10th Premio di Terre del Negroamaro. Guagnano is a village or small town in the province of Lecce that historically is indeed focused very much on viticulture. Guagnano is located in the Salento and in the heart of the Salice Salentino DOC area. The village only has around 5,000 inhabitants but there are 6 (some say 9) wineries in and around Guagnano (Feudi di Guagnano, Cantele winery, Cosimo Taurino, Francesco Taurino, Candido winery seems to have a wine cellar in Guagnano also, Cantine Moros that is a part of Claudio Quarta Vignaiolo, Tenute Marano, Lucio Leuci, and Cantina Sociale Enotria, they only produce bulk wine though). (NOTE: A precision, in English, the order of wineries listed above is random and not in order of importance. The comment regarding bulk wine refers to Cantina Sociale Enotria after information received. It does not refer to the wineries mentioned earlier, especially NOT to Lucio Leuci.)

Isn’t that just incredible? When you enter Guagnano you can just feel that it almost breathes vine growing and winemaking.


Gianvito Rizzo, one of the owners of Feudi di Guagnano, told me a bit about the history of Guagnano and how the town planning in the past was very much different around the main square. More fit for the transport of grapes on carriages. He mentioned that while being transported, the grapes already started fermenting and that you could see traces of grape juice on the streets. While he was talking I just felt myself being transported back in history…

What better location than this for the Terre del Negroamaro event?

A vertical rosé tasting

Masterclass Day, last Thursday on August 16th, started with a vertical rosé wine tasting at the Feudi di Guagnano winery. It was actually my first vertical tasting of rosé wines. I have tasted older vintages of rosé wines before but never in sequence at an official tasting. We tasted the vintages 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2012 of Rosarò from Feudi di Guagnano, 2013 of Rohesia from Cantele winery, and 2011 and 2016 of Scaloti from Cosimo Taurino winery. Followed by a surprise rosé wine from 1976 that Feudi di Guagnano still has in store and that was produced by the Rizzo family.

The vertical tasting was presented as a way to show the importance of vintages also in rosé wines, and here Elizabeth Gabay MW stressed how it indeed is important to understand that rosé wines, just as white and red wines, changes from year to year. Often people believe that they will get the optimal result out of a rosé wine when it has just been bottled. Instead, we should consider that a rosé wine needs its time in the bottle too in order to let the bouquet develop.

Rosé wine in the Salento area (including the Lecce, Brindisi, and Taranto areas) is very much connected to the Negro Amaro grape and to the local territory. The overused term of terroir, I think becomes important here.

Fabrizio Miccoli told us that the Salento is a flat area where the winds blowing in from both the Adriatic and the Ionian sea are very important for the ventilation in this part of the Salento. He, furthermore, stressed that there is a divide in Salento rosé wines between before and after the year 2010. Before 2010 rosé wines were made with only Negro Amaro grapes, he said, while it after 2010 is allowed to add up to 10% of other local red grape varieties.

The Negro Amaro grape is considered to have been brought to Puglia by the Greek settlers around the 7th century BC. According to Ian D’Agata, the first written documentation about this grape only dates to 1872 when it was mentioned in a local letter about parasite control. Negro Amaro is, at least I believe so, often blended with other grapes, for example, the Malvasia Nera, to soften it up and add roundness to the wine.  However, I have tasted monovarietal Negro Amaro wines and must say they can be lovely, structured and elegant.

I am not going to describe each rosé wine on its own, I will rather try and trace some general lines and make some overall comments.

The typical traits of a Negro Amaro rosé wine seem to be its freshness, saltiness, and minerality, the notes of fruit, spices, coffee, roasted coffee, meaty notes, as well as a tannic and slightly bitter finish. I often also sensed notes of graphite or perhaps shoe polish as someone has defined it, there also seem to be leathery or a bit meaty undertones. The structure is another key feature of Negro Amaro rosé wines.

Elizabeth Gabay MW underlined how she sees Negro Amaro rosé wines as gastronomic wines, i.e. that they are wines to be paired with food. There are very few rosé wines, in her opinion, that have the structure and tannic side to be able to be defined as gastronomic wines, which makes the Negro Amaro rosé wines quite unique.

In the evening, I asked my ‘table neighbour’ Edoardo Duccio Armenio about the perfect local food pairing with a Negro Amaro rosé wine. He told me that, in his opinion, Melanzane alla parmigiana or Tubetti alle cozze cotte in polpa di pomodoro (pasta with mussels cooked in a tomato sauce) are the ideal pairings. Don’t you just feel your mouth watering when reading about this food and wine pairing…?


Returning to the vertical tasting, the 2006 Rosarò from Feudi di Guagnano had been matured in tonneaux and thus had a richer structure. The 2007, on the other hand, had been matured only in steel and you could feel the difference. The aromas were cleaner and purer in their expression, especially the fruit, though Elizabeth Gabay rightly commented that it was not as structured as the 2006.

The 2011 was a Scaloti from Cosimo Taurino winery and it had the fresh and fruity notes, a touch of ashes or graphite, in my opinion, a good structure and a tannic finish. The 2016 from the same producer was a bit different as a rosé wine with notes of grapefruit, other citrus fruits, more herby and balsamic undertones, but still fresh and mineral. These are perhaps not very typical notes of Negro Amaro, however, they explained that in 2016 it rained continuously during September which made it a difficult pre-harvest period. Furthermore, the winery used a new, softer, pressing technique.

The 2013 was Rohesia from Cantele winery that undergoes a maceration on the grape skins for 24 hours. Here you instantly noticed its freshness and the red fruits, such as cherry, and the structure. This was the first vintage of this rosé wine. Later on in the evening, at the masterclass in the main square, we tasted a 2016, I believe, of Rohesia. The 2013 was almost just as fresh as the 2016, there was perhaps more a difference in persistence and intensity of aromas.

The icing on the cake was, of course, the 1976 Negro Amaro rosé wine from the Rizzo family. Gianvito Rizzo is now one of the partners in the Feudi di Guagnano, and the 1976 vintage was produced by his family. It really was an explosion of aromas and still had a freshness to it after 42 years that was amazing. The bouquet was complex with notes of roasted coffee, chocolate, leather, earth, herby or balsamic undertones, spices, a meaty touch, and some traces of fruit, such as apricot. However, most of the fruity notes were gone.

The bottles of this 1976 rosé wine have been stored in cisterns about 3 m underground and this has surely helped to keep the temperature stable and to keep the bottles intact. I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity to taste a 1976 vintage rosé wine. 🙂

Elizabeth Gabay MW here raised another question regarding the improvement of wines and wine production.

She asked: What are we trying to improve?

At the time, this rosé wine was vinified without any temperature control, as is the case today, or other modern techniques. And look at the fascinating quality and ageing of it. She stressed that often the general consumer wants what is modern and fresh without paying much attention to past experiences. The wine producers try to follow the market demand, of course, but she invited the producers to not be afraid of experimenting. Her idea was to produce a small number of bottles each year where you use old techniques or experiment, and then to let them age.

I think this is a great idea. However, I realize that it might not always be easy for a producer to have the time or effort to do so.

Photo: Terre del Negroamaro
Negro Amaro Masterclass in the main square of Guagnano

In the evening, after the more intimate vertical rosé tasting, it was time for the masterclass in the central square of Guagnano. The venue was just fantastic and very suggestive with the church and the town hall surrounding us during the tasting. We tasted 18 different rosé wines from different Salento wine producers and Elizabeth Gabay MW was commenting on the different wines together with Giuseppe Baldassarre (a local well-known sommelier). It was all moderated by Davide Gangi.

The tasting was fun, not only because I was sitting at the table with the cool and knowledgeable guys ;-), but also because it was laidback and interactive. It was a way for wine lovers to participate in rosé wine tasting with an international touch, all in a local and almost romantic setting. Also, it was so nice to meet with Elizabeth Gabay.


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Negroamaro rosé at its best with the cool guys… 😀😉🍇🍷 The pics from the Salento area in Puglia continues… 🍇 Here I was enjoying being the ‘wine girl’ at the table with all the cool Salento guys. Well, @winestudiotina was so sweet saying…they are at the table with the cool person…☺❤ Though I do not feel that cool. 🍇 We were at the masterclass guided by @elizabeth.gabaymw here in the central square of Guagnano in Puglia. A fantastic occasion to learn more about the Negroamaro grape and Salento rosé wines. And I was just soaking up the info and stories. 🍇 Stay tuned for more about this on my blog 🍷 … #grapevineadventures * * * * #Puglia #Guagnano #Lecce #wineinpuglia #Negroamaro #terredelnegroamaro #igerspuglia #rosewine #wineevent #summertime #pugliawine #motivation #motivational #Saturday #italianwine #italy #Salento #wineo #winelovers #pugliamia #roseallday #winewriter #livestreamer #winetime🍷 #puglialovers #weareinpuglia #bestofday

Un post condiviso da Katarina Andersson (@grapevineadventures) in data:

The communication of Negro Amaro rosé wines outside of Puglia

It has been said that Negro Amaro rosé wines are less known in Italy and abroad than other rosé wines. It was mentioned that this could be due to the fact that the Bardolino Chiaretto, for example, produce around 8-10 million bottles a year while the yearly production of Negro Amaro rosé wines is around 400,000 bottles only.

I think that it can be difficult to make one’s voice heard to a broader audience sometimes, even if you have a very unique product. Bardolino Chiaretto has worked hard on their brand message and they are trying to communicate in a unified manner. I believe that the Salento can do this too because they are producing just fantastic rosé wines that are rooted in the local territory and its traditions. When you sip on a glass of Negro Amaro rosé wine, you can feel that you taste a piece of Salento and its history.

This is what each and every wine producer together needs to focus on in my opinion. Just as Elizabeth Gabay MW mentioned, the colour should be a secondary part and focus should be more on the grape variety and the local territory. The local tradition of rosé wine production and how it is expressed in the glass combined with the history of each wine producer.

I only attended the tastings on the first day of Terre del Negroamaro, but I think that Davide Gangi and Vinoway had done a great job of creating a modern and dynamic setting for the event. I think that wine in itself should be a continuous exchange of opinions and give a possibility to learn new things from each other. I believe this was the case here and Elizabeth Gabay MW herself contributed to wanting to be interactive and hear what the people present thought about the different wines.

My own thoughts about the event communication

However, this said, I still think that considering the international guests, Elizabeth Gabay MW and Paul Balke, a lot could have been done to communicate this event outside the ‘local’ borders. I think the wineries themselves had a crucial role in helping and supporting Vinoway here. It was the perfect occasion for communicating the Terre del Negroamaro event and your own wineries during these two days. Still, I only saw 1-2 wineries posting anything in real time on any of their social media channels or via the Terre del Negroamaro Facebook page during the event days.

I am not sure I understand how one can let such an important moment slip away….?

In today’s world, you cannot rely on only Facebook and an occasional or haphazard post some day after the event. You need to plan your presence online and how you want to ‘tell your story to the outer world‘. Telling your story can be done in an easygoing and fun way. You do not need to spend a lot of money on professional video or super-glossy photos on your Facebook page. This kind of posts has their important function too, of course, but not here.

At an event like this, where most wineries have both Facebook and Instagram, and some also have Twitter, it would have been essential to communicate the event with shorter videos, photos, live streams on Instagram and Twitter for a both international and Italian audience, and shorter videos and photos on Facebook for the more Italian audience. I am sure it would have been possible to find at least one person that could have helped with this in both English and Italian during the two event days.

Important is also to tag and direct your posts to the right people in the international wine community to make them aware of the event and the fact that you had invited such an authority on rosé wines such as Elizabeth Gabay MW. For coming years, I also think that it could be beneficial to think through who you want to invite as wine writers and influencers other than the panel experts. This, in order to make sure you have people who are spreading the word about the event in real time across many different channels.

With this, I am in no way criticizing the event, because I think it was fantastic and organized in a magical setting. As a plus, it gave you the possibility to learn a lot about the Negro Amaro grape and the wine area. However, I just feel like it is a pity and I would like for all of you to have as much success as possible in communicating your Salento wine area and your wineries.

Anyway, I hope to be able to be there next year. 🙂


Katarina Andersson

Seen often at wine events streaming live, Katarina is a wine writer, wine educator, social media strategist, and translator. She is the founder of WinesOfItaly LiveStream. She has been a guest at The Cellar, hosted by Richard Glover, at Wine Two Five, a podcast hosted by Stephanie Davis and Valerie Caruso, and at the Twitter chat #WiningHourChat founded by Li Valentine.

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