The story appears on

Page A3

August 1, 2021

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Sunday

Plum sensations find their way into wine grapes grown in Italy

ISACS is the founder and CEO of EnjoyGourmet, a leading gourmet digital ( and print media company in China. He has authored over a dozen wine and food books including the awarded ISACS Guides and other gourmet books and is a wine consultant to governments, wine regions and organizations. He also hosts wine events for leading organizations and companies throughout China. Contact John via

Today’s story deliciously delves into the world of Chinese plum treats. Readers might be surprised that one of the best ways to enjoy plum aromas and flavors is in a glass of wine. How is this possible?

Wine neophytes are often confounded by the wide range of fruity and other aromas and flavors that can be found in a beverage entirely made from grapes. To understand why, we must look at science and the winemaking process. Wine gains aromas and flavors from the grapes themselves, the climate and the winemaking. All three factors influence the complex aroma, flavor and texture of wine, but the single most important contributing factor is the fermentation process.

When grapes ferment, yeast gradually consumes the sugar content of the grapes and turns it into alcohol. During this process, more than 200 complex chemical compounds or esters are formed that collectively impart a wide range of aromas and flavors. Some esters have nearly identical molecular forms to popular fruits such as plums. Hence, when our noses and palates engage with wine, a smorgasbord of fruit and other sensations result.

Certain grapes have a predilection to exhibit particular aromas and flavors, because each grape variety boasts a unique physiology that includes specific aromatic compounds. These compounds primarily come from the skin of a grape, but to a lesser extent can also come from the pulp and are usually imperceptible until the completion of the fermentation process. Most wines replete with the aroma and flavor of plums are made from red varieties, and one of the most plummy of all grapes hails from the heel of the Italian boot.


Ancient ruins, olive trees and grape vines dominate the resplendently beautiful elongated landscape of Puglia in the far south of eastern Italy. In fact, the region produces nearly half of Italy’s olive oil. Second only to olive trees is the cultivation of vines with three grape varieties reigning supreme.

The best known is Primitivo, in part because of its famous genetic son Zinfandel. Lesser known, but one of my personal favorites, is Nero di Troia. This relatively anonymous variety offers all the concentrated fruit one would expect from a robust southern Italian grape, but also bequeaths a good dose of acidity, making it a food-friendly and versatile wine. However, when contemplating Puglia wines and plum sensation, Negroamaro stands out.

Negroamaro is an ancient grape, with a documented history of at least 2,000 years; in all likelihood the variety is far older. Some wine historians postulate that the variety originated as far back as 7,000 years ago in the cradle of winemaking in the Near East, and at some point still unknown was brought to Puglia by Illyrain traders.

The ethnogenesis of the Illyrain tribes remains a mystery, but we know they regularly plied the ancient trading routes connecting the Near East to the Aegean Sea and beyond. It’s eminently possible that they brought Negroamaro and other vines from the Near East to nascent Mediterranean cultures, including the early tribes in Puglia. By Roman times, Negroamaro wines were already a favorite of the elites, who loved their heady and robust qualities and served liberal quantities at multi-day feasts and toga parties.

Modern wine connoisseurs are rediscovering Negroamaro wines with their intriguing earthy, rustic and concentrated dark fruit aromas and flavors and spicy notes. Negroamaro wines also tend to be relatively high in alcohol and moderately to highly tannic. These robust qualities are also attracting a small but growing number of fans in China, who favor big, high-alcohol reds. New styles of Negroamaro are also being produced.

Modern winemakers are using techniques to emphasize the variety’s natural predilection toward acidity to make fresher and more balanced wines. This trend toward freshness and more food-friendly wines is seen not only in Puglia and the rest of Italy but also around the world.

Negroamaro wines are used to make single variety wines, and are also frequently blended with other Puglia red grapes, including Pimitivo and Malvasia Nera. The best Negroamaro wines come from the south of Puglia, below the Brindisi-Taranto line.

Notable Negroamaro DOC wines include Salice Salentino, Brindisi, Copertino, Leverano, Squinzano and Terra d’Otranto. Some very nice Puglia Negroamaro IGT wines are also produced. Most Negroamaro wines are red, but a growing number of wineries are also making taste-worthy lively and fresh rose and sparkling wines. With a few exceptions, Negroamaro wines are very reasonably priced.

One of my favorite Negroamaro wines is the Agricole Vallone Graticciaia, an IGT wine made from grapes that are sun-dried for 25 days near the sea. The result is an elegant wine with lovely plum, dried fruit and licorice qualities and a lovely sensation of sapidity. Additional reputable Puglia Negroamaro producers with wines readily available in Shanghai are Paradiso, Coppi, Core, Vigna Nostra, Carvinea and Leone de Castris.

Because of their relatively high alcoholic content, I suggest serving Negroamaro red wines at about 15-16 degrees Celsius, while the rose and sparklers are best at about 8 degrees Celsius. Reds should be allowed to breathe for 15-30 minutes.

Where to buy in Shanghai

Porto Matto Italian Restaurant, 83 Changshu Rd, 6417-7577
Agricole Vallone Graticciaia IGT
Artyzen Hotel, 3999-5 Hongxin Rd, 6060-9999
Cantine Paradiso Posta Piana Negroamaro IGT
Core Negroamaro Salento Rosato IGT
Coppi Pellirosso Negroamaro IGT

The big three red varieties of Puglia are Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero di Troia.

Key term:
Heady is a wine descriptor for wines that are relatively high in alcohol.

Star wine:
Agricole Vallone Graticciaia


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend