Bravo to this deliciously affordable Italian red wine, made from two grapes few have heard of — Negroamaro and Primitivo (the Italian equivalent to Zinfandel) — and the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon. Negroamaro is also the grape in Salice Salentino (like this one). Using obscure grape varieties, much like hiring unknown actors in a film, keeps costs down. So wineries can pass on the savings to us. We win.
Neprica also hails from an obscure region in Italy, Puglia — the heel of the boot — where vineyard land doesn’t fall into the ranks of the absurdly expensive. Puglia (also called Apulia) is an up-and-coming wine region, having shod their former lowly, bulk wine rep, and now competes successfully in the international red blend market. It’s really hot and arid in this region so whites, with few exceptions, don’t succeed well there.
Italy’s Antinori family makes and exports this jewel. They founded the Tormaresca winery in 1998 and sources grapes for Neprica from both the Bocca di Lupo vineyard in Murgia and the Masseria Maime in the Salento region.
I liked the 2007 Neprica as well, although the 2008 vintage seems more balanced and put together. For a wine that’s only $12 (sometimes lower), it boasts incredibly high quality. Plum and dusty, sour black cherry and BIG, leathery tannins let you know they aren’t foolin’ around. Medium-bodied yet concentrated, the old world austerity contrasts with bright new world fruit to provide a happy little dance on the palate. It finishes with a hint of mint and black fruit and hangs around for a while. Like many high acidity Italian wines, Neprica needs food to really strut its stuff, and either decant it or let it sit in the glass for about 30 minutes to allow it to open up its fruit and softness. Patience will be rewarded.
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Price: $10- $15
Occasion: Sample sent from the winery.
Availability: Big box retailers, some high end grocery stores. Or buy it cheap online at Wine.com.
Food pairing: Eggplant parmigiana; hard, aged Italian cheeses; slow roasted meats