When it Comes to Rosé, Italy Gives France a Run for the Money

My gold standard for pink wine has long been the wines of southern France, in particular Provence. Add in some of the wines of Tavel, Marsannay, and the Loire Valley, and you’ve pretty much covered the vast majority of what I think is the world’s greatest rosé. For anyone who’s not familiar with those appellations, they all have one thing in common. They’re in France.

Have I had good rosés from other places? Sure I have. From all over the world. We’re not talking about France having a monopoly here, they’re just the safest bet I know of. Or knew of.

You see, I’ve found another sure bet when it comes to pink wines, and that is the province of Salento in Italy’s Puglia region. That’s right, the heel of the boot kicks out some seriously killer pink wines.

I’ve long been a fan of one particular rosé called Metiusco which is produced by the Palama winery in Salento. But I didn’t know if that random wine (which the guys down at Wine Expo in Los Angeles turned me on to) was a fluke, or whether there was more good stuff where that came from.

So last week at VinItaly, I bellied up to the bar in the Puglia pavilion, and had the sommelier on staff pull every pink wine down from the shelf for me to taste. That’s the sort of thing you can do at VinItaly, and it was well worth the time.

Because that one favorite rosé of mine was far from a rarity. It’s just one nugget in a gold mine of fantastic rosé. Watch out, Provence, Salento might have your number.

Salento, and the greater region of Puglia in which it sits actually have a lot in common with the south of France, in particular the Languedoc. Both are delightfully warm regions with lots of fertile soil that is primarily used to make a huge amount of cheap, largely low quality wine. But just like in the Languedoc, many producers are emerging out of the sea of wine to offer higher quality bottlings.

Most of the best rosés I’ve tasted from Salento are made from the resident Negroamaro or Nero di Troia grapes. Negroamaro makes up about a third of the wine produced in the region while Nero di Troia is a bit less common. As red wines, they are both pleasant. I’ve had some excellent ones, but never been bowled over by them. In many cases they don’t seem to transcend rustic simplicity.

But somehow when picked early and turned into pink wine, these two humble grapes become neon bursts of berries, gorgeous wet rocks, as well as the wonderfully savory flavors that all characterize good rosé to me. I like my pink wines pale, crisp, lacking any sweetness, and preferably with some sort of savory bite to them.

And boy do these grapes deliver. Of the several dozen pink wines I tried last Tuesday morning, very few disappointed. The best of them were on a par with some of the greatest pink wines I know of, and in many cases, at a significantly lower cost.

As a result, my rosé buying habits are now forever changed. And I thought I’d share some of the love with you.

Unfortunately I can only find an online source to purchase one of the wines, but several are imported to the U.S. in small quantities. Even if you can’t find these particular wines. If you see pale cololored rosato from Salento, it’s a darn good bet.


2012 Varvaglione “Moi” Rosato, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Palest pink with an orange cast to it, this wine smells of sappy rosehip and tart apples. In the mouth bright raspberry and crabapple fruit flavors are shot through with a crisp stoniness that is quite delicious. Juicy acidity makes this wine mouthwatering and delicious. Made from 100% Negroamaro. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2012 Di San Marzano “Sud” Rosato, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Pale ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry and watermelon. In the mouth watermelon and strawberry flavors have a slight aromatic sweetness to them that is charming on top of a nice wet stone quality. The wine lacks some complexity, though. Made from 100% Negroamaro. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 salento_rose-2.jpgand 9.

2012 Torrevento Rosato, Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and bright cherry fruit. In the mouth flavors of black cherry are tart with a crabapple-like sourness. These darker flavors battle a little bit with bright acidity, and end up less complex and pleasing than they might. Made from the somewhat obscure Bombino Nero grape. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5.

2012 Cantine Ferri “Rubeo” Rosato, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Pale pink in the glass, this wine smells of bright crushed berries and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, fantastically bright flavors of strawberry and watermelon are electric with acidity and have a crystalline quality to them along with a sappy resinous note that is quite delicious. Long finish. 100% Nero di Troia. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.

2012 Rivera “Pungirosa” Rosato, Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy
Pale ruby in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones, watermelon and watermelon rind. In the mouth juicy flavors of watermelon, hibiscus, and watermelon rind have a slightly saline quality that makes them all that much more mouthwatering along with wet its wet quartz quality. Fantastic Made from 100% Bombino Nero. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2012 Colle Petrito “Ferula” Rosato, Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy
Pale pink in color, this wine smells of sour cherry and wet chalkboard. In the mouth the wine bursts with bright cherry and watermelon flavors along with a stony rainwater quality that is quite compelling, as is the wine’s silky texture. Deliciously gulpable. Made of 100% Nero di Troia. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2012 Cantina dei Fragni “Macchianuova” Rosato, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Pale ruby in color, this wine smells of crushed berries and forest floor. In the mouth mulberry fruit mixes with a deep mineral stoniness. A lightly chalky tannic grip surrounds this core of pretty fruit, while an earthy flavor lingers in the finish. This is a substantial salento_rose-3.jpgfeeling rosé, with wonderful complexity. Made from Aglianico. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.

2012 Apollonio “Elfo” Rosato, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Pale salmon color in the glass, this wine smells of dried range peel and potpourri spices. In the mouth dried orange peel, wet leaves, and exotic citrus flavors mix with a deep wet chalkboard minerality that makes the wine resonant and crystalline in purity. Tangy, salty, savory, even as the citrus complexion makes it quite juicy. Needless to say, the wine has fantastic acidity and possesses incredible length. One of the best rosés I’ve had in some time, and possibly the best I’ve ever had from Italy. Made from 100% Negroamaro. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9.5.

2012 Severino Garofano Rosato, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Palest ruby in color, this wine smells of orange peel and raspberry fruit. In the mouth juicy crabapple and strawberry flavors play a nice counterpoint to each other over a bed of wet chalkboard and wet pavement. A hint of tannic grip adds complexity to the wine. Great acidity and long finish. Lovely. 100% Negroamaro. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.