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Through the Grapevine: Give the ‘heel’ of Italy the boot

Courtesy Cantele Wines. *Note: Vintage does not match review.

Grade: B-

Rose is the ex you don’t want to accidently come across in the produce aisle at your local grocery store. The last rose I tried was very sweet, but offered me nothing more, and so I terminated our relationship. I will admit I wasn’t prepared for this encounter, though, when rose’s former amiable nature was suddenly bitter.

Perhaps it was the thought of being alone for Valentine’s Day that brought down Cantele’s 2014 negroamaro rosato, a soft-pink rose from Italy’s Puglia region. You may know this region as Apulia in English — or better yet as the ‘heel’ that supports Italy’s famed ‘boot’ — and it is a producer of some of Italy’s most notable wines, including negroamaro, a dark red wine grape whose name derives to “black” and “bitter.”

But this negroamaro rose was of far fairer complexion. There are several methods used to produce rose. Sometimes, red grapes are immediately pressed and the juice fermented, lending a light pink color to the wine. Other times, the grapes are macerated for short periods of time (as opposed weeks or months, which would produce red wine). Cantele utilizes the latter, macerating its grapes for just 12 to 24 hours to leach some of the skin color into the grape must. Once fermented, we have rose.

Cantele’s amorous hue drew me in. Staring longingly into Cantele’s eyes, I was mystified by the charming shades of orchid staring back into mine. Is this what they meant by “love at first sight?” But things turned sour, and very quickly.

According to the winemaker, upon lifting the glass to my nose and swirling it gently, I should have smelled, “Essence of geranium and rose combined with strawberry and cherry,” for a wine that is both, “Sweet and nuanced on the nose, with noteworthy tenacity.”

I can agree the aroma was noteworthy, but nuanced it was not. On the nose, acetone (read: nail polish remover), strawberry and balsam come to the forefront. Floral notes come in second, a sickening twist in this romance novel’s plot. On the palate, a substantial initial burn yields to intense jammy flavors and a noticeable plum quality not often found. Semi-sweet and buttery on the tongue, the wine is incredibly straightforward. It has nothing to hide, its feelings on display for everyone in this supermarket to see.

I’ll admit, Cantele did have a nice body: substantial and toned, but not too much. Cantele offered the boldness of a red and the tenderness of a white — a firm, yet supple embrace.

But post-sip, the embrace became violent when, out of nowhere, Cantele became irrate, the velvety sweetness receding into the shadows. The longing was gone; Cantele and I began to argue in front of the sweet potatoes, all other customers watching in horror or general amusement. As the glory of our chance meeting disappeared, saccharine notes of overripe fruit and stale remained in the throat, a stinging reminder of lost love.

According to the winemaker, “we have always thought of our wines as ‘food,’ in other words, products that offer drinkability and balanced aromas and flavors when paired with dishes at the dinner table.” I have to appreciate Cantele’s philosophy. With a focus on environmental sustainability and scientific research, Cantele impresses with a pure dedication to making good wine. But Cantele’s 2014 negroamaro rosato is not that good. With an astringent aroma and muted palate, Cantele is nothing special. Overall, it’s just wine.
I suppose I shouldn’t feel bad for breaking up with Cantele. It may just have been Valentine’s Day, but I have needs and, quite frankly, they weren’t being satisfied. What else do you do in that situation? Give the ‘heel’ of Italy the boot.

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