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A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - A Southern Italian Basic Red

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Author: Levi Reiss

You may know that I am a fan of fine Italian wine, and have managed to taste and review at least one wine from each of Italy's twenty regions. This column has examined several bargain Italian wines. Today we are going to look at a red wine from Apulia, also known as Puglia. This mostly flat region is second in Italian wine production to Sicily. Both regions have made major efforts to upgrade their wine quality; in general, Sicily has been more successful.

This red wine is based on Apulia's most popular grape, Negroamaro, which means black and bitter. It is one of the ten most widely grown grapes in Italy. The wine reviewed below is distributed by a high-volume exporter. We're talking about an annual volume of 25 million bottles and over 4 million 3-liter bag in a box wines. This may explain the price. What about the quality? Keep reading.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Mezzomondo Negroamaro Salento, 2007 13.5% alcohol about $7.50

Let's start with the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Deep ruby-red color; aromas of green leaf and cherry; smooth texture with ripe cherry, plum and woody flavors; long, cherry finish. Serving Suggestion: Pizza, pasta, or burgers. And now for my review.

At first tasting the wine had great length and a lot of extract. It wasn't complex but was definitely chewy. The initial meal involved slow-cooked beef stew with potatoes. The wine was powerful and well-balanced. Caramel flavor was dominant. The side dish was eggplant with its skin on roasted in lots of oil with onions and red peppers. The Negroamaro tasted of dark fruit and was fairly long. Adding green jalapeno pepper sauce to the meat intensified the caramel taste and the wine seemed sweet.

The second meal was a packaged vegetable lasagna doused with grated parmesan cheese. The wine actually thinned out. There was some dark fruit and virtually no tannins.

The final meal was based on fried chicken livers with lots of black pepper. The Negroamaro tasted of dark cherries; its tannins were round but not very present. The whole combo wasn't bad. All those cherries made me think of Valpolicella. The fairly spicy lime and garlic tomato salsa muted this wine a bit. Then I tried something unusual. Fresh pineapple goes well with Maraschino cherries. But not with the cherries in this wine.

I finished the tasting with two cheeses. The first cheese was a provolone. The wine became somewhat too acidic and continued to taste of dark cherries. With a Swiss cheese (Emmenthaler) the wine started slow but got better and fruitier over time. It really wasn't up to the quality of the cheese.

Final verdict. In many ways this is a good wine for the price. If I were a fan of cherries in my wine, I would buy it again.

About the author: In his younger days Levi Reiss wrote or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but he prefers drinking fine German or other wine with the right foods and the right people. He teaches computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his global wine website with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about (theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.

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