Friday, January 28, 2022

The Flagship of Cantele with Salice Salentino DOC Riserva Negroamaro

It’s time to revisit southern Italy to the region of Puglia, also known as Apulia, and highlight it’s primary red grape, Negroamaro. We’ll be exploring one of the prominent wineries of the region, Cantele, located along the Salento peninsula.  

The Puglia wine region is at the southern tip on the heel of Italy’s boot shape. It’s a land with a vast amount of plains and has an abundance of olive groves and farmland that is rich in agriculture along with a rocky coastline full of beaches. Located between the Ionian and Adriatic Sea, it’s the ideal Mediterranean climate that receives ample sunshine with moderating cooling breezes off the Seas along with the Sirocco winds blowing up from the south from Africa.  

The history of Puglia winemaking was first heavily influenced and established mostly by the Greeks. They refined winemaking and planted vineyards. The winemaking of Puglia continued to prosper once the Romans took over.  

The Puglia wine industry has a history of producing grapes and selling them off to northern Italy. Facing the cooler, Alpine climate, the wines of the north resulted with a lack of color and alcohol. This is where Puglia’s grapes are able to help improve the wines of the north in the areas lacking. This continued until about the 90’s when wineries and winemakers of Puglia started to look inward focusing on improving the quality of their own wines. Puglia ranks among the top 3 wine regions in Italy in terms of volume. 

The Winery ~ Cantele 

This is where Cantele comes into play. Cantele is located in the Salento peninsula, a narrow strip of land in southern Puglia. Giovanni Battista Cantele moved from northern to southern Italy in Puglia after World War 2 where him and his wife, Theresa, fell in love with the area of Lecce. He started off as many others did at the time selling off their grapes to the North. 

Cantele winery in Puglia
In 1979 one of Giovanni’s two sons, Augusto, established the winery along with his father and brother Domenico. Augusto had studied winemaking in the north in Conegliano and later returned to Puglia consulting in the area before purchasing vineyards for the winery. Their focus is on “minimal intervention” to allow the grapes to show themselves in the purest form and display freshness. 

As of 2001 Cantele is operated by the 3rd generation, the children of Domenico and Augusto. Gianni and Paolo are the children of Augusto and Umberto and Luisa, Domenico’s children. They grow many of Puglia’s native grapes including Negroamaro, Primitivo, Susumaniello and White Malvasia along with Chardonnay on their 120+ owned vineyards and the other 370 acres they manage. 

The Wine 

The 2015 Cantele Salice Salentino DOC Riserva is made of 100% Negroamaro. The locals call the Negroamaro grape “Niuru Maru”, which translates to bitter black. It is a dark, thick -kinned grape that produces rich, fruit forward wines. This wine is considered a benchmark, classic wine for Cantele with sourced grapes from their top parcels. 

The Salice Salentino DOC was established in 1976 and takes it's name after the city where it was established. Located in the Lecce and Brindisi province, the Salice Salentino DOC require at least 80% of the Negroamaro grape, some using 100% as the one displayed today. Up to 20% of other grapes may include Malvasia Nera di Brindisi and/or Malvasia di Lecce. 

The grapes from Cantele’s Salice Salentino DOC Riserva are grown from 20-50 year old vines on calcareous and clay soil. The wine spends 6 months in French barriques. Garnet in color and partially translucent in the glass. An abundance of berries on the nose including cherries, black raspberry and blackberries. Medium bodied with a nice blend of red and black lush raspberries and blackberries. Fruit forward with a hint of cedar and vanilla backed by acidity. An overall smooth and soft wine full of fruit.  

ABV 13% SRP $13.99. Importer: Winebow 

2015 Cantele Salice Salentino DOC Riserva Negroamaro

Friday, January 14, 2022

Top 5 Italian Wine Blogs of 2021

It's been another whirlwind of a year in 2021 and as always I want to thank my readers for continuing with me on this wine journey.  The last couple years I haven't been able to be able to attend any of the wine tastings that I used to in order to bring you a wide spectrum of Italian wines that are not always so easy to access locally.  This year I hope to branch out online to purchase some of the wines that aren't as advertised and uncover some gems from smaller producers or lesser known grapes, which has always been my focus.  I also continue to expand into wine regions around the world to broaden my palate and knowledge.

I wanted to highlight my most popular blogs from 2021 in case you missed them.   

#1: Remy Wines: Italian Grapes in Oregon and a Winery After my Heart

#2:  Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines

#3: Starting the New Year off Right with Chianti Classico

#4: Braised Brisket with Donnachiara’s Kapemort Aglianico

#5: Vite Colte Barbera d'Asti Superiore with Orecchiete and Sausages

The end and beginning of every year especially is when I really like to hear from my readers to see what you'd like to see more of in 2022.  Do you enjoy the features from around the world?  Are there wine regions or grapes that you'd like to learn more about specifically?  Do you want to see more wine pairings?  Leave a comment or email me at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.  I'd love to hear from you!

Stay healthy, eat well, travel more, find some peace in this crazy world we are living in, and drink more Italian wine!

Italian wine tasting

Friday, January 7, 2022

Upping the Game with Asolo Prosecco

This month I’m joining the Wine Pairing Weekend crew (#WinePW) as the host, Andrea of the Quirky Cork, selected the theme of sparkling wines from around the world.  I had attended a virtual tasting during the Thanksgiving timeframe hosted by the Asolo Prosecco Consortium and Studio Cru and tasted some wonderful wines I wanted to share with you today. Susan Gordon guided us through the presentation and overview of the history, land and a look into these wines.  We were also joined by the President of the Consortium, Ugo Zamperoni.   

The Asolo Prosecco Consortium includes 80% of the producers for this area with over 400 growers and 44 winemakers.  There are 3 different Prosecco designations.   There are those from the general Prosecco DOC area that covers a diverse and large territory.  They produce close to 560 million bottles in 2021 due to their size.  Then there is the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG that I’ve always been a big advocate for.  They produce about 100 million bottles as of 2021.  Lastly, are those from the Asolo DOCG I’m sharing today (one of my new favorites, shhhh).  This appellation will come close to produce about 20 million bottles in 2021 with about 60% exported to the US market.  The last two Prosecco wine appellations are separated by the Piave River and what I consider to be the higher end quality for Prosecco. 

Prosecco wine appellations

The Prosecco wines that hail from the Asolo Superiore DOCG are located at the foot of Monte Grappa, the Venetian Prealps.  To the north are the Dolomites alpine range and to the south is the Po Valley with Venice about 40 miles away.  The vineyards are situated on the right bank of the Piave river and are spread across 7 hills and 18 communes within the Treviso province.  In total, the vineyards cover 4,900 acres, but only about 6% of the land.  A large majority of the area is covered by forests.  Many of the trees of the area were used to build the towns and boats in Venice.   

The viticulture in Asolo is rather hilly with an average slope of 20%, with some slopes reaching up to 40%.  The grapes receive an ideal climate with very hot days and very cool nights along with winds blowing in from the Alps and the Adriatic Sea that sweep across the land.  The soil here is mostly clay with morainic soil from the ancient glaciers.   

Asolo Prosecco Superiore wine appellation

The Wines 

I’m sharing my wines in order of my personal preference.  Again, this is all based on personal taste as I like my sparkling wines higher in residual sugar, which is the complete opposite to how I like my red wines.  What’s important to understand are the different levels of residual sugar from the higher side of residual sugars to the drier wines. 

  • Dry (17-32 grams per liter RS) making up 2.3% production  
  • Extra Dry (12-17 gram per liter RS) making up 72.7% of the production 
  • Brut (less than 12 grams per liter RS) making up 17.8% production 
  • Extra Brut (less than 6 grams per liter RS) making up 2.5% production 

The DOCG defines the Asolo Prosecco Superiore wines as showing “citrus (lemon), fine and delicate honey notes, aromas of ripe apple, white flowers and good acidity”.  These wines are made up of at least a minimum of 85% Glera.  Some producers may use 100% Glera, but they are allowed to add up to 15% of the following grapes: Verdiso Perera, Bianchetta TrevigianaGlera Lunga, Raboso and Marzemina Bianca.  

The Rive della Chiesa Gasparetto Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry wine was made from 100% of the Glera grape grow on red soils 250 meters above sea level.  The winery is located in the Montello area and is managed by the 2nd generation of family members since the winery was established in the 60’s.  Their vineyards occupy about 93 acres and the grapes for this wine are sourced from the best.     


Floral aromas of green apple, this wine had a soft efferevescence that was fresh with juicy apples.  Very easy drinking with a slight saltiness on the finish.  17 grams per liter of residual sugar.  SRP $14. ABV 11%.  Importer: DB Wine Selection in Massachusetts. 

Rive della Chiesa Gasparetto Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry

The 2020 Dal Bello Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato Extra Dry comes from the Magre vineyard in the town of Asolo.  The winery was founded in the mid-50's by Vittorio Dal Bello.  The vineyards are situated 200 meters above sea level across 99 acres spread across 5 villages. 

The wine was softly pressed upon harvest with added yeasts.  It was fermented for 15 days and then in stainless until secondary fermentation took place.  It’s further fermented in an autoclave for 50 days before it’s refined 30 days in the bottle.  Pale straw, brightly colored.  Floral aromatics of apples and pear present on the palate as well.  Elegant bubbles showing nice, clean fruit with a tingly sapidity on the finish that lingered.  SRP $18.  ABV 11%.  Importer: Vinity. 

2020 Dal Bello Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato Extra Dry

Next is the A3 La Tordera Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut.  This winery is located in Maser, one of the 18 communes, that is just a couple miles outside the town of Asolo.  The Vettoretti family that owns the winery is born and raised in the Valdobbiadene wine appellation and has been in the wine industry for over 100 years.  They have vineyards in a number of areas including also in the Asolo appellation covering over 173 acres in total.  Some interesting aspects I read on this winery is that they use 50% less sulphites than the legal amount and 70% of their energy sources are renewable.   

The A3 La Tordera Asolo Prosecco Superiore is pale straw colored and drier than the others I tried with 3 grams of residual sugar.  Again, florally aromas of pears and apple while nice and crisp and fresh on the palette.  SRP $10.  ABV 11.5%. Importer: Schneidesr of Capitol Hill ( 

A3 La Tordera Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut


I chose to pair these wines with a shrimp scampi as I try to enrich my diet into the new year with more seafood.  I’ve also read some folks pair Prosecco with popcorn so I tried some out while cooking.  It went surprisingly well and the butter flavor took away some of the sweetness in the Prosecco for those that were Brut and Extra Dry, but balanced it out well.   

I learned a lot of my cooking from my mom whom shared one of my favorite recipes she cooks, a Mediterranean Shrimp Scampi.  I served it over some whole wheat pasta with added chopped tomatoes, parsley and feta cheese.  A pairing that went delightfully well!  

Shrimpi scampi pairing with Asolo Prosecco

During the virtual tasting it was recommended also to pair these Prosecco from Asolo with sopresa, a soft local salami, an herbal cheese (I.e. Bastardo del Grappe or Casatella), boiled meats or baccala. 

I loved the aromatics of these wines and the salinity that I picked up on all these wines.  I still have a few other Asolo Prosecco yet to sample and will either update this post or write one another once I try them.  In the meantime join my fellow wine lovers as they share their choice of sparkling wines from around the world.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday @ #WinePW at 11am EST.   

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.