Friday, February 3, 2023

A Rare Puglian Grape - Susumaniello

As we creep in February it’s time to venture off the island of Sicily into the region of Puglia this monthOur Italian Food, Wine & Travel group this month is hosted by Lynn of Savor the HarvestIf you’re not familiar with Puglia, also called Apulia, it is located on the heel of the boot along the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Gulf of Taranto at the tip of the heel.  The region is relatively flat filled with plains and low hills except the mountainous area to the north that is home to the Gargano headlands and Monti Dauni.   

Puglia along with Sicily is one of the top wine producing regions in Italy in terms of productionMuch of its wine history is known for bulk wines for blending, but as with many other regions in Italy a number of producers have decided to invest and focus on qualityThis is a region mostly dominated by reds, like the interesting and rare grape I’m sharing today, Susumaniello. 

I don’t frequent Trader Joe’s too frequently, but when I do, I always love to check out their wine sectionAlthough the limited number of wines I’ve tried aren’t mind blowing, their price to quality ratio is worth itI’ve found it challenging to locate information on the wineries though, which is one of the things I always love to discover and learn aboutThe same goes for the bottle today, which comes from the Ruggero di Bardo winery. 

The Grape ~ Susumaniello 

If you are a consumer that loves to find the rare, obscure grapes, then Susumaniello is for you.  This is an ancient grape that was being abandoned in the early 1990’s due to its low yields and producers at the time focused on producing quantityIt is grown mostly in the Brindisi province as well as Salice SalentoYou can find it made as a still red or rose as well produced in a blend with Negroamaro or on its own.   

The name Susumaniello is derived from the word somarello, which is dialect meaning black donkeyI’m assuming this comes from the blackness of the grape and/or the deep colors that it produces in the glass rich in anthocyaninsThe grape clusters are packed in with an abundance of grapesThe characteristics in the wines that are produced from this grape are typically plums or red berries that may have notes of spice, pepper or chocolate.   

A producer in Puglia known for bringing this grape life along with others is Tenute RubinoOn their site they call Susumaniello the “soul of Salento”.  Luigi Rubino started working with this grape when others were abandoning itHe has close to 50 acres dedicated to this grape on the shores of the Adriatic Sea at his Jaddico estate where the vines are trained with the alberello vine training systemI have yet to try his version of this grape, or at least from what I can remember, but I look forward to it.  

The Wine 

The 2020 Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello has a uniquely shaped bottle, short and stout. Deeply ruby colored with purple hues. On the nose are raspberries, dark cherry, plum with slightly toasty and cedar aromas. A solid medium bodied wine leaning towards full-bodied. Decent acidity with a hint of tannin. Lush flavors of mostly dark cherries and raspberries with some oak and vanilla on the finish, which wasn’t too lengthy. Overall, it’s a privilege to be able to try such an obsure grape. Not a bottle I would rush to purchase, but at around $10 a bottle it’s well worth trying. ABV 14.5% 

2020 Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello Trader Joe's

Have you had the opportunity to try a Susumaniello? I’d love to hear about it. 

Join the rest of our Italian wine and food lovers as they share their personal picks from Puglia.

Camilla at Culinary Cam sharing “Killer Pairing: Spaghetti all'Assassina + A Negroamaro from Brindisi”

Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog sharing “An Unconventional Style of Primitivo - 2020 Produttori Di Manduria Electric Bee Primitivo”

Susannah from Avvinare tells us about “Primitivo from Gioia del Colle, A Revelation

Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “A Family Tradition: Domus Hortae’s organic wines from the heel of Italy”

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm sharing “Octopus with Polenta and a Rosato from Puglia inspired by The Food Club”

Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles reveals “Salice Salentino from Puglia with Ciceri e tria”

Katarina at Grapevine Adventures shares "Borgo Turrito Focuses on Nero di Troia in Puglia"

Lynn at Savor the Harvest discusses “Negroamaro - Three Styles from Puglia + Food Pairings”

Importer: D’Aquino Italian Imports 


  1. I have just discovered this variety as well. What fun! I am at Trader Joe's at least a couple of times a week. I will have to check out our wine section and see if that is available. But, as you say, I haven't been blown away by the wines I find there. They are a good value, however.

  2. It's interesting to see TJ's brining in a Susumaniello! I tried a few on my Puglia trip yet not enough to get a good feel for the wine. You mentioned the Jaddico estate. I just saw a red from this winery at a restaurant the other day. Will have to go back and try it, perhaps it is Susumaniello ;-D

  3. I seem to remember Susumaniello also being grown in Northern Italy from when I went to the Wine Media Conference. Anyway, thanks for the introduction to the grape and the producer Jen!

  4. I was just there the other day! I will go back and look for this cute little bottle! I do love that TJ's is bringing in interesting wines.