Image from the Parzen family dinner table.
As winemaker Gianni Cantele noted here on the blog the other day, “It’s a long-standing tradition of the Salento peninsula to make rosé by macerating the wine must with its skins for a short time before fermentation begins.”
While the Cantele family was among the first to introduce temperature-control vinification of white grapes to Pugliese winemaking (thanks to Augusto Cantele’s experience making white wine in the Veneto), the Cantele cousins will be the first to tell you that Puglia is a region traditionally known for its production of red grapes.
Cantele was a pioneer in the production of fine white wine in Puglia and today, there are many top producers who release a wide range of white wines from indigenous and international grape varieties (Cantele has just introduced a new Verdeca, for example).
But historically, it was rosé that provided the Pugliesi and many of their northern counterparts with fresh, crisp, and lighter bodied wines that can be paired with both sea- and landfood dishes.
When you travel to Lecce and the Salento peninsula, you’ll find that most restaurants have a healthy offering of rosé wines, mostly made from Negroamaro — one of the world’s greatest rosé grapes in my view. And you also find that most families drink rosé at the dinner table at home.
All across Italy, rosé is a favored dinner table wine and a lot of it — most of it, in fact — comes from Puglia. The gentle tannin in a well made rosé doesn’t overpower the meal but also delivers the astringency that you need to cut through the fat of a meat dish, whether from the land or sea.
Cantele Rosato is a saignée-method (known as the Salasso method in Italian) wine made from must that is destined to become the winery’s top red wine, their proprietary label Teresa Manara Negroamaro.
Ever since we opened the doors of the Los Angeles southern Italian restaurant Sotto, where I curate the wine list, the Cantele Rosato has been served by the glass and the bottle. And it’s one of the favorites of both the staff and the guests.
There’s no wonder why in my mind: it’s bright and fresh, crisp (even after being open for a day or two), and it pairs brilliantly with the Puglia-, Sicily-, and Campania-inspired food that dominates the menu.
My wife Tracie P and I love the wine and we drink it at home: last night, it was the perfect match for penne tossed in a white asparagus purée and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
At an average retail price of $12 a bottle in the U.S. (according to WineSearcher), I can’t recommend it highly enough.