Above: Negroamaro grapes, the primary variety used in Salice Salentino, known for its rich color and robust acidity.
I recently read a blog post about the Cantele Salice Salentino by a solid wine blogger from America. He liked the wine a lot but didn’t give it the greatest “score.” He graded it B-.
The reason? Acidity…
“This baby smacks your mouth with high acid,” he wrote. “Don’t get me wrong, this wine is well made, but begs for some food.”
Sadly, acidity is a dirty word to some people, especially in America and especially among people who have grown up drinking California and California-style wines. But acidity is what really makes wines food-friendly and it’s the red thread, the common denominator, if you will, in some of the world’s greatest appellations, like Barolo, Chianti, and Valpolicella in Italy and Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Jura in France.
Some people get turned off by acidity in wine. Even the mention of it can turn some people off. In my experience, those drinkers are people who typically open wine outside of mealtime. And in that context, acidity can be a turn-off: That tartness or sourness, without food, can overwhelm the palate and not deliver the pleasurable experience that you look for in a “cocktail” wine. Fair enough.
But in Italy, they have a saying: No wine without food and no food without wine. In fact, whenever you are hosted in someone’s home in Italy, they nearly always offer wine. But it is always served with some food. And likewise, food is never unaccompanied by wine.
Acidity is so key to so many of the great wines of the world. And acidity is what helps to draw out the flavors in the foods you pair it with. And acidity also helps in digesting your food: Like the natural acid in your stomach, it not only helps to break down the food but it also makes your body generate more of the acidity it needs to metabolize your food.
So if you’re looking for a “cocktail wine,” maybe Cantele Salice Salentino isn’t the right wine for you.
But as my American blogging colleague writes, “Hook it up with some fatty steaks, ribs or a pasta dish with red sauce and you will find its full potential.” Amen!