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Negroamaro is a dark-skinned red wine grape variety from the region of Puglia, southern Italy. The wine is little-known across the world, despite a small variety in California, and is largely restricted to the heel of Italy’s boot.

One theory suggests Negroamaro translates as ‘black and bitter’. The word negro is the Greek term for ‘black’, with bitter derived from the Italian word amaro. It’s an almost literal translation of the grape itself.

However, recent studies have pointed toward the grape being introduced by the Greeks, lending it the Latin word nigra and Greek word mavros. Both words represent the dark colour of the grape.

As the Greeks inhabited Puglia for well over a thousand years, it’s likely the latter theory is true.

The wine grape has an incredibly rich and deep fruit flavour. A taste brings sweet prunes and plums to mind, as well as dark fruits blackberries and sweet cherries. It is rustic, earthy and bitter, with hints of other herbs such as cloves and cinnamon.

It is a full-bodied grape with lots of tannins, making it dry and astringent. The fruit is also thick-skinned and dark in colour and plucked from high-yielding vines.

Negroamaro is often seen as a very unique wine, largely overlooked in favour of other local stars, such as Primitivo. The grape is very complex and textured, which attracts some avid followers.

Uniquely, the grapes are used exclusively for winemaking. Solely grown in southern Italy, the grapes can be found in Brindisi, Foggia, Lecce, the Salento peninsula (where most come from) and Taranto. Negroamaro grapes are usually used in blends and work well alongside Malvasia Nera, Montepulciano, Primitivo and Sangiovese.

Growing conditions for the grape are intense, which goes some way to justifying the taste. Temperatures in the Salice Salento regularly hit 40 degrees with up to 300 days of pure sunshine every year. As such, the grapes develop high levels of sugar which increases the amount of potential alcohol ABV.

As the grapes are incredibly high in tannin, the wine is generally left for three-to-four months in oak, which balances out the flavour a lot better. The end result is not too acidic or tannic, which leaves the fruity flavours free to shine.

Due to its fruity profile, a glass of Negroamaro is best enjoyed with sweet and tangy flavours such as barbecued or braised meats. For more casual dining, the wine is also excellent with meatballs or pizza.

Caramelized foods or sweet sauces (such as teriyaki) also perfectly complement the sweetness of the wine and help to draw out its fruity flavour more.

One of the most well-known wine DOCs deriving from the Negroamaro grape is Salice Salentino, which leads with a beautiful baked raspberries taste, with a hint of allspice.

You may also have tried a Bombino Nero, which blends a Negroamaro and Primitivo into an explosion of fruit flavour by the wine that translates as ‘the little bomb’.