The Negroamaro Grape – What Do You Need to Know About this Italian Classic?

Any love of Italian wine can tell you that there are many varieties of grape, some of which get more attention than others.

Of course, we have the most popular grapes that seem to find their way into almost every wine. The likes of Chardonnay, Nebbiolo, and many more are stalwarts of the entire industry and are respected for their quality.

However, it’s often the grapes that fly a little under the radar that intrigue the Xtrawine team the most. These less-appreciated, but no less important grapes, are often the heart and soul of the unique wines that come from Italy’s smaller regions.

And they’ll often provide you with an experience that’s very hard to emulate for any other type of wine.

It’s one of those grapes that we aim to focus on in this week’s article. Specifically, we’re going to take a closer look at the Negroamaro grape.

The Basics

First, let’s look at the grape’s “vital statistics”.

Negroamaro hails from the south of Italy, with the grape being almost exclusive to a smaller Italian wine region named Apulia. Within that region sits Salento, which is where the vast majority of this grape comes from.

If you’re trying to imagine where that is, grab a map of Italy and imagine the country as a big boot. That’s not hard to do given its shape!

The Apulia region is right on the “heel” of the big boot, which places it almost at the southern tip of the country.

This should tell you that the Negroamaro is a grape that really prospers in warmer weather. After all, it’s grown exclusively in a region that benefits from the warm air of the Mediterranean region.

The grape is also a red wine grape, as you may have been able to guess from the “negro” part of its name. This literally translates to “black” and its indicative of the dark colouring of both the grape and the wines that are made using it. In fact, most wines made using this grape have an extremely deep colouring that mark them out from other Italian red wines.

The taste is also somewhat unique, with many describing the grape as rustic. Some would go so far as to call it bitter, which is where the “amaro” portion of its name comes from.

Simply put, wines made using this grape are not for the faint of heart. It’s known for producing challenging wines that aren’t always the most inviting to those who are new to the world of Italian wine. However, for those who enjoy a little complexity and some interesting textures, Negroamaro is a grape to be savoured.

This is why most in the Apulia region will tell you that it’s the best red wine grape in the area. It’s often used as a blend with other grapes to create some of the many DOC wines to emerge from the region. However, it is perhaps the 100% Negroamaro wines that truly stand out, not least because they’re often powerful enough to take the unfamiliar aback.

The Key Notes

The wines produced using this grape have a distinctly earthy flavour, which arises thanks to the bitterness of the grape. However, this isn’t all that they have to offer. It’s not difficult to detect the perfume notes that wines made using this grape also exude. 

However, these notes will often mingle with the notes of the grapes that producers combine Negroamaro with. As mentioned, it’s more often used as a blending grape, rather than a standalone variety. Typically, it’s mixed with other red varieties, such as Sangiovese or Montepulciano. Of course, this means you can expect to experience the notes that are familiar to those grapes as well.

However, in such cases, Negroamaro is often the dominant grape in the blend. As a result, the grapes it’s mixed with tend to temper its aromas, rather than overcome them.

Some also argue that it bears many similarities with the Primitivo grape. If that name sounds unfamiliar, the grape is also known as Zinfandel, especially in the USA. Thus, drinking a Zinfandel can give you some indication of what a Negroamaro wine tastes like.

The Vine

It’s likely that the Negroamaro grape became so popular in its home region because of how vigorous the vine is. A typical vine will produce a very high yield, which of course means high volumes of production. But as we all know, volume can lead to a decline in quality, especially if producers decide to focus less on weeding out bad grapes and more on making as much wine as possible.

Perhaps this is why there are several DOC wines made using the grape. The organisation can keep a close eye on quality to ensure the grape’s reputation doesn’t get tarnished.

As for growing the vine, it tends to prefer limey and calcareous soils. However, it’s also an adaptable vine that tends to grow well in any type of soil.

Perhaps this is why it’s fairly well-travelled. The grape can now be found in the United States, particularly in Mendocino County. It’s also regularly grown in Australia.

You’ll notice that both of these are regions that are well-known for their temperate climates. As mentioned earlier, the grape thrives in warmer weather and are capable of growing well even during periods of little rainfall.

Typically, the grapes start to ripen in late-September, which puts them right in the middle of Italy’s harvest season.

The Final Word

This is many a wine made using the Negroamaro grape, including the Leverano Negroamaro Rosso and the Salice Salentino. While these aren’t household names, they are wines that exhibit a great deal of quality and they’re certainly worth checking out.

And that’s really the reason why we chose to focus on this grape in this article. Quality does not only come from the grapes that everybody already knows and loves. A little exploration can reveal true treasures, like the Negroamaro, which will provide you with unique drinking experiences.


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