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Out-Of-Control Controllata

14 September 2011

The deliciously cool evenings of September call for light, fun reds — it’s still too warm to crack open the really serious stuff. While picking up a few odds and ends at Trader Joe’s, I noticed a $7 bottle of 2007 Epicuro Salice Salentino, a sunny red from Puglia, and for a Denominazione di Origine Controllata Riserva, it seemed like a steal.

Until, that is, I read up a bit on the Italian wine classification system. According to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, the DOC classification system was created in the 1960’s, when Italian wine was arguably at its worst. New wines and new techniques fit poorly into the government’s system, and subsequent revisions to the system have helped but little (Super Tuscans being a notable exception). Even now, innovation continues to be stifled by poorly designed government regulations.

So much for my system of seeking out wines with Controllata, Riserva or Controllata e Garantita on the label.

In any case, $7 seemed hard to beat, the inconsistencies of the DOC structure notwithstanding. I suspect it was so inexpensive because it was already old; wines like this aren’t really meant to age. I uncorked it and hoped for the best.

A clear, dark red in the glass, this blend of 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera smelled of berries and beef. (The wine’s native Puglia, I read in The Oxford Companion to Wine, features topsoil rich in iron oxide, which explains the meatiness.) Black pepper hit my taste buds first, followed by plums and then some hint of egginess. This sulfur-like aftertaste dissipated with subsequent sips, however, leaving just a pleasant, light-bodied red.

With a hearty bowl of Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan tomato and bread soup), the wine tasted significantly bigger, with a zesty spiciness at the back of the palate. It made for a delightful fall dinner.

I would ordinarily provide some further details about winemaking in Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, but my research yielded such a heap of contradictory information, I think I need a fresh blog post to even attempt to sort it out. Stay tuned.

SUMMARY

2007 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva: A light-bodied, spicy red which tastes better with food. Drink now (aging won’t do it any favors), and chill about 20 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.

Grade: B-

Find It: I purchased this bottle for about $7 at Trader Joe’s.

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