But, to answer the question, could it be the next Syrah? Maybe, but the current California Italian market is still uphill - especially with lazy wholesalers and their mistaken status quo low-hanging-consumer-fruit focus, though it is slightly easier to navigate with the newer wine drinkers with direct contact. The flavor profile is unique though, and gentle... Fingers crossed!)
Negroamaro or "Negro Amaro" could be the new Syrah, with the exception that it might actually sell. Syrah is actually doing ok realistically, the good producers doing serious work are still making great wine with it. It is not a grape suited for the cheap mass market though, so the shakeout is a good thing.
Anyway, Negroamaro has several things going for it:
|Freshly planted on Kelsey Bench|
2. Negro Amaro is like Syrah in that it has good dark violet color that consumers seem to expect these days and only moderate tannins (Syrah has a particular tannin-color linking structure that prevents it from becoming too tannic and drying, excluding viticultural or winemaking error). It can be silken or a little chunky, but never astringent when properly handled. Negro Amaro also tends to be fairly warm-climate vibrant with that violet flower and touch of high-toned delicate white blooms coming through against a deeper and more musky/rustic background - a lot like Mourvedre and North Rhone Syrah.
3. Like Syrah there can be strong leatheriness that forms the backbone in conjunction with a brambly spice element that evokes the old world (perfect in our lineup) while still being a relatively fruity warm weather grape. It has skank and finesse.
4. Coming from Puglia it is obviously drought tolerant and heat loving without compromising its typicity- yay. (But, it does sunburn, and crop load can be vary with soil type.)
5. Negro Amaro is often blended - the Salice Salentino DOC specifies minimum 85%, and often Malvasia Nera, Sangiovese or Primitivo are added to bump up the fruit/floral quotient. Hopefully this will not be the case in Lake County where we need to actually restrain the fruit bomb character of our wines and try to produce something with actual structure and character. For us, the more bramble the better - we don't need to worry about fruit here.
6. Negro Amaro rosato is known to be very, very good.
Needless to say we are excited to try our hand with this one. Its mix of backward rusticity, delicacy and aromatics should be exciting.
(Oh, incidentally, Negro Amaro may be a distant cross between Verdicchio and Sangiovese).