Our wine of the month #2 for February comes from the hot, dry Mediterranean peninsula of Salento (part of the Puglia region, the heel of the Italian "boot"). The 2016 Leone de Castris "Maiana" is a modern, delicious red that can be enjoyed on its own, and at the price at which we're offering it ($14.95) is a great crowd-pleaser at parties!
The Salento peninsula is no newcomer to wine-making, as it has a connection with the ancient Greeks who set up colonies and trade here and has recorded vine-growing since at least the 6th century BC! Leone de Castris itself has been a winery since 1665 and has been an important modernizing influence for winemaking in the region over the last century, including having helped create the wine appellation of Salice Salentino in the 1970s.
The star of the "Maiana" bottling is Negroamaro, one of Puglia's premiere local red grape varieties, which contributes dark prune and fig aromas. It's often partnered with other grapes, like the Malvasia Nera in this wine, which contributes lifted cherry and plum aromas.
The "Maiana" has a rich perfume of dark dried fruit (like fig) and piercing black cherry cordial with a dusting of cocoa, vanilla, and graham cracker. In the mouth, the wine is mellow and juicy, with soft velvet tannins...flavors reminiscent of chocolate covered fig wash over, followed by a lifting black cherry accompanied by a sensation like cheesecake (with a graham cracker crust). Don't let the dessert-like description fool you, this is still a dry wine; with less than 4g/L residual sugar, it leaves a clean finish. And with a medium body and 13% abv, this wine is extremely drinkable!