Friday, February 26, 2010

Copertino Riserva, Cantina Sociale Cooperativa

Step into a time machine and go back 50 years or more, and you'll have the same experience as drinking a glass of this wine from Copertino Riserva by Cantina Sociale Cooperativa.  They have been making wine since the 1930's and I'm certain that their methods haven't changed much since then.  I found this bottle refreshing in its rustic charm and excellent with our meal last night.  I'm tasting it now after it's been open for about twelve hours and it's holding up quite nicely, and for the price at around $12, it's a heck of a bottle.

Copertino is a small town in the province of Puglia, which is located on the heel of the boot of Italy.  Puglia has lately gained some recognition for inexpensive, but characterful wines.  Primitivo, Negroamora, and Malvasia Nera are all grown there in great quantities in fertile soils with plenty of warm weather and sun.  These are all ancient grapes that it is theorized were planted by the Romans.  The climate makes the Southern part of Italy suitable for bulk production of wines, but a few estates are doing some interesting things with keeping yields low coupled with modern wine-making technology.

What this bottle represents to me is tradition.  Wine cooperatives are common in Italy because it is expensive to own and operate presses, fermentation equipment, barrels, and bottling lines.  Grape growers have often inherited ancient vineyards sites and usually don't have enough money, time, or interest to make their own wines.  What often happens is that they band together, have a big party, and make wine together every year.  Cooperative wines are often not great, but this one, in my opinion, is an exception to the norm.

The 2001 is made mostly from Negroamaro (the name means black and bitter) with a splash of Malvasia Nera added for perfume.  The color is a beautiful  ruddy ruby red with some browning around the edges, showing its age of nine years now.  The opaqueness of the core suggests that is lightly filtered if at all, which gives it an interesting thick texture when you drink it.  On the nose there are aromas of black cherry, cranberry, black olives, licorice, carraway, rooibos tea, game, autumn leaves, and woodsy spices.  It's a wine that I could smell all day and find something a little different each time.

On the palete it is bone dry with a tart cranberry acidity.  The tannins are gripping, but long and well integrated.  There is a sort of "cheesy" finish that reminds me of the rancio quality of some of the great Pecorino cheeses of Tuscany.  It was amazing with our meal of roasted chicken and potatoes last night and it's still going strong today although the tannins have mellowed quite a bit as it's been open and exposed to air.  It would also be nice with any dish featuring mushrooms, pastas with tomato sauces, and other simply roasted poultry.  It even has a decent finish for a wine at its price point.

Interestingly, the vintage that is usually available at my wine store is usually at least seven or eight years old.  Because of the aging factor there is bottle variation from personal experience, but on the whole, I've been pleased with past vintages.  Since I like drinking older wines, this is an added bonus.  Likewise, the price tag certainly does not correspond to its age - or maybe it does depending on your perspective.  What I mean is that this is not a wine to go to for opulent fruit and bold flavors.  But, if you are looking for something with a humble home-cooked meal with subtlety and layers of complexity for not a lot of money, you'll be very happy with this wine.

As a side note, on researching this wine, I discovered a rock band named Negramaro after the great and ancient grape based in Salento, also in Puglia.  I'm listening to their album Finestra as I write these lines and quite enjoying it.  You can check them out on iTunes if you're curious.  Funny how the study of wine brings about these types of serendipitous and tangential discoveries.  As Pliny the Elder would have said, "In vino veritas..."

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