Wine review: Li Veli Primonero 2008

One of the reasons why I enjoy cheap Italian wine so much — besides its quality, of course — is the sense of adventure that is part of tasting the wines. For one thing, the grapes aren’t what we’re used to in the U.S. For another, the Italians often seem baffled by marketing their wines in the U.S., which further complicates the grape problem.

The Li Veli ($11, purchased, available at Jimmy’s) is a prime example. Or, as one of the comments on CellarTracker (my web-based wine inventory software) noted, “Not sure what primonero means. …”

In fact, this wine is a 50-50 blend of two red grapes from the Salento region in Pugliaprimitivo and negroamaro, or Primonero. Get it? Told you the Italians were often baffled by U.S. marketing techniques. It’s not like a California winery would ever call a wine CabLo.

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Nevertheless, the wine is well worth drinking. It’s very dark, almost plummy, and very Italian — spicy, earthy, food-friendly acidity and low alcohol (13 percent). The negroamarao seems to dominate, providing the fruit and earthiness, while the primitivo balances the wine. This is winter dinner red wine — red sauces, stews, and the like — even if you’re not sure what the name means.

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