We The Italians | Italian wine: A Rare Puglian Grape - Susumaniello

Italian wine: A Rare Puglian Grape - Susumaniello

Italian wine: A Rare Puglian Grape - Susumaniello

  • WTI Magazine #160 Feb 17, 2023
  • 421

If you’re not familiar with Puglia, also called Apulia, it is located on the heel of the boot along the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Gulf of Taranto at the tip of the heel. The region is relatively flat filled with plains and low hills except the mountainous area to the north that is home to the Gargano headlands and Monti Dauni.  

Puglia along with Sicily is one of the top wine producing regions in Italy in terms of production. Much of its wine history is known for bulk wines for blending, but as with many other regions in Italy a number of producers have decided to invest and focus on quality. This is a region mostly dominated by reds, like the interesting and rare grape I’m sharing today, Susumaniello. 

I don’t frequent Trader Joe’s too frequently, but when I do, I always love to check out their wine section. Although the limited number of wines I’ve tried aren’t mind blowing, their price to quality ratio is worth it. I’ve found it challenging to locate information on the wineries though, which is one of the things I always love to discover and learn about. The same goes for the bottle today, which comes from the Ruggero di Bardo winery.

The Grape ~ Susumaniello 

If you are a consumer that loves to find the rare, obscure grapes, then Susumaniello is for you. This is an ancient grape that was being abandoned in the early 1990’s due to its low yields and producers at the time focused on producing quantity. It is grown mostly in the Brindisi province as well as Salice Salento. You can find it made as a still red or rose as well produced in a blend with Negroamaro or on its own.  

The name Susumaniello is derived from the word somarello, which is dialect meaning black donkey. I’m assuming this comes from the blackness of the grape and/or the deep colors that it produces in the glass rich in anthocyanins. The grape clusters are packed in with an abundance of grapes. The characteristics in the wines that are produced from this grape are typically plums or red berries that may have notes of spice, pepper or chocolate.  

A producer in Puglia known for bringing this grape life along with others is Tenute Rubino. On their site they call Susumaniello the “soul of Salento”. Luigi Rubino started working with this grape when others were abandoning it. He has close to 50 acres dedicated to this grape on the shores of the Adriatic Sea at his Jaddico estate where the vines are trained with the alberello vine training system. I have yet to try his version of this grape, or at least from what I can remember, but I look forward to it.

The Wine 

The 2020 Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello has a uniquely shaped bottle, short and stout. Deeply ruby colored with purple hues. On the nose are raspberries, dark cherry, plum with slightly toasty and cedar aromas. A solid medium bodied wine leaning towards full-bodied. Decent acidity with a hint of tannin. Lush flavors of mostly dark cherries and raspberries with some oak and vanilla on the finish, which wasn’t too lengthy. Overall, it’s a privilege to be able to try such an obsure grape. Not a bottle I would rush to purchase, but at around $10 a bottle it’s well worth trying. ABV 14.5%