Negro Amaro,”black-bitter” in Italian, is a black grape from southern Italy that has lost considerably in acreage since the year 2000.

Characteristics
Negro Amaro is a vigorous variety that requires green harvesting in order to produce quality grapes. It is less sensitive to drought than many other varieties and is also quite resistant to several of the typical vineyard diseases.

The grape is slightly aromatic, with medium acidity, and medium to medium high tannins. Deep in colour, it also provides flavours of dark skinned berries such as plums. You might also find some spiciness in there.

Wines
You can find Negro Amaro wines, as varietals but also blended with Malvasia as well as Primitivo. You cannot however be sure of a one-hundred percent varietal as there is no DOC that requires this. Instead it is up to the individual producer to decide whether not to blend or to do so. Most DOCs’ prescribe eighty-five to ninety percent of the grape in order to put its name on the label.

A minimum of 90% of Negro Amaro

  • Rosso Negroamaro di Terra d’Otranto DOC
  • Negro Amaro (or Negroamaro) Salice Salentano DOC
  • Superiore Leverano DOC

A minimum of 85% of Negro Amaro

  • Negro Amaro (or Negroamaro) Squinzano DOC
  • Negroamaro Brindisi DOC
  • Negroamaro Galatina DOC
  • Negroamaro Lizzano DOC (blending grapes specified)

However, most of the DOC’s mentioned in the lists will also produce a wine labelled Rosso which requires between sixty and seventy-five percent of Negroamaro. Also, these could be pure varietals e.g. one-hundred percent Negro Amaro, but this information is not required to be exposed on the label.

Negro Amaro blended with Malvasia Nera di Brindisi and/or Primitivo you will find in Alezio DOC, Copertino DOC, Matino DOC, and Nardò DOC.

All of the DOC’s permits the production of Rosato wines, e.g. Rosé.

Varietals can also be produced as an IGP, for example the more generic IGP Salento. There the requirement is a minimum of eighty-five percent of the character grape.

Food pairing
Negro Amaro pairs excellently with the typical, rustic food of southern Italy. Rich in flavours and a bit salty, it is matched deliciously by a varietal or blended Negro Amaro wine. Look for a rich Spaghetti dish, Roasted Pork, or Roasted Lamb. Serve the wine at 14-16°C/57-61°F.

Where is it grown?
In spite of having lost thirty-one percent of its plantings in the first decade on this century, Negro Amaro is still the seventeenth most planted grape in Italy. In 2010, plantings were 11.460 ha/28,318 ac. The vast majority of these are found in Apulia, on the “heel” of the Italian boot, with a focus on the regions around Lecce (fifty-two percent), Brindisi (forty percent), and Taranto (six percent).

Reports of plantings from outside of Italy have not been found.

History
Negro Amaro is recognised as being indigenous to southern Italy, most likely from the area of the Salento peninsula where it now has its heartland. It is not farfetched to hypothesise that it could have originated in Greece, given the vicinity to Corfu in Greece, and to Albania (which for periods of time has been part of Greece). No evidence for supporting this hypothesis has, however, yet been presented.