Along with Primitivo and Nero di Troia, Negroamaro completes the triptych of Puglia’s best known and most exported native varieties. When exactly this grape was first cultivated in unknown. Concentrated primarily in the Salento, Negroamaro is one of Italy’s oldest varieties, since it is believed to be a Greek import connected with Hellenic colonisation between the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Its current name probably derives from the Latin niger (black) and the Greek mavros, likewise “black,” thus “black-black” because of the dark colour of it skin.
It develops a compact tronco-conical cluster, short and non-winged, with medium-sized berries that exhibit heavy bloom and a purplish-black appearance. Negroamaro ripens somewhat late.
With respect to that trait, mention must be made of a discovery, made in 1994 by researchers from the Istituto Sperimentale per la Viticoltura di Conegliano, of a Negroamaro vine whose veraison and ripeness occurred significantly earlier than the other vines. Analysis confirmed that the biotype in question had characteristics classic to Negroamaro but exhibited as well an early-development trait so marked--amounting to some 20 days--that it influenced the chemical composition of the berries as well. Such distinctive behaviour resulted in this vine’s entry in Italy’s National Grapevine Registry as an autonomous variety, with the name Negroamaro Precoce or Cannellino.
Apart from its various biotypes, Negroamaro possesses a natural resistance to the principal diseases, as well as a skin rich in polyphenols such as resveratrol and anthocyanins, the latter quite stable, in fact, with malvin alone accounting for 38% of the total. Another important characteristic of Negroamaro is that it tolerates heat extremely well and does not lose acid easily; as a result, wine producers in hot areas around the world are showing increased interest in its cultivation. Included in almost half of the production codes of Puglia’s DOPs, Negroamaro yields great red wines, both youthful in style and intended for lengthy cellaring, but it has always been utilised as well for a distinctive style of rosé, decisive in character and extremely versatile with food. It bears noting that the first rosé bottled in Italy, in 1943, was made precisely from Negroamaro.