Natalino del Prete at Villa Favorita, April 2013

Natalino Is Our Favorite

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Puglia is known for producing huge quantities of ‘value’ wines, but making ‘value’ wine means chemical farming, high-volume yields, mechanical harvesting, and industrial production methods. There are some exceptions, and quite a few new or newly-revived Puglian wineries make polished and elegant wines, many of them trying to compete with other internationally-styled wines (including their rather high prices). Much more rare are exceptions to the golden rule of “you get what you pay for” – cheap wine is usually cheap wine in every regard – but this is not the case with Natalino del Prete, who remains our favorite Puglian producer, especially considering the ratio of price : quality. Some factors that help distinguish del Prete include decades of organic farming (certified since 1994), local grapes only (we’re seeing plenty of Puglian wines blended with Cabernet, etc), small-scale (about 15 acres yield just 1700 cases of wine from very old vines), hand-harvesting, natural fermentation, and no sulphur - or anything else - added to the wines. They communicate a sense of place that synchs with our imagined idea of Puglia (we haven’t gotten to the heel of the boot yet); they have terrific energy and purity; they’re juicy and delicious, rustic and not shy – as Natalino says “you want something nice to eat with this”.

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Del Prete 2010 Negroamaro Anne

"Anne" is Natalino’s name for Negroamaro sourced from 70 year old vines, planted in the head-trained albarello style — an 'albarello' is a little tree.  Cultivating vines in albarello requires lots of labor, and has been mostly abandoned in favor of vine training on wires that allow for machine plowing and harvesting.  The extra work pays off by creating concentrated grapes full of earthy tannin and dark berry fruit character.  Negroamaro should be thought of in the context of Aglianico, Grenache, and other Mediterranean specialties — and the name, meaning "black and bitter" does tell you something — although it's certainly not bitter.  Perfect with just about anything red from the grill.  JR

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  • red
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  • $16.99

Del Prete 2010 Salice Saletino Terre Nova

The 2010 Terra Nova is a real success and a real pleasure to taste — a wine with terrific energy and verve, very old school and rustic, with dark leathery and herbaceous aromatics (is there an Italian term that’s equivalent for garrigue?), and very savory on the palate. Made mostly from the local Negroamaro, it speaks of the dry and hot land it comes from without being out of balance or too high in alcohol. We have a soft spot for Natalino del Prete, whose lifelong devotion to his vines has saved a very classic wine for our pleasure. Farmed and vinified following organic principles. JW

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  • red
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  • $12.49

Del Prete 2011 Primitivo del Salento Nataly

Primitivo is the full-flavored, fruit-centric cousin to the more savory Negroamaro grape.  Del Prete’s version is not at all simple, but rather has quite a bit of spicy personality and deep plum complexity.  It’s also not at all lacking for acid, and is very food friendly with a variety of dishes.  As with all of Natalino’s wines, there is a healthy dose of rustic charm and plenty of weight without being clunky, over-extracted or hot.  JR

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  • red
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  • $17.99

Del Prete 2010 IGT Salento Aleatico Sorso Antico

Aleatico is a type of red Muscat (also grown in the Marche, as Vernaccia Nero, and other places) — it's aromatic and moderately structured. This wine is made by drying the grapes a little to concentrate flavor and sugar — it's a traditional Puglian wine that's now very rare. It is concentrated and a bit sweet, but has high acidity and isn't cloying or crazy high in alcohol. Fantastic with fruit and simple desserts, and probably excellent with cheese — we have to try that...

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  • red sweet
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  • $14.49