Spending time in Italy exploring the many grape varieties is always a pleasure. I was able to spend some time in the south, in Puglia, and get acquainted with some of the region’s native grapes. However, it was at home in NY where I had the opportunity to taste a rare, ancient grape variety, Susumaniello. This month’s feature is the unique Tenute Rubino Oltremé.
The region of Puglia, or Apulia is known as the “heel of the boot” located in Southeastern Italy. Puglia’s mediterranean climate and suitably fertile soils are ideal for grape cultivation. Soils in southern Puglia are mainly calcareous sandy-clays over a limestone sub-soil. When one thinks of Puglia, they may immediately think of Primitivo, Negro Amaro or Nero di Troia, yet, there is so much more. Small plantings of other grapes remain, and certain winemakers, like Tenute Rubino, make it their business to highlight them.
Susumaniello, for example, is one of the rarest grapes in the world. Here, Tenute Rubino brings to us Oltremé, which is a Susumaniello Rosso from the Brindisi DOC. The Brindisi DOC is one of the most densely planted and productive DOC’s in Salento. Here is where very small amounts of Susumaniello are found. Sussumaniello, or Somarello in Italian, which means “donkey”, is likely so-called due to the fact that the vines are high-yielding and bear heavy loads. This lesser known, unique grape is characterized by its complexity and structure. The grape is best expressed in the sandy soils of Salento. Susumaniello has very good aging capability.
Tenute Rubino is “a story of family, a story of love for land and its rediscovery.” This family winery is located in Salento, in the municipality of Brindisi. Recognizing Susumaniello’s potential, the Rubino family resurrected this ancient, rare grape. In fact, Tenute Rubino is known as “La Casa del susumaniello.” Susumaniello is not an easy grape to cultivate, and it was not always appreciated.
However, Tomasso Rubino rediscovered the grape in the Salento region in the 1980’s. Today, his son Luigi Rubino and his wife Romina Leopardi continue being ambassadors of this grape and other native Puglian grapes. They have the help, support and expertise of their vine man, Piernicola Tondo and their Susumaniello oenologist, Luca Petrelli. Moreover, Tenute Rubino is committed to environmental sustainability, as their practices endeavor to reduce the environmental footprint. They have a sustainability certificate from the Italian National Quality System for Integrated Production (SQNPI) and are also CSQA certified (Certificazione Sicurezza Qualità Agroalimentare).
The Wining Hour with Tenute Rubino Oltremé
Tenute Rubino Oltremé Rosso Susumaniello 2019 Brindisi DOC
Oltremé represents the synergy between Luigi Rubino and his wife. After a manual harvest, the Susumaniello is aged for 10 months in steel tanks; minimum 2 months in bottle. Oltremé is intense ruby red with violet reflections in the glass. It has a nose of plum and blackcurrant. The palate is full of red and black fruit, strawberry jam and smokey notes. To my delight, Oltremé gets better as it sits. More layered, more intense. Susumaniello pairs well with tomato based dishes, like lasagna, charcuterie, antipasto and medium-ripe cheeses. 13.5% ABV.
*Tenute Rubino’s Oltremé won the prestigious Tre Bicchieri Award from Gambero Rosso in 2022. What a lovely find! I am very happy to have been introduced to this unique wine by some lovely friends at Colangelo PR.
Discovering different Italian varieties never gets old. Stay tuned for more wine discoveries!
Here are a few more articles about Puglia and its grapes:
The Pink Wines of Puglia https://discover.thewininghour.com/2021/04/peering-into-the-pink-wines-of-puglia/