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Leone De Castris: A beautiful sip of Salento life

Leone de Castris is an award-winning winery hailing from the small village of Salice Salentino in Salento, Puglia. Through a rich terrain of vineyards and olive trees, the beautiful location has created the perfect conditions to develop the company’s long and illustrious winemaking tradition.

On the spot where today’s cellar stands, Duke Oronzo set up the company in 1665, after he was enchanted by the landscape – even selling all his Spanish properties to make the most of the area’s rich terroir. By the 19th century, the winery was exporting bulk wine to France, Germany and the United States, and in 1925, Piero and Lisetta Leone de Castris began bottling wine.

A significant milestone occurred in 1943 with the birth of Five Roses, the first rosé bottled in Italy and sold to the US market. It was such a success that Five Roses – named after the numerous generations of the de Castris family who had five children – has become the winemaker’s most important brand.

This year, with the 2022 vintage, the Five Roses has changed the look: “we have searched in our roots and with excitement, we have looked to today and into the future, coloring it yellow!”

The large red lettering on the yellow label wants to tell our elegant and incisive character, remaining faithful to the colors of the Five Roses label since 1943, aiming to make the name an iconic logo.

Now led by Piernicola Leone de Castris, who took over from his father and has been managing director since the 1990s, the winery has grown substantially.

New vines have been planted, including Chardonnay and Sauvignon, alongside traditional grapes such as Negroamaro, Malvasia nera, Verdeca, Moscato, Aleatico, and Primitivo. Emerging from these vineyards is a collection of award-winning red, white and rosé DOC wines, as well as IGT Salento, Puglia, sparkling rosé and white wines, which are distributed globally across Europe, North America, South America and Asia.

However, one of the most significant label in the production is, certainly, the 50°Vendemmia Salice Salentino DOC Riserva, the pioneer red wine for this DOC in the 1970s, that made both the local grape Negroamaro e the little town Salice, Salentino, famous across the world.

Piernicola Leone de Castris says: “This wine is a creation, a work of art with a thousand unique pieces, I am sure will honor those who, with sacrifice and commitment work to enhance the great potential of the native Negroamaro grape variety.”

A pioneering Italian firm that produces 2.5 million bottles per year, the winemaker is committed to make the most of the land where it was born.

Below are Patrick Schmitt MW’s tasting notes on a collection of Leone De Castris bottles.

Maiana Bianco Verdeca IGT Salento 2022

Producer: Leone de Castris
Country: Italy
Region: IGT Salento
Varieties: Verdeca
ABV: 12.5%
Price: £14.57

A bright lemon-yellow white wine with youthful, clean aromas of pear and apple fruit, nectarine, and a hint of lemon zest and dill. The flavours are ripe and refreshing, featuring notes of peach and melon, along with lemon zest, crisp apple, and a touch of herbal bitterness on the finish. Although far from thin, this is a light, relatively low- alcohol white, with lingering mouth-watering characters.

Five Roses 2022

Producer: Leone de Castris
Country: Italy
Region: Salice Salento
Varieties: 90% Negroamaro, 10% Malvasia Nero
ABV: 12.5%

Price: £16.41

Italy’s oldest bottled rosé uses primarily the Negroamaro grape variety to yield a delicious alternative to the pinks from Provence. The Puglian rosé has a poached
salmon hue, and plenty of ripe, clean and enticing aromatics, from pear to peach, and a palate filled with layers of flavour, including white-fleshed peach, red apple,
along with blood orange and some bitter grapefruit pith too. Benefitting from a ripe, gently oily mouthfeel, and a dry, fresh finish, with a fine chalky textured tannin, and a fairly low ABV, it’s soft, but also light and refreshing.

50 Vendemmia Negroamaro Salice Salentino Riserva DOC, 2019

Producer: Leone de Castris
Country: Italy
Region: Puglia, Italy – Salice Salentino Riserva DOC
Varieties: 90% Negroamaro, 10% Malvasia Nera
ABV: 14%
Price: £17.03

A deep ruby red with rich and enticing aromatics of cedarwood, black cherry, baked blackberry and dark chocolate. In the mouth, there’s plenty of ripe cherry fruit,
complemented by fresh plums, cocoa powder and roasted coffee, along with a smoky cigar box character. The wine is medium weight with a nice drying mix of firm
tannin and soft orange-like acidity. On the finish is a warming alcohol. In short, a red with lingering rich berry and barrel-source flavours, grippy tannins and a fresh acidity, making it hard not to drink.

Villa Santera Primitivo Di Manduria DOC, 2021

Producer: Leone de Castris
Country: Italy
Region: Puglia, Italy – Primitivo di Manduria DOC
Varieties: 100% Primitivo
ABV: 15%
Price: £15.28

A delicious Primitivo with depth and freshness, featuring aromas and flavours of fresh cherry and plum, along with sweet raspberry, then milk chocolate and cedar,
followed by vanilla pod. The characters linger, mingling with plenty of firm, fine tannin, warming alcohol and some bright acidity, giving a dry mouth-watering finish to this balanced, layered, and youthful red.

Negrino Aleatico Dolce Puglia IGT, 2018

Producer: Leone de Castris
Country: Italy
Region: Puglia, Italy – Puglia IGT
Varieties: 100% Aleatico
ABV: 13.5%
Price: £20

A smooth pale ruby sweet wine with a fruity and floral character, featuring flavours of raisins and rose petals, and a touch of blood orange on the finish, complemented by some fine dry tannins, to give a refreshing finish to this soft, versatile sweet wine.

*Prices supplied from importer Eurowines.

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