By Paul Caputo

Susumaniello is an old red grape variety found in Puglia. It produces medium to full bodied red wines that range from the ripe and fruity, to the dry and structured. There is also a growing number of estates vinifying a rosato version, as well as some sparkling wine. Quality expressions of the variety tend to give attractive berry fruit, sweet spices and depending on the level of oak ageing, some supporting notes of smoke and tobacco.

Meaning ‘little donkey’ in the local dialect of Brindisi, where the majority of plantings are found, there are several theories on how Susumaniello got its peculiar name. As a high vigour variety, some speculate that the enormous load the vines bear when young resembles the animal’s traditional role, although others suggest that stubbornness and the difficulty in managing it are characteristics they both share.

While there is little documented history on the grape, its common usage in Puglia has long been as a blending partner to some of the region’s other varieties. Only recently, in the late 90s, have some producers invested time, money and energy into exploring its potential as a mono-varietal wine.