Susumaniello,
rediscovering the heart of Puglia

Uva Susumaniello - Tenute Rubino | Vini della Puglia

Susumaniello

Susumaniello is a black grape variety typical of the Salento region and especially of the Brindisi area, but its true origins can be traced further back, as it is thought to have been imported in ancient times from Dalmatia.

Also known locally as black Somarello (little donkey in Italian), Zuzomaniello, or Cozzomaniello, because of its bountiful yields, so abundant that the weight of the bunches burdens the plant like a donkey. This native is known for its ability to thrive in harsh climatic conditions and its resistance to pathogens; before its recent rediscovery, however, Susumaniello had fallen into oblivion, as with every harvest the vines’ spectacular abundance tends to decrease significantly, coming down to just below 1 kg per plant on average.

But it is precisely at this stage that Susumaniello reveals all its extraordinary qualities, giving life to black-bluish grapes from which wines of great structure and highly concentrated aromas can be obtained.

Employed with excellent results in the production of Puglia’s much sought-after rosés as well as classic-method sparkling wines, Susumaniello truly comes into its own when used in the vinification of bold inky reds, both monovarietals and blends. On the nose, such wines offer rich fruity aromas and mature hints of plum, berries and red fruit jam, balanced by lively notes of spice such as pepper and vanilla which can be further intensified by ageing in barrel. On the palate, Susumaniello, in its various interpretations, presents a pleasantly acidic freshness and tannins of great finesse.

Tenute Rubino and the Susumaniello project

In the early 90s many Apulian winemakers were driven to take advantage of EU funding opportunities and explant their less productive vineyards, thus abandoning some of the region’s traditional varieties such as Susumaniello. It is for this reason that Luigi Rubino began his reclamation project, guided by the idea that a high-quality yield can be obtained by carefully monitoring each of the plants’ developmental stage and investing knowledge and viticultural experience in each detail of the winemaking process.

Thus, from the very beginning, Tenute Rubino placed Susumaniello at the core of its viticultural enterprise. Susumaniello is grown in the company’s estate of Jaddico, a 13-hectare single vineyard on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, 8 kilometres north of Brindisi, a coastal position which has proven fundamental for the success of the project.

Susumaniello is a highly adaptable grape but here it has found its ideal acclimatization conditions: thanks to the vineyard’s exposure to northerly winds and the protection from the effects of the strong, hot sirocco, as well as the mitigating action of sea breeze which protects the vineyard from excess moisture. Furthermore, during the grapes’ late ripening stage, diurnal temperature variations increase, favouring the development of polyphenols and higher concentrations of aromatic compounds.

The vines are spur trained and their roots grow beneath calcareous soils rich in sand, which allow a luxuriant development of the root system and ensure that excess water is effectively drained. Obtained from the massal selection of a 75-year-old vineyard, the number of Susumaniello plantings has been increased in the early 2000s: today, the vineyard is constantly monitored according to a strict production protocol aimed at maximising the grapes’ extraordinary qualitative impact.

Susumaniello: the wines

The harvesting of Susumaniello is carried out in stages as the grape is used in the production of several of the company’s labels. The flagship of the range is Torre Testa, obtained from grapes harvested in late September: an exemplary, territory-dedicated wine of great complexity and elegance, this monovarietal Susumaniello is obtained via a controlled partial raisining of the bunches on the plant which can last for up to three weeks.

Today, the award-winning Torre Testa is one of the most sought-after Apulian wines, as attested by its ever-growing market appeal.

Oltremé is obtained from grapes harvested in mid-September. Exuberant and fresh, approachable and seductive on the palate, this wine is rich in fruity aromas, made pleasant and elegant by a shorter vinification process, the proof that this grape variety does not have to be austere but can also be used to create vibrant and fresh wines.

The grapes selected for the vinification of Sumaré, Tenute Rubino’s first classic method sparkling single-vintage, are harvested in advance of their normal ripening, generally in late August, to ensure adequate acidity for the required in-bottle second fermentation. This dosage brut sparkling wine, which rests on ambient yeasts for over 30 months, dazzles with a charming minerality, derived from the good acidity of these early clusters of Susumaniello.

Tenute Rubino has then gone on to create a Sumaré Brut, a vintage dosage-zero sparkling wine ready for disgorgement after 42 or 60 months on ambient yeasts. Finally, the family of Tenute Rubino’s Susumaniello labels could not be complete without mentioning Torre Testa Rosè obtained from grapes harvested within the first ten days of September: freshness, flavour and persistence make this wine immediately recognizable, with a bold Mediterranean personality. The nose offers notes of red berry fruit and hints of pomegranate, raspberry and cherry, all balanced by an assertive acidic note.