Spring is here. Before you know it, it will be June, and the solstice will mark the first day of summer. Looking forward to the changing weather, I have started to prep my wine fridge adding wines that I think would be enjoyable in the coming months–wines that are easy and fresh but still have plenty of structure. And thus I’ve been looking to Sicily.
Sicily is producing some very interesting and exciting wines, which makes sense if you look at history. According to classic mythology, Dionysus (Bacchus to Italians) was the God who brought pleasure to humankind, and wine to Sicily. Sicily has more vineyards than any of the other Italian regions, competing with Apulia for first place as the largest wine producer.
For over 2,500 years Sicily has been a significant centre of viticulture in the Mediterranean. Consistent bright sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall is ideal for grape vines destined to produce fruit for wine. Add the island’s soils and the hilly landscape to this ideal weather, and you have a spectacular terroir that is almost perfect for growing not only vines but also olives and citrus fruits. It’s not surprising that Sicilian producers are doing serious work, nor is it surprising that most of them choose to work with indigenous grapes like Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio.
Recent years have seen an explosion of small Sicilian wineries. For decades, Sicilian winemakers were relegated to producing grapes, must or wine, that supplied the Marsala industry or were used to fortify weak French or northern Italian wines. In the 90’s, however, some forward-looking producers began to make their own varietal wines for an increasingly sophisticated consumer market. These wineries now produce some of Sicily’s best wines. And I love them, their boldness, and their vision.
I’ve chosen three of my favorites, wines I’m definitely adding to my fridge. Great everyday drinkers, these wines make food sing, and if you’re a fan of a wine with a touch of wildness, you won’t want to miss out on these Sicilian gems. (Some of these wines are pre-arrival; email us at info@italianwinemerchants, and we’ll let you know when they arrive.)
Palari Rosso Del Soprano 2008 (Nerello Mascalese, Nocera, Cappuccio, Galatena)
There is a lot going on in here. The first sniff when poured out of the bottle was a great combination of red berries. As the wine opened it becomes earthier with soil-driven minerals. On the palate it is nice and fresh with sweet spice and cherry and a nice slightly chewy finish. This wine comes from northeastern Sicily, in the province of Messina and grown at 1400 feet above sea level. Made from a wild blend of indigenous grape varieties Nerello Mascalese, Nocera, Cappuccio, Galatena
I can drink this wine by the bucketful. COS was established in 1980 by three friends and the estate pays homage to Sicilia’s native grapes, cultivating wines from Frappato di Vittoria, Nero d’Avola, Inzolia, and Grecanico. The color is bright ruby red. The nose is full of strawberries and has a slight touch of candied orange peel and spice. It has a very silky texture. The tannins and acidity give it a nice depth. This wine is unoaked, complex and layered–juicy and delicious. The grape variety Frappato has been around on the island of Sicily quite a while and it is often blended with Nero d’Avola. DNA studies have suggested a parent–offspring relationship between Frappato and Sangiovese, though this wine tastes nothing like Sangiovese.
I really enjoy this white. It’s medium-bodied, with aromas of flowers, and citrus fruit. Bone dry, deep and intensely flavored, with an incredible balance. This blend is aged for four months in stainless steel before being bottled. On the palate the wine is dry and fresh, with great acid balance and a clean note of summer fruit.