Wine Club Newsletter - December 2019
Sicily Wine & Regions
Sicily is an island of great natural beauty and rich culture, where innovative producers are combining tradition with modern techniques to create wines that are capturing new attention around the world.
With more than 250,000 acres planted to indigenous and international grape varieties, each vintage in Sicily produces an array of captivating and elegant wines. Winemakers who have found success in the versatility of white wines from Grillo and the bold flavors of Nero d’Avola are rediscovering the nearly 50 native grape varieties that are unique to Sicily. Here are some of the main varietals for your reference:
Catarratto - Yellow with hints of green, with a delicate bouquet of white flowers, aromas of ripe citrus, melon and herbal flavors, a full body and a healthy acidity.
Grecanico - A pale lime-yellow, with aromas of ripe white melon and white flowers and tree fruits, featuring clean and fresh flavors of pear, white peach and nectarine, with a medium body and a mild, balanced finish.
Grillo - A soft to strong yellow, with citrus blossom and fruity aromas, with notes of white peaches and grapefruits combined with hints of aromatic herbs, healthy acidity and a soft, round palate.
Inzolia - Straw-yellow with hints of green, with aromas of flowers, understated fruit aromas and flavors featuring nuts and herbs, a soft acidity, finesse and elegance, well-balanced alcohol and a soft, mineral finish.
Frappato - Ruby color with violet hues, with intense aromas of violet, spices and red cherry, a medium body, ripe tannins and a lingering freshness that’s persistent and balanced.
Nero d’Avola - Royal ruby, with aromas of red flowers, strawberry, cherry, to more structured wines with aromas of ripe cherry, rose, sweet spices, licorice and cocoa, a structured, full body, healthy acidity and tannins.
Perricone - Ruby to purple, with aromas of spicy red fruit, herbs and earth, featuring flavors of ripe bramble fruits; complex, with velvety tannins and a mineral, fresh structure.
Nerello Mascalese - Nerello Mascalese (best known in the Faro DOC) makes a dark, spicy, floral wine. It is also found in blends with Nero d’Avola, as well as Nerello Capuccio (in the Etna (Rosso) DOC)
The island’s climatic conditions are perfect for producing healthy grapes and extraordinary wines with distinctive flavors at incredible value. For those who have already enjoyed Sicily’s wines, either with the island’s traditional foods or their own favorite international dishes, one thing remains clear: Incredible food and amazing wines do not have to be expensive.
During our tour there last October, we discovered four distinct wine growing regions on this island, all producing unique flavors and styles. The differences in weather, annual precipitation, soil composition and vineyard altitude across Sicily are extreme. Let’s take a quick tour:
Mount Etna Region: (Passopiscrio, Franchetti, Fessina)
With its continually smoking and often snow-capped peak, head-trained bush vines (alberello in Italian) and the sparkling backdrop of the Ionian Sea, the region is drop-dead gorgeous. Made predominantly from Nerello Mascalese, the best Etna reds have the finesse of Burgundies and the complexity of top Barolos.
Besides its high-altitude vineyards, Mount Etna has cooler temperatures and almost double the rainfall as compared to the rest of Sicily. It also boasts intense sunlight and dramatic day-night temperature swings that prolong the growing season. But the driving force behind the area’s wines is its tapestry of volcanic soils, which range from pumice and basalt pebbles to black ash.
Vittoria: (Valle sell’Acate, Nanfro, Planeta)
Located in the southeastern province of Ragusa, this area specializes in red wines and is the epicenter of production for Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily’s only DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wine, the most strictly regulated denomination in Italy.
A blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, Cerasuolo di Vittoria boasts more finesse than power. Nero d’Avola provides the structure, Frappato freshness and elegance. Both versions boast enticing floral aromas, creamy strawberry-cherry flavors and silky tannins, although Classico’s also often offer more leather, tobacco and licorice.
Noto: (Planeta, Zisola)
Named after the stunning baroque city of Noto, this denomination spans the extreme southeastern point of Sicily, one of the hottest areas on the island. Part of the growing area around the town of Pachino lies even further south than the tip of Tunisia.
With its broiling hot days, cool, windy nights and the lowest rainfall on the island, this is where Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most celebrated red grape, thrives. The variety originated around the nearby town of Avola, making this part of Siracusa province its classic growing area.
While wines based primarily on the same main grapes grown on Etna boast a strong mineral character and brighter berry flavors, Faro is equally elegant but markedly different, with sensations of dried berry, underbrush and tilled soil.
“Nerello Mascalese is difficult like Pinot Noir, in both the vineyards and the cellars,” says Geraci. “To make wines with finesse and aromatic intensity with Nerello Mascalese, you need old vines that naturally generate low yields and concentrated flavors.
“You also need vineyards near the sea because they impart rejuvenating notes of salinity,” he says. “And you need altitude for cool evening breezes. Everything has to be perfect, or it doesn’t work. There’s just no compromising.”