In Eric Asimov’s recent piece praising Sicily, he notes that in the past, many of the wines that came out of Sicily included “heavy reds, dull whites and sweet wines that traded on famous names” that “rarely delivered.” Things have taken a sharp turn as Sicily is now one of the most exciting wine regions in the world. This transformation, Asimov says, is partly a result of a new generation of winemakers who have embraced the island’s indigenous grapes. Today, Sicilian wine producers are focusing on “agile reds with invigorating acidity,” and that’s what American consumers seem to want. Asimov notes that there has been an apparent shift in taste in the United States from bold, heavy wines to “lighter wines of greater finesse.”
Asimov recently joined a wine panel to taste 16 wines from across the region – one with a small number of producers. Across the board, they found it to be a terrific selection, with 2009 Sicilia Rosso from Lamoresca coming in at number one: “spicy, earthy and structured, pleasantly funky yet alive in the glass.” With fall upon us, it’s a perfect time to sample some of Italy’s new famed reds. For more on the tasting, head over to the New York Times, or check out more of Asimov’s top picks below, along with our tasting notes.
Sicilia Rosso, Lamoresca – 2009
A dark and serious Nero d’Avola / Frappato that expresses a sauvage blend of garrigue and raw black fruit. Dark and dense tannins strike through and dominate the palate along with earthy intense berries and currants. A striking wine for all who enjoy Italy’s diverse wines.
SP68 IGT Sicilia Rosso, Arianna Occhipinti – 2012
The SP68 is a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, named after a highway near Arianna’s home town of Vittoria. With bright aromatics of raspberry, cherry and garrigue, this is a perfect summertime red to serve slightly chilled and paired with grilled lamb.
“Pithos”, COS – 2011
This mouthful of a red was both vinified and aged in clay amphorae – an ancient practice that still works wonderfully – as this wine ably shows. The smooth, pleasant palate impression is of raspberry, mandarin, and minerals.
Il Frappato, Valle dell’Acate – 2012 (Staff Pick)
A dry red made from Frappato, a very Sicilian grape variety. Pretty from the start, this scrumptious wine is ruby red in color, with firm raspberry fruit and lively acidity. It is the perfect easy-drinking wine to enjoy every day with Italian red-sauce dishes.
Nerocapitano, Lamoresca – 2011
A clean, zippy Frappato, classic with dark floral tones on the nose and fresh raspberries on the palate, from one of Frank Cornelissen’s many friends and followers. A brilliantly clear wine, despite not being filtered, it has a lush, clean texture that does not disappoint. This versatile wine is great with any cooked meat, fish, or fowl; try smoky pastas, roasted sweet tomatoes, and sautéed greens with bacon. This Frappato comes from the inland hills of Siciliy, from vines growing 430 meters above sea level.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Gulfi – 2011 (Staff Pick)
Try something fun and new! Well… not really new. But still fun. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a DOCG in Sicily. They blend two completely opposite native Sicilian varieties to prove that opposites attract in the wine world in the most beautiful way. Nero d’Avola is USUALLY higher in the blend, with Frappato making up the balance. This specific bottle is 50/50, equal parts of love. The Nero keeps this wine from falling flat. Frappato is a super light, spicy, cherry-like grape (Cerasuolo means “cherry-like” in Italiano). Nero is a dark, gritty, deep-berried variety. Put ’em together, and you get Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which is almost Pinot Noir light, a beautiful, elegant Sicilian wine at an incredible price, and something that maybe your friends haven’t heard of yet. So impress them by bringing this bottle to your next dinner party.