Three Sicilian wines that make you an offer you can’t refuse
Sicily, so close to mainland Italy, has a rich vinicultural heritage all its own.
Morrisons The Best Nero d’Avola, Sicily, 2017 (£6, Morrisons)
With a culture infused with, among others, Greek, Roman, Norman, Muslim, Byzantine and Spanish influences, Sicily feels much further from mainland Italy than the couple of miles of the Messina Strait. Its wine culture, too, is very much its own. The second-largest wine-producing region in Italy (itself the world’s largest wine producer), it makes roughly the same amount as Portugal and double that of Greece and, like those two countries, has its own high-quality grape varieties. For reds, the most widely planted is nero d’avola, often used to flesh out blends on the island and (sometimes secretly) the mainland. Its stock has risen in the Sicilian wine renaissance of the past 20 years, however, making it a solo star of such darkly plummy reds as Morrisons’ bargain.
Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Bianco, Sicily, 2017 (£22, Les Caves; Buon Vino)
While a lot of Sicilian wine (good and bad) is blended from grapes sourced in various locations, it’s when the wine comes from a single region that things get really interesting. One of the most intriguing extends from the town of Vittoria in the southeast of the island, home of the frappato variety, used to make pleasantly light, strawberry-and-cherry-scented red easy-drinkers such as Beccaria Frappato 2015 (£7.75, WoodWinters). For a truly ethereal expression of frappato – one that brings sage, rosemary and spice to the perfumed strawberries – try Arianna Occhipinti Frappato 2016 (£33.05, Les Caves), while the same winemaker’s white blend is a summer garden swirl of jasmine, with blood-orange pith, tang and refreshment.
Nicosia Fondo Filara Etna Rosso, Sicily, 2016 (£12.50, The Wine Society)
Frappato also features in a rather lovely selection of Sicilian wines put together by The Wine Society (the case is shared with wines from Italy’s other great wine island, Sardinia, worth a column of its own). But as attractive as the peppery strawberry juiciness of Nicosia Frappato di Sicilia 2017 (£9.95) is, I preferred the same producer’s productions from the island’s most dramatic winemaking location: the slopes of Mount Etna. Nicosia Fondo Filara Etna Bianco 2016 is beautifully perfumed but is lifted out of the ordinary by the scintillating, riesling-like nervy acidity it gets from the local carricante grape. The Nicosia Etna Rosso, meanwhile, has Etna’s trademark red-wine mix of pinot noir-like slippery elegance with minerals and a syrah-like spice-and-fruit combination. At £12.50 a bottle, both are outstanding value.
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