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Sicilian sensations

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, and Jason Wentworth

The island of Sicily is currently one of Italy’s most exciting wine regions. Traditionally, Sicily has been a source of cheap wine for the anonymous blends marketed by industrial wine producers in northern Italy. In recent years, however, many Sicilian wine estates have shifted their focus from quantity to quality.

Some of this new emphasis on quality, particularly during the 1980’s and ‘90’s, resulted in the planting of internationally familiar varieties such as Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay. More recently, however, it is felt by many that the future of Sicilian wine is dependent on exploiting the distinctive character of a plethora of grape varieties distinct to Sicily.

One of these grapes, Nero d’Avola, is already well known in export markets such as the U.S. It is a variety capable of producing a range of styles, from light and delicate to ripe and sumptuous. Compelling wines are being made from other Sicilian varieties as well. Grillo, a grape used in Marsala, and Carricante are white varieties capable of producing characterful, age-worthy wines. There is also excitement over the potential of red grapes such as Frappato and Nerello Mascalese. The latter, in particular, shows great promise on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna.

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted a selection of 15 Sicilian red wines. The group included “international” varieties such as Syrah, Sicilian varieties, and blends of the two. However, both the staff’s top pick and the best value were made from Sicilian varieties.

The first place Feudi dei Pisciotto 2010 Frappato “Marengo”($30 per bottle) is a fabulous wine sporting an inviting dark-fruited nose and a mélange of deep fruit flavors that finish on an attractive vanilla note. This flavorful, well-knit wine will pair wonderfully with a pork roast, pasta with meat ragù, or mushroom and spinach lasagna.

The top value, the Masseria del Feudo 2011 Nero d’Avola “il giglio”($15 per bottle), has a cherry-scented aroma that leaps out of the glass. Its light- to medium-weight palate is packed with juicy cherry/raspberry fruit. Try it with caponata, pasta with red clam sauce, or a succulent piece of sautéed chicken and enjoy!

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