Wines of Sicily and Other Wines You Need to Try This Month
Lately, Sicily has been on my mind. It may have something to do with fact that two friends have recently travelled there and shared their adventures on Facebook. At any rate, obsessing on Sicilian wine is a good thing since it is diverse, delicious, and pairs up with the local food wonderfully. After all, the Romans did have a saying for good dining “siculus coquus et sicula mensa”, which means a Sicilian cook and a Sicilian table.
Sicily has a wide diversity of wine; much of it made from local indigenous varietals rarely, if ever, found outside the island. The terroir is tremendously varied. Vines are everywhere from the warm areas near sea level to the cooler altitudes and volcanic soils of Mount Etna. The styles vary enormously from the lighter bodied cool climate Etna Rosso and Bianco to full bodied iterations like Nero D’Avola or Marsala, a fortified wine that can be sweet or dry. Other wines to explore: Grillo, Inzolia, Catarratto, Frappato, Grecanico, Perricone, and arguably the greatest wine produced there, Cerasuolo di Vittoria (a blend of Nero D’Avola and Frappato). Foods to pair them with include local favourites like lamb, fresh seafood, arancini, caponata, Pasta alla Norma, cannoli, and cassata.
A few Sicilian wines are reviewed this month to whet your appetite for trying all things from the island.
As usual, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.
Feudo Maccari Olli Grillo 2020 ★★★★ $15.95 (Vintages)
A white from an indigenous Sicilian grape that you need to try if you love that crisp, dry Italian styling. Filled with mouth watering, juicy lemon, peach, fennel, lychee, and grapefruit essence, it would be a natural with seafood or pesto pasta.
Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Riesling 2019 ★★★★+ $22.95 (Vintages, The Wine Shop)
An Ontario Riesling that brilliantly illustrates the citrus intensity that develops in the grape here. It’s off dry, but the compelling acidity makes it seem dry to the palate. Intoxicating aromas of lemon and lime pulp, lime peel, and grapefruit followed by a modicum of developing kerosene (it’s a good thing with aging Riesling). The citrus and freshness would make a good alliance with ceviche.
Trius Rosé 2020 ★★★½ $19.95 (Vintages, The Wine Store)
From one of Ontario’s legacy wineries (you may remember its past incarnation as Hillebrand), a nicely dry Rosé. It’s crisp, clean flavours of strawberry, citrus, herb, and melon exemplify the modern Rosé style adopted from Europe winemaking. If you are looking for a wine as an aperitif or to serve with your spring salads, this will do the job admirably.
Nicosia Vulkà Etna Rosso 2018 ★★★★ $18.95 (Vintages)
This lighter bodied red from Sicily will do the trick if you are looking for a versatile, food friendly red for your weekend dinner. The vineyards are on the volcanic soil on the slopes of Mount Etna and the grapes used are native to Sicily: Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. The resulting wine is firmly in the red fruit territory with tart red cherry and plum with some earth in the background. It reminds me more than a little of a Pinot Noir. Serve it with any of pasta dish with tomato sauce (rigatoni with braised pork is highly recommended).
Ferro 13 Nerd Nero D’Avola 2020 ★★★★ $16.95 (Vintages)
This is the most planted red grape in Sicily for good reason. Dry with good acidity, it has plenty of body and structure to work with the big notes of blackberry, raspberry, and dark plum along with hints of rosemary and sage. A good value to serve with grilled meats and hard cheeses.
Sidewood Shiraz 2018 ★★★★+ $19.95 (Vintages)
An Australian Shiraz that will surprise you. From the cooler climate Adelaide Hills region, this is a leaner version that is reminiscent of a Northern Rhone Syrah from France. It’s a deeply coloured, dry, and intensely fruited blend of dark plum, berry jam, black and white pepper, smoked meat, and forest floor. This is an excellent take on Shiraz (Syrah) that begs for a rack of lamb dinner or hearty stew.
Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache Côtes du Roussilon 2019 ★★★★ $19.95 (Vintages)
If you ask about old vines in the wine world, all will all agree that they produce superior fruit that makes better-quality wine. Here we have an example from South West France. A blend with beautifully deep flavours, but dry, with full on sweet dried strawberry, blackberry, plum, cigar box, vanilla, and incense with a lingering finish. The robust nature allows it to go with equally robust foods like lamb, chorizo, or empanadas.
Columbia Crest H3 Merlot 2018 ★★★½ $19.95 (Vintages)
Washington state continues to impress with extremely good reds, especially from the Horse Heaven Hills region. Merlot is often overlooked in favour of the more popular varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, but this one deserves your attention. It’s a big wine showing blackberry, cassis, blueberry, plum, and sweet coconut vanilla tinged with caramel and smoke. It would work well with steak or grilled sausage with mushrooms and BBQ sauce.
Zonte’s Footstep Canto Sangiovese/Lagrein 2019 ★★★★ $19.95 (Vintages)
Sangiovese from Australia with an eclectic label? Yes, and, if you try this, you may look for more of this grape from Oz. Here it is blended with a little Lagrein, which is a little known grape originally from the Trento-Alto Adige region in Italy. Full bodied and richly seasoned with dried fruits like prune and raisin, but it still has cedary dark plum, red currant, and cranberry as well. Grilled Italian sausage with lentils or shredded beef pappardelle with generous amounts of parmesan would be well matched.