Posted on 09.11.20 Wine of the Week

#WOTW: an organic red from Sicily’s beautiful south

This was really my wine of the weekend, a fantastic fireside red from Sicily’s beautiful sun-baked south, the perfect partner for an Italian supper knocked up from fridge and larder leftovers (aren’t they often the best?) that brought back memories of summer.

Back in July, we escaped the end of the last lockdown for an extended holiday to Sicily, one of our favourite haunts. The island is easily big enough to be a country in its own right and there’s so much we love about it, but the south has a particular draw. Fans of Inspector Montalbano will know all about the baroque beauty of Ragusa, Modica and Noto.

As with all of Italy’s regions, Sicily has its own distinctive food culture, with its proximity to North Africa also wielding an unusual influence. I think the best arancini (for the uninitiated, fried risotto balls) are found here, melanzane (aubergine) is magical, and you’ll find pistachio in virtually everything, most notably its signature cannoli (pastry tubes with pistachio and sweetened ricotta).

Sicily boasts its own indigenous grape varieties and they are all worth trying. The island was once known primarily for bulk wine production, but these days it is rightly celebrated for some of Italy’s most exciting wines. You’ll probably know its most famous red, the dark, brooding Nero d’Avola, which makes wonderful wines but is even better when it’s blended with a much lighter variety, Frappato. The latter is fast becoming one of my favourite grapes and it gives real levity to Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily’s only DOCG wine (‘Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita’, Italy’s highest classification).

Santa Tresa Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2018 DOCG (£10.99 at Ocado or £12.75 at Vintage Roots) comes from an organic estate led by Stefano Girelli (read more about him here) and I am a huge fan of his wines. With 60 percent Nero d’Avola, a small part of it gently dried on the vines using the ‘Appassimento’ technique for added intensity, and 40 percent Frappato, it cleverly combines concentrated dark cherries and berries, with a lovely lifted red fruit character and just a hint of spice from well-integrated oak. With its smooth, silky tannins,  the wine is elegant and perfectly poised. It’s also worth saying that I guessed the price at up to £20, when it’s available for little more than half that.

That supper of scraps started with a salad of roasted red onion, avocado, Gorgonzola and toasted hazelnuts, followed by a risotto of Gran Padano, shallot, cavolo nero and chestnuts (pictured below). Both courses partnered really well with the wine, thanks to its fresh fruit, velvety texture and trademark Italian acidity.

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