Tasting No. 215 –October 28, 2019 – Less Known Sicilian Wines

Club del Vino


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Trapani- Bigstok Vineyards

Tasting Overview  

Wine grapes have always grown on the Italian island of Sicily. The ancient island was covered in grapevines long before ­the Greeks got there. Ancient civilizations were producing wine on the island as far back as the 17th century BC. Many of the grapes considered to be native to the area were actually brought in by the Phoenicians. The Mediterranean climate with abundant sunshine, balanced rainfall, hilly terrain and soils made rich by Mount Etna’s ash all create the perfect conditions for quality agriculture.

The island accounts for roughly over five million hectoliters of wine per year from what is Italy’s largest regional vineyard area—about 103,000 hectares, of which close to 90% are located in western Sicily. To put that in perspective, Sicily alone produces more wine than all of New Zealand, Greece or Bordeax.  However this volume is roughly half of what was produced in 1990.  The reduction is due to Sicilians concentrating in recent years to produce more quality and less quantity.  While low-quality homemade wines and musts for export were produced in the 1980s mainly to northern Italy to cut the wines of that region, export-quality wines are now produced, which has grown considerably in recent years.

Sicily has a great variety of grapes and soils and a very dry and warm climate which favors the varieties that produce wines with high sugar content and a lot of body (hence its use for fortified wines and as cutting musts for northern varieties).  On the other hand, Sicilians have concentrated on improving the quality of native strains and less on adapting imported strains.  It is known that since at least the 5th century BC the Greeks made wine in Sicily,  however even though the island was a center of trade and   arrival of merchant ships in the Mediterranean, no foreign strains arrived  appreciable amounts. However, there were some important foreign influences.  For example, the Arabs (who occupied Sicily from 823 to 1123 AD), introduced  the Moscatel of Alexandria to the island of  Pantelleria and  introduced the technique of grape passification.  This variety is preserved under the name  Zibibbo  and is used for dry or dessert wines. It is known that this grape is also the progenitor of Torrontés by crossing with other varieties.

A substantial share of Sicily’s production are sweet wines.  The most famous is the Marsala which became very famous from 1700 when an English merchant, John Woodhouse, tried along with his crew the local wine, strong and robust, and liked it.  Woodhouse shipped 50 barrels to England, after adding wine schnapps to prevent spoiling during the sea journey.  The Marsala was a great success.   However, its quality declined and by 1950 it was relegated to cooking wine.  In 1986 the Italian government produced new marsala-like rules similar to those that Portugal has for its Portos and today excellent sweet Marsalas are produced for dessert, snacks as well as dried

The presenters compiled a very informative note on Sicilian Wines. See the full note here: Sicilian Wines

 The  main objective of this tasting is to explore and evaluate a sample of Sicilian wines.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Agilson and Claudia Perazza

These are the wines:

  1. 2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere – Etna Bianco DOC, Calderara Sottana Vigne Niiche
  2. 2015 Paolo Cali – Frappato Vittoria Pruvenza
  3. 2015 COS – Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, DOCG
  4. 2016 Graci Etna Rosso DOC

This is the menu:

  1. ZUPPA DI ARAGOSTA (Lobster Bisque)
  2. MELANZANE ALLA PARMIGIANA: appetizer size (Eggplant with tomato sauce, basil & mozzarella)
  3. LINGUINE CON TEGAMINO (Linguine with Prince Edward mussels, cherry tomatoes in white wine sauce)
  4. VITELLO CON MARSALA (Scaloppine of veal with shitake mushrooms in a reduction of Marsala wine sauce)
  5. Dessert/Coffee

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Marilda Averbug (guest), Jose Brakarz, Jorge Claro, Ruth Connolly, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán,  Michelle Fryer (guest), Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Jaime Jaramillo, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Carlos Silvani (guest), Pedro Turina, German Zincke.

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere – Etna Bianco DOC, Calderara Sottana Vigne Niiche 

The Wine: As opposed to my other Etna Bianco, which is a field blend of five varieties, Vigne Niche is 100% Carricante. I made this wine for the first time in 2007, after having had the fortune of tasting a 42 year old Carricante from the East side of the Etna. So beautiful it was, so vigorous and impeccable in its venerable age, that I was moved to produce something like it myself. I tried to imagine how a talented winemaker would have made such a wine half a century ago, with little or no technology. And sought to do the same. Vigne Niche is the result. Carricante grapes from old vines and many different tiny parcels (vigne niche), for Carricante is a rare commodity in a D.O.C. overwhelmingly devoted to reds, rarer still on Etna’s Northern slopes. In fact, Carricante vineyards answer for only 4% of the appellation. Vigne Niche is barrel fermented and aged in large oak barrels. It is bottled roughly 12 months after harvest, then released after six more months of bottle age. A shy, late blooming wine of unusual complexity and great longevity, it will reward you for your patience with a rare, noble beauty. Have it with leek, pumpkin or onion soup, lobster bisque, risotto, oven baked fish, poultry, braised rabbit.

“RP: The 2017 Etna Bianco Calderara Sottana is identified as Cuvée delle Vigne Niche on my technical sheet, although I do not see that single-vineyard designation identified on the bottle label. This is a beautiful white wine with lasting aromas of citrus, passion fruit and crushed mineral. This compact white wine hits the palate with sharp and linear focus. That tightness you get at this young stage should evolve and flesh out over the next 5 years of bottle aging. This wine is fermented in stainless steel at low temperatures and it completes malolactic fermentation before going into large oak casks for ten months. Some 9,000 bottles were made.”

The Winery:  (From Wine Searcher) Tenuta delle Terre Nere is a Sicilian wine estate cultivating vineyards on the slopes of Mount Etna. It is a relatively young company, but is known for its high average vine age, including pre-phylloxera vines from which it makes exclusively DOC Etna wines. The varieties grown are all local Etna varieties with Carricante and Nerello Mascalese being the most important.

The estate’s first commercial vintage was in 2002. It has grown to encompass almost 35 hectares (86 acres) of vineyards in four different areas, as well as using fruit bought from local growers. All of Terre Nere’s vineyards are farmed organically and have been since the winery was established.

Terre Nere’s vineyards range from 1960-3280ft (600-1000m) above sea level, and are planted on steep slopes. The steepest gradients are closely terraced and need to be worked entirely manually. Many vines are approaching 100 years old and one parcel is more than 130, and was planted before the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere makes two Etna Bianco wines, one a blend of Carricante, Catarratto, Inzolia and Grecanico, and one entirely from Carricante. Its Etna Rosso is blended from old and young vine Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. On top of this, the portfolio includes single-vineyard wines made from high-quality fruit from each individual cru, and aged in oak for up to 20 months. One of Terre Nere’s most highly regarded wines is a single-vineyard red wine from its oldest pre-phylloxera vines. It is named La Vigna di Don Peppino after the winemaker who tended the vineyard for more than seven decades.

Read more at: http://www.tenutaterrenere.com/en/

2015 Paolo Cali – Frappato Vittoria Pruvenza 

The Wine: (WE) This bright, savory red opens with intense red cherry, tilled soil and Mediterranean brush aromas while the round, easy-drinking palate doles out juicy raspberry, strawberry jam and white pepper flavors. It’s nicely balanced, with supple tannins and refreshing acidity. Enjoy soon.


The Winery:  The Wine Maker: ‘I am Paolo Calì.: I am a winemaker pharmacist who bet on a project that is focused on my territory, devoted to the cultivation of the vineyard and the production of wine, re-establishing the age-old tradition of my family in these same lands. My winery has grown together with me and those who work with me, with passion and dedication.It was the dream that I cradled as a child, the dream of reviving the countryside where my father took me every afternoon after school. I have the ambition to produce real wines, free from conceptual schemes, free not to pursue fashion and free to excite. I’m proud to have the privilege of transmitting my thoughts and beliefs into your glass and on your table.

The vines are cultivated on sea sands, shaped by the wind and rain like dunes, heated by the summer sun to become inaccessible. I decided to plant and cultivate only native Sicilian vines, such as Frappato,Nero d’Avola and Grillo, and to vinify them enhancing the peculiarities of the soil and the climate, which guarantees important temperaturevariations; all this translates into a marked sapidity and minerality,in enveloping perfumes and in a great elegance.”

Read more at: https://www.paolocali.com/?lang=en

2015 COS – Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, DOCG

The Wine: WE: A blend of 60% Nero dÁvola and 40% Frappato. Dark berry, baking spice, tilled soil and a hint of new leather aromas unfold on this polished, earthy red. The juicy palate tastes of black cherry, cinnamon, orange zest, and aromatic herb while its mineral vein is noticeable alongside smooth tannins and fresh acidity.

The Winery: (From Wine Searcher) Azienda Agricola COS is a wine producer located on the Italian island of Sicily in the historic province of Ragusa. The estate was founded in 1980 by friends Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano, the first letter of their surnames giving rise to the company’s name. The estate is well known for its production of Sicilian wines from Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG and for its traditional and ancient winemaking practices.

Azienda Agricola COS wines are made from biodynamically grown fruit by natural winemaking techniques. The wines contain extremely low sulphites and most are fermented and aged in terracotta amphora dug into the earth. Wines not aged in amphora are aged in Slavonian oak or resin-lined concrete vats and bottled in traditional Sicilian squat bottles.

The winery produces wine from the island’s only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, made from a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato. It also produces varietal and blended wines from native Italian varieties including Zibibbo, Grecanico, and Inzolia and classic varieties including Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pithos is Azienda Agricola COS’s best known and most sought after wine. The IGT is a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato that has been fermented by indigenous yeasts and aged in amphora.

Read more at: http://www.cosvittoria.it/en/

2016 Graci Etna Rosso DOC

The Wine: 100% Nerello Mascalese from low yields, with a long maceration for a month. A dry vintage, dark and solidly ruby. Very sophisticated perfume, all cedar and graphite, tight and vinous with a solidity to the aromas and a youthfulness. The palate is filled with creamy, rich red and black fruit. A very different expression of Mascalese with a sour cherry acid grip too, and a long, serious, slightly ferrous finish that is lovely (Tom Cannavan).

This elegant expression of the Nerello Mascalese grape grown on the slopes of Mount Etna has a lovely fragrance of blue flower, berry and spice. Pressed wildflower, hay, fennel and ripe berry scents mingle together in the glass. The refreshing palate combines crushed strawberry, juicy red cherry, saline and a hint of baking spice alongside bright acidity. (WE).

This Etna wine has received good scores from various critics. Based on critic scores and price, this wine represents great value. This is one of the most popular wines from the region (Wine-Searcher)

The Winery:  “We are situated on the North slope of Mount Etna at Passopisciaro, an area where viticulture goes back several thousand years.

Our vineyards are to be found at an altitude of between 600 and 1,000 metres above sea level. Planting density ranges between 6,000 and 10,000 vines per hectare. Some of the vines are on their own roots, that is to say are ungrafted.

We only cultivate traditional varieties indigenous to Mount Etna and aim to respect local traditions as well as the distinct characters of each vintage.

The land decides, not us. We believe that only by listening carefully and responding to the expressions of Nature in our territory ca be great wines be born. Great because true.

Read more at: http://www.graci.eu/?lang=en

CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: 215 Summary of Tasting Scores

Best Rated Wine: 2015 COS – Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, DOCG

Best Buy: 2015 COS – Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, DOCG

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1 Response to Tasting No. 215 –October 28, 2019 – Less Known Sicilian Wines

  1. Pingback: Annual Tasting Summary 2019 | Club del Vino – Washington DC area

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