Friday, April 9, 2010

Back to the Future in Sicily

Barely a week after having aged by another year and slowly getting accustomed to being 29 does the age issue come up again, this time during a wine presentation accompanied by wine tasting in Vinitaly. The theme was Sicilian Wines Challenging Time: vintage 2000, through which the Istituto Regionale Vite e Vini of Palermo wanted to examine whether fine wines from Sicily were now promoted to the ageing league or not. Without any doubt, the answer is a definite yes as was clearly manifested by twelve wines ranging from a white, to various nero d’avolas, a blend of nerello mascalese and cappuccio, straight cabs, a Bordeaux blend and a Sicilo-Bordeaux blend, a marsala and two passitos di pantalleria, all ten years of age. Without exception, all stood the test of time admirably, some with more pronounced character than others. One, precisely the marsala, has indeed yet to be bottled and released on the market. The regions travel through the entire Mediterranean isle, right through to the Etna area, or the isle within the isle as Guiseppe Benanti referred to the active volcanic region where harvesting starts around the third week of September ending in the first weeks of October when the same function is held weeks earlier in the other regions of Sicily, markedly differentiating it from the rest of the isle. Signor Murana in his description of his passito di pantalleria hastened to claim the true isle-within-the-isle nickname more authentically for his beloved pantalleria isle.

Even though climates differ widely in Sicily, the 2000 vintage was described by most producers as a hard vintage with drought being the main problem. Yet way back in time, 10 years ago the market demanded high alcohol, full-bodied wines therefore they still sold well; the question was and is, can this vintage and these wines survive the battle through time? Knowing the vintage was a hot and dry one, your perception immediately takes you to low acidity wines which cannot age well. To my surprise the first wine of the tasting was a Chardonnay by Planeta and apart from complexities on both nose and palate, acidity is still the backbone of this 10 year old. Nero d’Avola, being one of Sicily’s indegenious grape varieties, didn’t fail to impress in showing age potential. Although 10 years back where the early days for experimentation both in the vineyard and in the cantine, the wines from Gulfi, Riofavara and Duca di Salaparuta all showed elegant, silky tannins enveloped by dried fruits and spezie di Sicilia. The Bordeaux varieties showed their versatility to Sicilian terroir in wines from Tasca D’Almerita and Ceuso. Tasca d’Almertia was one of the first, best wineries producing 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Here, I found a mix of black currents, cigars box and cedar nuances yet still with a Sicilian accent. The Ceuso a blend of Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for me was one of the wines which still showed it can be aged easily for the next 10 years. Interestingly whilst speaking with Giuseppe Melia, the oenologist and owner of Ceuso I discovered how they make use of mostly cement vats to age their wines. According to experimentation these containers helps the wine settle down and filter easily. In fact none of the red wines at Ceuso are filtered.

Being a woman in wine, it was a pleasure to see that two wines of great distinction were presented by two women. Luisa Melia presented the Ceuso Custera by Ceuso whilst Laura Doro Martinez presented the Marsala Vergine Riserva by Martinez. Surely, when these wines were produced these two young ladies where still teenagers in search for their true love. They undoubtedly discovered the greatest love of all, wine!


  1. Looks like this was another successful wine tasting venture :)


  2. Thanks Ally for your constant comments and support! yes Vinitaly was another great experience indeed! :)