Category Archives: Sicily and Sardinia

Aug 08 2017

The wonderful whites of Sicily’s Mount Etna

Posted on August 08, 2017 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Just back from London where even the supermarkets have a decent range of good quality, well-priced wines from around the world!

One of my favourite discoveries was the delicious Mount Etna Bianco, a blend of two indigenous grapes – Carricante (70%) and Catarratto (30%). Graci, one of Mt Etna’s top producers, makes a superb example. The 2014 Graci Etna Bianco, which I tried over lunch with friends, was a revelation. Bright and fresh with mineral and citrus notes, it had just enough phenolics to impart a rich, slightly creamy mouthfeel.

The Wine Advocate’s Monica Larner believes that overall the 2014 vintage sealed the deal for Sicily earning its “ranking as one of the top three most prestigious wine regions of Italy, following Piedmont and Tuscany.” (Italy, Sicily, Class of 2014 by Monica Larner, Wine Advocate 31 December 2015).

In fact, Angelo Gaja, described by the Wine Spectator Magazine’s Robert Camuto as “the Piedmont winemaking legend who for more than 50 years has helped lead Italy’s quality wine movement,” recently teamed up with Alberto Graci to buy 51 acres on the active volcano’s southwest face in Biancavilla. He follows in the footsteps of other great Italian winemakers like Giacomo Tachis, the creator of  Sassicaia, Tignanello and San Leonardo, who have helped Sicilian winemakers position Sicily as a star on the world wine map. (Piedmont Wine Star Angelo Gaja Invests in Sicily’s Mount Etna by Robert Camuto, Wine Spectator, 29 April 2017)

The bottle we enjoyed over lunch comes from the Graci’s Passopisciaro-based winery on Mount Etna’s North face. Here the family cares for 18 hectares of cool northern-facing closely planted vineyards at an elevation of  600 to 1000 metres above sea level.  The Carricante grape thrives in high elevation vineyards, where the loose, well drained volcanic soils … Read the rest

Mar 03 2016

Wine of the Week: Feudo Di Santa Tresa Avulisi Nero D’Avola Red 2011 $39.99

Posted on March 03, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Over the past few years nero d’avola, the ancient native red variety of Sicily, has really captured the imagination of sommeliers and consumers alike. So much so that 55 plantings of nero d’avola can now be found in Australia and a good number of producers are already making excellent wines from the grape.

The foresight of the McLaren Vale Chalmers family nursery in deciding to import Italian vine material in the late 1990s has much to do with the grape’s growing popularity with winemakers. It realised that nero d’avola was one of  a number of Italian varieties perfectly suited to Australia’s challenging and climate change affected environment.

Nero d’avola’s naturally naturally high acidity levels and generous tannins allow winemakers to make a medium-bodied, balanced wine that displays bright red fruit aromas as well as savoury notes. Some examples even display delightful floral aromas, not unlike the terroir-expressive pinot noir.

Chalmers began importing nero d’avola in 1998 but due to quarantine restrictions it was not released on the market until 2001. Consequently Sicilian examples of nero d’avola from vines with a bit of age provide a hint of how Australian versions of the variety will likely evolve as the country’s plantings mature.

The Feudo Di Santa Tresa Avulisi Nero D’Avola Red 2011 ($39.99) is one of the best examples from Sicily. It’s the flagship wine of the organically farmed 50 hectare Feudo Di Santa Tresa estate. Originally founded in 1697, Feudo Di Santa Tresa’s light red sandy loam soils on a well-drained limestone base not only imbue the wines with minerality but guarantee a vital supply of water in what are typically hot and dry conditions.

The grapes for Avulisi come exclusively from the estate’s  oldest and finest nero d’avola vines, which are over 45 years old.  A deep bouquet of … Read the rest

Sep 09 2013

Cellarit Wine Dinner: A Wonderful Introduction to the Wines of Sardinia and Sicily

Posted on September 09, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Monday night may have been cold and rainy, but it didn’t stop 34 Cellarit customers and their guests from enjoying superb Italian wine and food at Verde Restaurant + Bar. The evening was designed to showcase some newly imported wines from Sardinia and Sicily. Importer Heath Felton of Global Grapevine provided entertaining and interesting commentary on 10 wines from four of the region’s top producers.

Most of the wines were new to me and I was struck by how, as a group, they displayed liveliness, good fruit character, complexity and balance. The finesse and even elegance of the very best surprised me only because Sicily and Sardinia are known for their blisteringly hot summers. Fortunately, cool evening winds bring down the evening temperatures and the top wineries occupy elevated coastal sites that benefit the most from the diurnal variation. Consequently, fruit is given the breathing space it needs to ripen slowly and retain a good level of acidity at maturity.

The evening began with a glass of the Murgo Etna Bianco 2011, a blend of Sicily’s indigenous varieties caricante (70%) and catarrato (30%). As the name suggests, the wine comes from a family-run winery located on the steep slopes to the southeast of Mount Etna – Europe’s largest active volcano. The rocky volcanic soils have imparted a lovely minerality to this crisp and refreshing wine, which displayed delicate floral aromas and clean citrus flavours. Perfect summer drinking!

One of the highlights of the night was the sumptuous, beautifully balanced medium bodied Tenute Soletta Keramos Cannonau Riserva 2007 from Sardinia. Cannonau is the ancient Sardinian name for grenache, and you may be surprised to learn that some experts believe that grenache actually originated in Sardinia and was taken to Spain by the Aragonese, who occupied the island in the … Read the rest