Super Sicilians – from the land of Inspector Montalbano to the UK high street

27 Apr

The Wine Wanderers have been on the beautiful island of Sicily, getting their socks  knocked off by some fabulous wines.   You would never guess from a lot of the rather mediocre Nero d’Avola – the grape the island is best known for – on some supermarket shelves that Sicily produces some really top-class Nero, and terrific wines from many other grapes.  In many cases the production is so small they drink the lot themselves, or it gets no further than mainland Italy and surrounding islands.

 

Yet strangely enough it was at home in Sussex that our tastebuds got tantalised by a tunique Sicilian white before we even set off on our travels.   The Zibibbo from Marks & Spencer was one of the freshest and most citrus-y wines we’ve tasted, packed with lemon zest and more than a hint of grapefruit.

 

The surprise is that in Palermo, where they drink a lot of Zibibbo, they almost exclusively drink a sweet, presumably late-harvest version, as a dessert wine.   We had to get tp Cefalu on the north coast to find another of those crisp Zibibbos, and very nice too it was as accompaniment  to a plate of seafood linguine.  What we did find in Palermo, at the excellent Osteria dei Vespri, was an intriguing red from even further east, on the slopes of Mount Etna.   Rossodiversella by Benanti is named for the blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes grown on volcanic soil 750m high.)

 
Generally, however, red in Sicily tends to mean Nero d’Avola first and foremost, and we tasted two divine examples in the southeast of the island.   Archimede is the top label of the biodynamic grower Marabino, and Patrono the jewel in the crown of Feudo  Ramaddini. DOC Noto, in the heart of the area best-known these days as Inspector Montalbano country.      Sainsbury’s Winemakers’ Selection Nero d’Avola and ASDA Extra Special are decent examples of this grape at a fair price, but not on the same levels as the glorious Archimede, which fetches a hefty £23.95 in the UK.   Unfortunately Patrono, excellent quality at a few euros less, is not currently exported to the UK.

 
Moving west across southern Sicily, pure Nero gives way to the very particular  Cerasuolo di Vittoria.   This hybrid of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, another indigenous grape, is an intense, perfumed wine, and we enjoyed a stonking example at Cos, another of the island’s biodynamic wineries.

 

Although Planeta Cerasuolo fetches a pretty price(£16.99 at Waitrose) we found the bottle we tasted a bit intense(though it’s only 13.3% on the alcohol scale) and inky, less full of the cherry-stone joy we tasted in it on the island.   A much better buy from Waitrose, which stocks the Planeta, is the same blend from Inycon, less than half the price at £7.99.   It cannot carry the Cerasuolo name which is tied to Vittoria – Inycon is miles to the west – but iit;s a lovely, rich drop, and this blend deserves to be better-known by Brits.   M&S sell  100 per cent Frappato, another lovely smooth drop.

 

When it comes to the whites, M&S seem to have taken Sicily on board wholesale – no-one else in the high street seems to be offering Grillo – clean and bright at its best – Greciano and the aforementioned Zibibbo all by name and unblended.   Their blend of Cattarato and Pinot Grigio is less successful – a much better blend at a much lower price comes from Sainsburys, whose Winemaker’s Selection Terre Siciliane Bianco – a blend of Cattarato with Greciano and Grillo – is simply outstanding value for £4.80.

 

Before leaving Sicily, a word about dessert wines.  The Wine Wanderers bought a staggeringly elegant Moscato de Noto at Marabino  and drank a delightful “sangue” – appropriately for the land of the Mafia, it means blood – from the barrel at just a euro a glass in Palermo’s Vucciria night market, where it makes an appropriate accompaniment to boiled octopus and the  favourite Saturday night snack of Palermitanos, bread and spleen .  We could have had Marsala from the barrel instead, which interestingly comes in a dry form perfect for an aperitif as well as the more common sweet variety.   Waitrose has a good example in the Curatolo dry, £11.29 a bottle.

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One Response to “Super Sicilians – from the land of Inspector Montalbano to the UK high street”

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  1. Super Sicilians – from the land of Inspector Montalbano to the UK high street | thewinewanderers - April 27, 2014

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