By The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
Sicily is one of the most visually attractive regions of Italy but lately is becoming equally known for its moderately priced table wines made from indigenous grapes grown in its rich volcanic soils.
Our first encounter with Sicilian wines began in the 1970s with the ubiquitous and inexpensive Corvo wine often seen on red-checkered tablecloths in Italian restaurants. Diners were served the classics of spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and eggplant parmigiana, all slathered generously with a rich red tomato sauce. Our young palates enjoyed the wine and food pairing that introduced us to enjoying wine at dinner.
We lost touch with Corvo until recently when the Sicilian wine group that owns Corvo and its sister brand Duca di Salaparuta introduced us to its current offerings.
Its wines use the Terre Siciliane IGT appellation, created in 2011, that gives the winemaker broad discretion in choice of grape varieties. In 2017, the DOC designation was created for wines made exclusively from grillo and nero d’avola grapes. However, many producers decided to keep the IGT title even though their wines qualified for the DOC title.
We were impressed with the Corvo Irmana Grillo Terre Siciliane IGT 2019 ($15-17). Fermented in stainless-steel tanks, this wine sports lovely citrus, green apple elements with fresh acidity and a nice finish. A very appropriate accompaniment for most fish and chicken dishes.
One of our favorite Sicilian red grapes is frappato. The Corvo Irmana Frappato Terre Siciliane IGT 2019 ($15-17) shows candied and fresh cherry flavors that please the palate and should play well with most meat dishes.
We were very impressed with the indigenous red grape nerello mascalese several years ago at a large Italian wine tasting in New York and have only occasionally found it in wine shops.
The Duca Di Salaparuta Lavico Nerello Mascalese 2017 ($22-25) is a pleasant reminder of our first impression of this grape. Light in color with impressive plum and sweet cherry elements, a hint of cedar and terrific balance.
Nero d’Avola is the most commonly planted red grape in Sicily and is the easiest to find in the U.S. These are often affordable, easily accessible table wines.
We enjoyed the Duca Di Salaparuta Passo Delli Mule Nero D’Avola Terre Siciliane IGT 2018 ($20-23). This red wine exhibited big blackberry and plum notes with soft tannins. A very well-balanced wine at a fair price.
The Duca Di Salaparuta Triskele Nero D’Avola/Merlot Terre Siciliane IGT 2017 ($22-25) comes across as a cross between a California- and Bordeaux-style wine with ripe cassis and berry notes. Very fruit driven, this is an excellent red table wine.
Besides the wines from Corvo, we also enjoyed those from Tasca d’Alermita. The Tenuta Regaleali “Antisa” Catarrato Sicilia DOC 2018 ($22) is from a relatively obscure grape variety, although it was once popular here. “Antisa” is the word used for the anticipation of each year’s harvest. Catarrato is the last grape harvested and Sicily’s most ancient grape. Stone fruit flavors and nice minerality.
Tenuta Regaleali Lamuri Sicilia DOC 2016 ($20). Made entirely from nero d’avola grapes, this simple and delicious wine has black cherry flavors with a hint of vanilla. It’s a great wine to pair with pizza, pasta and the like.
Dry Creek Vineyards
Dry Creek Vineyards has been on our radar screen for years, continually delivering high quality Sonoma County wines at fair prices. Two recent releases impressed us.
The Dry Creek Vineyards Meritage Dry Creek Valley 2018 ($35) is a true Meritage wine crafted from all five classic red Bordeaux varieties. Its 63 percent merlot leads off the batting order with cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petite verdot following in decreasing amounts. The blend creates a nice smooth complexity that presents wild cherry, plum and spice notes. Very easy to drink and would accompany a wide variety of cuisines.
The Dry Creek Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018 ($38) is another easy-to-drink wine. Although “old vine“ has no technical definition, Dry Creek utilizes grapes from vines that average 100 years old with some vines as old as 140 years. Classic black raspberry flavors along with blackberry accents and a hint of oak.
Knotty Vines Pinot Noir California 2018 ($15). Refreshing fruit redolent of cherry and strawberry.
Chateau Rieussec R de Rieussec Bordeaux Blanc Sec 2018 ($40). It’s a shame that more people don’t think of Bordeaux when they think of sauvignon blanc. Every time we try white Bordeaux, we regret not drinking it more often. The stature of these wines from Sauterne is helped immensely by blending semillon with the sauvignon blanc. This wine has intense and well-defined citrus aromas and broad pear flavors. Long finish and just a touch of oak.
Olema Sonoma County Chardonnay 2019 ($15). One of the best chardonnays for the price, this Sonoma County gem has white peach aromas and mouth-filling pear flavors with a hint of baking spice.
Rodney Strong Vineyards Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2018 ($22). If you like your chardonnay with a toasty, vanilla quality, this one is for you. Creamy mouthfeel with pear and citrus notes. Great value.
Rodney Strong Symmetry Red Meritage Alexander Valley 2016 ($55). This Bordeaux-like blend scores high on the delicious factor with rich plum and cherry fruit flavors. Nice spice background and long finish.
Robert Hall Paso Red Paso Robles 2017 ($17). The bulk of this wine is zinfandel and petite sirah with a dollop of petite verdot, tempranillo, and syrah. The end result is a delicious red blend that features bright fruit notes of mixed berries and cherries, with some spicy hints.