This year I resolved to learn more about Italian wine. My education in that direction still leaves a lot to be desired, but I have enjoyed the process so far. As part of my mission I bought a mixed case of Italian wine from The Wine Society using the sole criterion that they were wines I knew little about, with the intention of presenting them to my local tasting group. They turned out to be a lot better than I could have hoped for, and I am describing a couple of the wines here. They are the ones I enjoyed most from the selection, and the ones I bought more of, but the main reason I am blogging about them is because I find them so fascinating. They both happen to come from Sicily. Prior to this experience, the only Sicilian wines I remember trying were some good but very international varietals from Planeta. Oh, and Donnafugato’s Ben Ryé, which was also good, but in my opinion expensive and over-rated. In contrast, the wines described below opened up a whole new world for me.
Azienda Agricola Cos, Pithos, Sicilia IGT, 2008, The Wine Society, £17.00
Azienda Agricola Cos, Pithos, Sicilia IGT, 2009, Joseph Barnes Wines, £21.00
I shared a whole bottle of each of these vintages with food. The first one was bought for the tasting, but never made it that far as I needed to cut back on the number of wines to show. I got the 2009 because I liked the 2008 so much, and at the time Joseph Barnes was the only merchant in the UK claiming to stock it – but as it turned out they had moved on to the 2009 too. The 2008 got “one glass” in Gambero Rosso’s Italian Wines 2011.
This wine is 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato di Vittoria. The grapes are those of Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, so I am not sure why this is a mere IGT. It is very trendily fermented and matured in terracotta amphorae, unfiltered and has low sulphur – a natural wine I guess, but I will not hold that against it. The 2008 has 13.5% on the label, and the 2009 12.0%. Whether that reflects the vintages, or is rather a labelling artifact, I wouldn’t like to say. I did not notice a huge vintage variation in terms of body, but my notes did differ in other respects.
2008, with a meal: Pale ruby garnet. Very attractive nose, with intense fresh sharp red fruit, and some more mature notes. Some undergrowth. Medium high acidity and astringency. The fresh sharp fruit notes up front, with the other aromas detected on the nose coming through later on the palate – undergrowth, and finally a long fruity finish. Light, good perfumed aromatics that put me in mind of a decent Burgundy. Delicious, and my sort of wine. Drink now, or maybe try keeping for a few years to see what happens. *****
2009, with a meal: Very pale garnet. Intense nose. Undergrowth, and some delicate red fruit. Violets, particularly when not swirling. Medium high acidity, and low but detectable astringency. Aromas on the palate as on the nose, with lovely tingly finish and fantastic length. Delicately perfumed like a Burgundy can be, except for violet notes rather than the aromas more commonly associated with Pinot Noir. As the evening progressed and the wine warmed up further from cellar temperature, the undergrowth character disappeared, and the fruit became dominant – which I thought less good, but still nice. Drink now I think, but as I have 5 bottles remaining I’ll spread them out over the next few years and see how it goes. *****
Nicosia, Fondo Filara, Etna Rosso DOC, 2008, The Wine Society, £11.00
I tried this at the tasting, and subsequently shared another bottle bought from The Wine Society with food. Yesterday I ordered a case from Fresco di Vigna in Sicily – the only source according to wine-searcher. It will be interesting to see how successfully my purchase arrives. Even including €40 shipping it worked out about £1 per bottle cheaper than The Wine Society. This wine got “2 glasses” in the same edition of Gamero Rosso.
A note from the tasting: This had been double decanted 3hrs ago. Medium intense purple ruby. Intense dark fruit. Mature notes, restrained and spicy. Medium high acid and astringency. Excellent length. Good now, but will probably improve in 5 years. *****
Another bottle, with a meal: Medium light ruby (OK, so it is not only my nose and palate that is inconsistent). On the nose, good, intense, juicy sweet red fruit. Vanilla, and cinnamon maybe. Medium high acid, and medium low astringency. Aromas as on nose. Excellent length. Understated pleasure. At this point I was thinking ***. But by the time I had got to the bottom of even my first glass I was liking it more – it seemed more complex and interesting, so ****. By the end of the evening it had changed completely, showing bretty Bandaid notes. Maybe ***** now. The following day, it was more sweet and raisiny, which I usually associate with some oxidation, but it also had a lemon sherbety finish. Unlike many tasters it seems, I do not usually notice that a wine changes over the course of an evening, and the changes in this wine were a large part of the attraction. Overall, for being so interesting, I think it gets *****