While staying at COS, on Sicily we popped North a little, to the other side of the Acate Valley to visit the eponymous Valle dell’Acate cantina. We had pre-booked using the contact details on the website and were offered tastings of 3 wines for a price that depended on the food that would be provided. I said we would take the more expensive €25 per person option, but asked nicely if we could taste all their wines, mentioning that I was a wine enthusiast with a blog. Very kindly they agreed. I say this not to offer hints about getting better tastings, but to declare that I was offered something on the basis of a possible implicit agreement to give them a write-up. But I actually promised nothing, and am writing this because I think they have wines of genuine interest.
We started with a tour of the older and more photogenic parts of the cantina – the cellar with large double-barrique barrels for ageing, and the early 20th century cantina, now a museum. The old cantina seemed to be very nicely designed, with, on the left in the picture below, shallow containers for treading grapes. against a wall with doors through which the grapes would be delivered. The must would then be allowed to run into deeper fermentation vessels. The opening to one of these can be seen in the centre of the picture. The wine would then run along channels, now covered, but you can see one or two to the right of the picture, into an area off to the right, and at a much lower level, where the wine was aged in barrels.
In the picture above you can see an open window throwing light into the cantina. Here is the view from the window, looking South across the mainly dry Acate valley. If I understand the geography correctly, the Acate Valley is carved into a more-or-less flat region, and the top of the hill you see represents the start of the flattish area where COS is located. The valley bottom, is also rather flat. If you want to see something to rival the landscape of Tuscany, don’t bother with this part of Sicily. The upside though, is that you manage to avoid the touristy gentrification that seems to plague the more obviously pretty parts of the wine world.
Finally, after asking specifically, I was briefly shown into the modern cantina. It was certainly modern – lots of stainless steel and control panels. I was told that a lot of the kit was due for replacement. Actually, maybe the buttons on the panels did look like they belonged to a time a couple of decades ago, but I was still impressed that it was already up for modernisation. Maybe I am not a typical visitor, but I think they should be less coy about showing how wine is made today.
These wines were presented as a tasting, in the order listed below, and the notes were taken before the food was served. They are all the current releases, and I understand that we covered the full range of Valle dell’Acate wines. The prices are approximate or estimated UK retail prices.
Insolia, Vittoria Insolia DOC, 2012, 12.5%, £11
Watery appearance. Light, fresh, floral nose. Medium low acidity, dry, viscous, OK length. Drink now ***
Grillo, Zagra, Sicilia Bianco DOC, 2012, 13.0%, £12
Pale green. Fresh. Orange blossom. Medium low acidity, dry. Excellent length. This had a lot more character and flavour than the Insolia. Drink now ****
Bidis, Sicilia Bianco DOC, Chardonnay Insolia, 2011, 13.5%, £18
Light greeny gold. Estery nose, maybe some banana, and oak. Medium acidity. Dry. Light, fresh and sharp finish. Excellent length. Although a little oaky, this was not a heavy international style. Drink now ****
Il Frappato, Vittoria Frappato DOC, 2012, 13.0%, £14
Pale purple ruby. Light confected red fruit. This reminded me of stereotypical Beaujolais. Medium low acidity. Medium low tannin. Drink now ***
Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG, Nero d’Avola Frappato, 2009, 13.5%, £16
Medium pale garnet. Intense. High-toned. Complex. Medium low acidity. As nose. Excellent length. Medium low tannin. This is more like it! Drink now ****
Il Moro, Nero d’Avola, Sicilia IGT, 2009, 13.5%, £16
Medium pale garnet. Intense, fresh dark fruit. Medium acid. Medium tannin. As nose. Excellent length. Good minerality. Another good wine. Drink now or keep a few years ****
Rusciano, Sicilia IGT, Syrah and local grapes, 2010, 14.0%, £20
Medium pale purple ruby. Vaguely Syrah-like. Medium acid. As nose. Medium tannin. OK, but this wine did not really hold my interest. Needs more time ***
Tané, Sicilia IGT, Nero d’Avola Syrah, 2006, 15.0%, £25
Medium garnet tawny. Intense caramel and figs – flavours I perhaps wrongly associate with oxidation, but I know others like more than me. Medium low acidity. Medium tannin. As nose, but lighter than expected. Drink now. Not really to my taste ***
All in all, I felt this was a good range of very different wines. The acid test is perhaps which wines we took away with us. We were offered the remains of 2 bottles that were opened for the tasting. Without much thought we decided on the Zagra and Bidis. Despite the lack of thought, they turned out to be good choices, and we drank them as aperitifs over the next few days, and with a bread, cheese and ham meal. After a few days of drinking the wines, I did not feel the need to change my original notes to reflect any new impressions. And we bought a Zagra and Il Moro to take back to the UK. The cantina prices were particularly favourable compared with UK prices, so it is a good place to stock with wine to take back in your car – unfortunately we had an airline luggage allowance to contend with.