SICILY HAS BEEN MAKING wine for millennia and today claims more vineyards than any other wine region in Italy. Yet it has only recently garnered international recognition for producing high-quality table wines. Some come from international varieties, but more interesting are those from ancient grapes grown in Sicily since the time of the Greeks.
An island of long, warm, virtually rainless growing seasons, Sicily has long been known for Marsala, a fortified wine; for grappa, a brandy distilled from grape pomace; and for Moscato, a dessert wine.
Now, however, its table wines are collecting kudos for Sicily, and after tasting a batch of them recently at New York’s Chelsea Market restaurant, I understand why. All are well-made and in many cases offer new taste experiences. And they are reasonably priced. The first surprise was Tasca d’Almerita Brut Contea di Sclafani 2009 ($30), a deep-flavored sparkling wine made 100 percent of Chardonnay that is rich and fruity with a vivacious acidity.
After this sparkler, I concentrated on wines made from Sicily’s own grapes. Etna Bianco Pietradolce Archineri 2014 ($35), from the Carricante grape, a fresh, tangy white wine of medium body, presents a bouquet that melds floral notes with hints of apple.
Perricone, an ancient Sicilian red grape once popular on the island, fell into disuse and was recently rediscovered. In Feudo Montoni’s Perricone 2014 ($18), the grape produces a round, rather intense wine with striking fruit aromas, especially of plums, in its nose.
The most outstanding and most important indigenous Sicilian red grape — Nero d’Avola — has been used in winemaking in Sicily for centuries, mostly as a blending grape. Today it is newly appreciated as a varietal that gives wine a dark color, high tannins and sturdy body. Sicilia Rosso Hiera Hauner 2012 ($20) is a fine example of wine made from Nero d’Avola. Ink-dark in color, it features a firm structure with a bouquet that reminds one of cherries and dark berries; a spicy flavor; and a long, satisfying finish.
And these are just a few of the exciting wines now found in Sicily.
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