Friday, November 25, 2011

Sicilian Wine

The wine market is quite an 'efficient' one. Wine which rates highly is usually quite good, it is also expensive. Finding major 'bargains' is difficult, and when it happens, mostly a one-off.

Opportunities can present themselves, however, when wine regions move from quaffing wine production to fine wine production. These opportunities are limited in Australia, as wine writers tend to elevate these regions, before they have really arrived. The area around Orange might be a present example, the Canberra district some years ago.

Interestingly, in good old Europe, the awareness of wine and wineries is not as highly developed as in the CBDs of Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide - which brings me to my topic, Sicilian wines.

People have been interested in the next big thing from Italy, after the well established regions of Tuscany and Piedmont, and Sicily was elevated as 'hot': warm climate, volcanic soil and indigenous grapes seems an attractive mix. And it is true, wineries are taking steps to improve the quality of their wines to 'fine wines'.

This is where the opportunity arises: some wineries jump straight to flashy marketing and manage to sell their story, some are still conservative and sleepy and produce good wine at very attractive prices. It is of course difficult to identify these from Australia. However, having just been to Sicily, I found it interesting enough to report on this - and I have quite a few European readers.

Planeta is the flashy company. It exports to the US and has good Wine Spectator ratings. It produces international wine. The 2007 Planeta Syrah is an ok wine, but the fruit is not very concentrated, the mouthfeel a bit thin, and the finish not very long (86 points).

The opposite is Gambini. It produces wine from indigenous grapes. The Etna wines are called Tifeo. The white is made from Carregante and Catarratto and has clean citrus flavours, minerality and a good mouthfeel. This dry white is a great lunch drink at 12% alcohol. The red is made predominantly from Nerello Mascalese (Sicily's most interesting grape) and Nerello Cappuccio. This wine is perfumed, smoky, and with good length - an interesting and unusual wine. The Sicily wines are called Cantari and come from bought- in grapes. The white is actually made from the juice of the red grape Nerello Mascalese and is tropical and elegant, the red is from the Nero d'Avola grape and tastes a bit like Shiraz: peppery, licorice and cherry. All wines cost 8 or 9 Euro and I would rate them about 90 points. The drawback: no exports to Australia yet. They ship to other parts of Europe and the US, though.

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