The 4 best Sicilian red wines to buy this winter
Sicilians have been cultivating vines on their mountainous island for millennia, with little outside notice.
But lately, the region’s proud winemakers (who only received their Sicilia DOC, or « controlled designation of origin, » in 2012) are no longer content with making simple table wines or producing in bulk to be sent as an anonymous filler for other wine regions.
Instead, they embrace native, friendly grapes – like Nerello Mascalese, Nero d’Avola, Grillo, Catarratto and Frappato – and their vinous beauty in the glass.
Discover Sicily with these four fantastic bottles.
Sambucese Grillo 2021 ($12)
The charming Grillo de Sambucese grows in Salaparuta in western Sicily, a small, arid wine region that produces beautiful whites like this.
Its pale yellow hue introduces you to the vibrant aromas and flavors of lemon and white grapefruit, but it also offers lovely beeswax notes and a satisfying heaviness on the palate.
A lingering, energetic finish of citrus zest makes it more versatile than just a thirst quencher. Sip it as an aperitif, sure, but feel free to pair it with everything from rare tuna to pork.
Sambucese Nero d’Avola 2020 ($12)
There is a nice freshness in this pretty Nero d’Avola (the most planted grape variety, red or white, in Sicily) that is easy to like.
It’s wonderfully juicy on the palate, offering notes of plump blueberries and dark plums, just the right amount of sweet tannins and a bit of baking spice.
At an even 13% BAC (with a bargain price), it’s a red you can enjoy more than one drink before you hit the wall. And you should – with a plate of salumi and cheese or alongside your favorite pizza on weekdays.
Planeta Frappato 2020 ($27)
With vineyards in five regions of Sicily, Planeta has been at the forefront of the island’s wine industry since 1995.
The label’s Frappato, grown in the red sand soils of Vittoria, is lesser known than Sicily’s red calling card, Nero d’Avola, but it deserves your attention.
The nose is all roses and raspberries, with a juicy hint of plum on the palate wrapped in savory flavors of thyme and fennel. It’s light and lovely, but not without surprising tannic grip.
Serve with swordfish, olives and fresh herbs.
Alta Mora Etna Rosso 2019 ($25)
Diego and Alberto Cusumano built a reputation on their namesake Nero d’Avola, but it was their dream to open a winery on the volcanic soils of Etna.
Alta Mora is the estate’s embodiment of that aspiration, with vineyards spanning 4,000 feet in elevation.
Their elegant Etna Rosso is 100% Nerello Mascalese. Deep and opaque ruby color, it offers aromas and flavors of black cherry, eucalyptus and a little tangy and spicy licorice.