Das Sagt Man Über Uns Uns

22 April 2011

INDIAN WINE ACADEMY

 

 Wine Travels: Sicily-a Sea of Wine

Thinking Sicily brings to mind a kaleidoscope of pictures including that of Don Corleone of Godfather fame, hot tempered gun toting and overprotective fathers and a sea of wines that includes bulk and cheap wines, but indigenous grapes unique to the region and a push to quality in the last couple of decades, has made it a New World of Italy in the world market, writes Subhash Arora who recently met several producers from the region in Vinitaly .

Italy's largest vineyard (25,708 square kms. area), Sicily is divided into 9 provinces - Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Siracusa and Trapani. It has the highest acreage of vineyards, covering 164,500 hA of which only 21,000 hA are registered in 22 DOC Appellations with one DOCG for red wine, Cerasuolo di Vittoria which got upgraded in 2005.

Annual wine production of 11,000,000 hL is second only to Puglia and includes only 1.5 per cent or 277,000 hL of DOC wines out of which more than 95 per cent is white. Around 220,000 hL of this wine is DOC Marsala, a fortified wine which had lost a following in the last few decades but is making a comeback as dry wine.

Most popular white grapes of Sicily are Grillo (being grown by Vintage Wines in India), Inzolia, Catarratto, Carricante, Zibibbo (Moscato di Alessandria) although Chardonnay is the most popular international white variety. Nero d’Avola is the ubiquitous red grape-perhaps the signature grape of Sicily, which has the distinction of giving different expression in various parts of the region- dozens of diverse characteristics can be enjoyed from different zones. Other interesting varietals are Nerello Mascalese, Frappato (which together with Nero d’Avola makes the only docg wine- Cerasuolo di Vittoria),   although Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are quite popular as varietals or used in blends.

The most visible wine in the bottle in Sicilia (pronounced as See-Cheel-iya) is IGT Sicily, besides Vino d’Tavola. It may be produced from any Sicilian grown grapes- both international and indigenous varieties. This gives them a great flexibility, according to many producers who feel that Sicily is the ‘New World’ of the Old World. The Sicilian IGT wines must declare the year of harvest and generally also indicate the grape varietal on the label, making it easier for drinkers in choosing their wine. Don’t be confused if you see a label with Indicazione Geografica Protetta (IGP). This is a modified classification of IGT initiated in 2009 and is slightly more stringent than IGT.

The problem with the IGT Sicily wines is that the quality can be absolutely basic and it may be an entry level wine or even a high volume wine. Unless the producer is known for his integrity and quality aspirations, one cannot be certain of what’s in the bottle. Worse, the wine can be bottled in Germany, Piemonte, California or even India and be still known as IGT Sicily wine. DOC Sicilia is in the offing and we have already written about it in one of the articles in delWine earlier:

http://www.indianwineacademy.com/item_3_373.aspx
http://www.indianwineacademy.com/item_3_372.aspx
http://www.indianwineacademy.com/item_5_369.aspx

The Istituto Regionale della Vite e del Vino (IRVV) had organised a Taste and Buy session for buyers from different parts of the world to meet 140 producers from the region during the first two days of Vinitaly-on April 7 and 8. Dario Cartabellotta –General Manager of the Istituto, felt that the B2B meetings were highly successful, an interesting feature being the presence of French buyers as well. Several producers showed interest in the Indian market.

Here is a brief outline of 11 of those-not in any order of production, quality or quantity or recommendation but in the order of meeting them. Some of them had great wines at the entry level while others showcased wines that might be slightly expensive due to the pre-conceived notion that Sicilian wines are low-cost wines, but they could beat their competitors from other countries hands down in price-quality ratio.

8. Azienda Agricola Spadafora
Via Ausonia 90, Contrada Virzi (Palermo)
Francesco Spadafora-Owner
Marco Calligaris, Export Manager
marcowines@yahoo.com, info@spadaora.com
Francesco Spadafora had visited India with a delegation, about three years ago. He met me and also left a couple of samples to taste. I remember they were delicious, high quality wines and I had so written to him. We had both forgotten about it until I met his export manager Marco Calligaris and remembered the episode. Later, I also met Francesco who did remember the meeting.

This is a 100 year+ old family company which grew grapes and sold to co-operatives and in 1988 set up their own winery. The 180 hA estate has 95hA of vines planted-wines are produced only from the estate-grown grapes. The vineyards are at 250-400m height in the hills, facing North(they like the slopes to be North facing to avoid the sun heat of the summer). Catarratto, Grillo, Chardonnay, Inzolia are white grapes grown, with the reds being Nero d’Avola, Merlot and Cabernet.

While Schietto is the work-horse varietal label, Don Pietro-named after his father is the plum of the eye for his family. Don Pietro white is a blend of Catarratto, Grillo and Inzolia in equal proportions while the red is a Bordeaux type of blend with 40% Cabernet and 30% each of Nero d’Avola and Merlot. It’s a delicious easy drinking wine. Schietto Syrah and Cabernet were full bodied, well structured wines with 14.5% alcohol and good example of being slightly more expensive but great value for money wines for connoisseurs with excellent price/quality ratio.