This past week, we tasted a lot of wine at A Voce. I mean a lot. It's hard to stay in shape in my business. My trainer tells me a glass of wine has 140 calories. Not that I keep count, but I do know how much pain at the gym it takes to burn a few glasses. So maybe really I do pay attention more than I'd want my dad to know. Spit it out, you say?
If I was only that disciplined.
Anyway, our wine director at A Voce, Olivier Flosse, had set up a bunch of tastings to keep our Italian selections fresh. Balance and value have always been really important to us, and we've been looking for cool Italian stuff to highlight besides our 61 Aldo Conterno selections and the 2001 Ornellaias (which I'll talk about in a subsequent post). Of the wines we tasted, three wines really stood out. They came from the two regions that have moved on from their jug wine reputations.
Planeta's Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the first wine to earn DOCG status in Sicily last year, is a blend of 60% Nero d'Avola and 40% Frappato. It has one of the strangest noses I have ever come across, with a light smokiness, black pepper notes, berry and cherry flavors and long finish—even longer than a Yes song from 1975. If I could compare it to anything, it would be a Gamay. About an hour after we opened the bottle, I had it with some fiore di Sardo cheese, and it rocked. Travelers' note: If you are driving in this part of Sicily, be careful. The worst roads in Sicily are to be found between Ragusa and Agrigento, and the line in the middle of the road, when it isn't covered in dirt, is regarded as mere decoration by many Sicilian drivers. If you're lucky, you'll get stuck behind one of those huge cement trucks. The city of Ragusa, by the way, has an awesome restaurant called Il Duomo, where you can find very fresh and refined Sicilian-style dishes from chef Ciccio Sultano, who worked in New York before returning Ragusa.
Next, we tried a couple of Moscatos: a Pantelleria, a delle Lipari and a di Noto. I really liked the Moscato di Noto, also from Planeta. Wines like this one, made with 100% Moscato grapes, especially from such a hot climate, do tend to be very sweet, but this one had plenty of acidity to balance it. I would say it smells like a Sicilian pastry shop: cassata, orange blossoms, sesame, maraschino cherries, pistachios and candied fruit. My grandmother would always put booze on top of ice cream; this wine would be great on top of an orange, plum or apricot sorbetto. Or it would make a great marinade for some fresh peaches, topped with sweetened marscarpone and toasted Marcona almonds, with a glass of chilled moscato served alongside.
Which reminds me, Noto does have a pretty famous gelato place called Corrado Costanzo, where the mandarino sorbetto kicks ass. Noto has some crazy driving also, including the steepest, slipperiest and narrowest roads ever. I got there in a downpour and put my manual transmission skills to the test, swearing and freaking out, because every time I stopped, I would both slide backwards and stall at the same time. That was really great. My wife really loved it.
For a long time, my favorite Sardinian wine has been the Argiolas Isola dei Nuraghi Korem. I've always thought it was cool to have this "traditional" blend of native Bovale Sardo, Carmignano and Cannonau grapes. However, my new favorite might be the 2003 Isola dei Nuraghi Barrua, which we just tasted. Made with 85% Carmignano, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot, it has this new-style nose with a lot of fruit, but behind that, a more Old World taste with lots of licorice notes. I could see this doing really well with a slice of porchetta stuffed with sausage and sage, a rosemary-olive sauce and some potatoes roasted in pork fat. Serve that with some carta di musica and you’ll be wishing you were on a beach on Isola Budelli.
What else should I put on my list?
Phil Talamo — Bron, NY — July 10, 2007 3:27pm ET
Trevor/38 On Central — July 10, 2007 4:12pm ET
Daniel Petroski — 95403 — July 11, 2007 2:26am ET
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