I haven’t really seen all that many great red wines from Sicily. Sure I have given plenty of 90- and 91-point scores to wines from the island in recent years, but I am still waiting to score some wines in the mid to high 90s – real classic quality.
And I think that Nero d’Avola is the grape that is going to make the island’s reputation for world-class reds. Until now, a number of producers have been working well with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. But Nero d’Avola is the grape to follow, in my opinion.
I visited a couple of the island’s wineries this weekend – Cusumano and Feudo Maccari (Saia). And I tasted Nero d’Avolas from bottle and barrel, including the 2003, 2004 and 2005 vintages. The latter appears to be a very good to excellent quality vintage, and if producers can work out their selections to attain the highest quality, we could see some very exciting Nero d’Avolas.
My concern is that a number of Sicilian wineries are looking for a quick fix with the grape, meaning they are already blending everything imaginable with it, from Syrah to Merlot to who knows what. Why not just leave it alone? I think Nero d'Avola is like Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. It likes to be in the bottle by itself in its unadulterated beauty. Moreover, wine producers in Sicily need to understand the grape better, from selecting the best clones to planting in the best soils and microclimates. Short-cut blending is going to prolong the time it takes them to reach an understanding.
I visited with Diego Cusumano last Saturday, both at his vineyards in Butiera and his winery and vineyards near Palermo. And he told me, “We are still very new at all this in Sicily. We don’t have that long experience with producing high quality wines…in the past Sicily was making wines primarily for selling in bulk at very low prices, which were shipped all over Europe…we have a lot to learn and understand.”
In fact, his family’s winery was created from that bulk business in the early 1960s, and it was Diego who decided to go the quality route in 2000. His wines are now some of the best values in Italy. His simple Nero d’Avola (I gave the 2004 vintage 88 points in blind tastings for the magazine) is always a great buy at about $11 a bottle. And I always like his standard white, a pure Insolia, also for $11; I scored the 2004 at 87 points.
I was really excited by what I tasted in the barrel samples of 2005 Nero, even though they came only from two wineries. Many of the wines had beautiful perfumes of berries and minerals with much less of the cooked, stewed fruit character than I have found in the past. And their palates were layered yet refined. I can’t wait to rate them when they finally arrive in bottle.
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — May 29, 2006 4:08pm ET
Michael Culley — May 30, 2006 10:00am ET
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — May 30, 2006 2:17pm ET
Robert Horvath — land O lakes, florida — May 30, 2006 5:40pm ET
Brad Coelho — New York City — May 30, 2006 11:35pm ET
James Suckling — — May 31, 2006 3:54am ET
Filippo Recchi — Florence, Italy — May 31, 2006 4:06am ET
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — May 31, 2006 8:37am ET
Jeffrey Ghi — New York — May 31, 2006 8:47am ET
Michael Culley — May 31, 2006 11:29am ET
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — May 31, 2006 11:32am ET
Jeffrey Ghi — New York — May 31, 2006 1:21pm ET
Phil Talamo — Bron, NY — May 31, 2006 1:31pm ET
Greg Bednarz — Seattle, WA USA — December 17, 2009 2:18am ET
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