Finally, southern Italian wine is on the up-and-up internationally! We are starting to see little sparkles of Sicilian nero d'avola or frappato wines popping up on restaurant lists among the occasional Primitivo from Puglia or a Greco di Tufo from Campania/Calabria. However, getting southern Italian people to drink southern Italian wines is another great feat - to be conquered at another time and by another guy (read as Silvestro Silvestori's new wine program cheekily called "TERRONIA").
After living for one year on the largest family-owned wine estate in Sicily, I thought I had a good start to learning about Sicilian wines. Here we are four years after my first visit to Palermo and those bright virgin sips of catarratto. Working with Fabrizia Lanza at Case Vecchie, we served the cooking school guests a wine for aperitivo, two or three wines with dinner and sometimes a dessert wine or homemade liqueur after the meal. I tasted my way through every single label of those Tasca d'Almerita wines at Regaleali -- but still, so much more to learn.
Along comes my friend Silve: a handsome smart guy from Puglia who is a certified sommelier, a Southern Italian wine expert and freelance writer for Wine & Spirits magazine. "Wanna go on a cycling trip around Puglia to visit wineries for a couple of weeks?" After convincing him to move the trip to Sicilia, this cheeky chick was on board.
Here's a little wine update from the #CHEEKYbici trip. I am no expert so I'll generalize and break it up this way: There are incredible white grapes growing on the west side of Sicily and killer reds on the eastern side (with bits of overlap, of course). There are certainly great reds that grow all over the island and vice versa with the white grapes. Sicily also has a history of growing international varietals (chardonnay, cabernet, merlot, syrah, etc.) in many different parts of the island, and a few drag-queens, as I'll call them, like perricone (red grape on the west side) and carricante (a white grape from the east) who dare to be different because of their complexity.
WESTCOAST SICILIAN VARIETALS:
catarratto | grapes produce a golden-colored wine + they are planted all around the island. this is the most common white grape used for marsala wine.
grillo | a true westcoaster grown in Marsala, Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento. grillo wines have a deep yellow color and they can actually age fairly well.
inzolia | also known as "ansonica", can be used in making marsala. inzolia has a greenish hue with a very strong herbal aroma.
zibibbo | also known as "moscato di Pantelleria", brought to Sicily by the Romans, these are grown mainly on the island of Pantelleria where the grapes are dried and made into a dessert wine called passito.
pericone | a.k.a. pignatello is the most planted grape in all of western Sicily, perricone is found mostly in the regions of Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento. these special wines have a medium body and red candy cherry flavor like cocacola and they are best if you drink them while the wine is still young...this is not an ager.
CHEEKY'S PICKS FOR SICILY'S WESTCOAST VINO BIANCO:
Bosco Falconeria, Catarratto IGT from Alcamo
Tasca d'Almerita, Grillo Cavallo delle Fate, Sicilia DOC
Cantine Barbera, Dietro le Case, Inzolia Menfi DOC
Donnafugata, Ben Ryé, Passito di Pantelleria DOP