It’s a shame really. A place like Sicily (the Mediterranean’s largest island, and by way of comparison, slightly larger in area than the state of West Virginia) has a surprisingly varied number of soils and climate types. When it’s not erupting,volcanic-soiled Mount Etna is snowcapped year-round, and much of the higher elevations inland get impressive amounts of the white stuff too, while the sandy coastal regions, especially in the south and west of the island, are sunny and temperate year-round. But despite all of this variation over this stretch of earth, and a winemaking tradition dating back over 2,500 years, this place that has hosted literally dozens of layers of cultures and traditions over millennia, has only 23 D.O.C.-designated wines, and only one – yes one – D.O.C.G., and that is embodied in tonight’s wine from the Cerasuolo di Vittoria appellation.
The reason for the paucity of wine regions in Sicily has far more to do with politics and Sicily’s red-headed stepchild status within the Italian Republic than any actual fact of similarity of terroir, but there are some places that do get their due, and Cerasuolo di Vittoria is undeniably one of them. Located near the southeastern-most point of the island just north of the large town of Ragusa, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria zone is closer to the North African coast than it is to Rome, and the shower of sun and warmth that this placement affords are clearly reflected in its wine.
A small note on the name of this wine – in every other occasion of the use of the word “cerasuolo” in Italy, the reference is to what we would normally call “rose`”, but make no mistake, Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a RED wine. There is some notion that this ancient wine type once upon a time may have been a pink drink, but within the span of recent history, it has been as red as any red wine to be found anywhere else. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is always made from a blend of two grapes: the great Sicilian black grape Nero d’Avola that pervades the island, and which must make up 50%-70% of the blend, with the balance of mix (30%-50%) composed of the very local and sweetly aromatic pale red-juiced grape called Frappato. Not surprisingly, this is a fine matrimony, with Nero d’Avola furnishing deep, dark colors and flavors and a piercing acidity to the blend, and Frappato bringing its sweet and feminine fruity/floral aromatic character to the union. And what a union it is – one that is undeniably deserving of its D.O.C.G. status. Would that there were more of them.
I served this very sexy wine with a first course of penne rigate in a sauce of broccoli, tomato, onion, garlic, anchovies, pine nuts and raisins followed by oven-roasted chicken parts with artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives and orange juice.
Valle dell’ Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2010
Pinkish/magenta/garnet color. Pretty and elegant aromas of violet, lily, boysenberry, plum, cherry cordial, licorice, coal smoke, new leather, wet stones, brown spices, and hay. The palate is medium in body with softly dry and smooth tannins and a tartly fresh acidity and “sweet” flavors of strawberry jam, citron, candied watermelon, sandalwood, rose water, and mocha. Long and complex finish.