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Tag Archives: Sicilian wine

Wine of the week: Cusumano Insolia 2012

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Cusumano InsoliaThe Wine Curmudgeon, for all the chips on his shoulder, is always wiling to admit when he’s wrong. Hence another mea culpa for Cusumano, the Sicilian producer whose qualities I have doubted, and this time for its Inosolia white wine.

The Cusumano Insolia ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is made with the insolia grape, native to Sicily and mostly used to make marsala until the Sicilian wine revolution of the past decade. This is an unusual white grape, even for Sicily, and I’m not sure there’s a white quite like it anywhere else in the world — almost tannic, but also softer than chardonnay and crisper than viognier.

This vintage, which is apparently current despite its age, isn’t as long in the finish as when it was younger, but it still shows why Cusumano is one of the best producers on the island. Look for the qualities that make me so excited about Sicilian white wine — melon fruit, white pepper, an herbal aroma, and all in balance for a very fair price.

Drink this chilled, and pair it with grilled fish or chicken finished with olive oil and herbs. In this, one more reason why we don’t need to drink badly made chardonnay.

Wine of the week: Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2012

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Cusumano Nero d'Avola Two years ago, I wrote: “One day, perhaps, Sicily will take its place as one of the world’s great wine regions…” and then listed all the horrible things that would happen when it did. Which is mostly what has happened, and the Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2012 ($10, purchased, 14%) demonstrates just that.

Six years ago, when I first tasted Cusumano, few people who weren’t the Italian Wine Guy knew about Sicilian wine. Today, it’s all over the wine magazines, the best Sicilian wines from the Mt. Etna region cost as much as $100, and there is even Sicilian wine made to taste like grocery store merlot.

The Cusumano Nero d’Avola, a red wine made with the nero d’avola grape, has gone down a similar path, from a wine rarely tasted in the U.S. to one imported by one of the most successful American wine marketers. Along the way, the price went up, the wine lost something that made it what it was, and I took it out of the $10 Hall of Fame. I’m not the Wine Curmudgeon for nothing.

But I’ve made my peace with these changes, and two recent tastings, this red and the white Insolia, have restored my faith in the brand. This version of the Cusumano Nero d’Avola isn’t as dark and plummy as previous vintages, but it isn’t as fruity as it was when I tasted it a year ago, either. Bottle age helped restore the balance between the red fruit and its Sicilian earthiness, and I enjoyed the wine. It’s red sauce, pizza with cheese and sausage, and maybe even chicken cacciatore.

It probably won’t return to the Hall of Fame when the 2013 vintage arrives this year, given the price increase, but I’ll buy it and no doubt enjoy it. And that will be enough.

Wine of the week: Planeta La Segreta Bianco 2012

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 Planeta La Segreta What makes a great cheap wine? First, more quality than the cost. Second, consistency from vintage to vintage, so that quality doesn’t suffer to keep the price down. Third, terroir — does the wine taste like where it came from?

Which is why Sicilian wine has been seen so many times on the blog over the past several years, and why the Segreta red and white blends from La Planeta have so often been part of that. This vintage of the Bianco ($8, purchased, 12.5%) is no exception — it has everything a great cheap wine should have:

• The cost/quality ratio should embarrass other regions (are you listening, California?), with top-notch fruit and professional winemaking that uses the fruit to its best advantage. That means no tricks like fake oak to cover up a flaw.

• This wine, though it doesn’t taste exactly the same as the 2010, is of the same high quality.

• And it does taste of Sicily, with white fruit and citrus, thanks to the island’s grecancio grape, which is half the blend. If this vintage is not as rich as the 2010, it’s fresher and a little more food friendly. It’s grilled seafood and chicken wine, as well as hummus and pitas

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame. I should also note the screwcap, and the very well done back label, which includes the phrase “a great everyday wine.” Would that others were so direct about the wine they make, and not try to convince us that their grocery store merlot is one of the great wines of the world.

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