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Tag Archives: Sicilian wine

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.

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Nero d’Avola-Syrah 2011

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Feudo Zirtari Nero d'Avola-Syrah One more reason that Sicilian wine deserves to enter the mainstream — the Zirtari ($12, purchased, 14%), a funky wine that is delicious yet does not seem especially Sicilian. One knows a wine region has found its niche when you can write that about one of its wines.

First, the Zirtari is almost one-half syrah, hardly a grape indigenous to the island. Second, the syrah gives it an almost Rhone-like character, richer (almost fatty) than similarly-priced Sicilian reds. Plus, there isn’t much earthiness, but there is well-balanced black fruit and the particular character that the Sicilian nero d’avola grape adds to a well-made wine.

In all, a wine that is enjoyable, dark, and almost brooding. It’s intense enough for summer barbecue and red meat, but not so heavy, with its 14 percent alcohol, to be be off-putting in hot weather. It was a most pleasant surprise to find when I was looking for something else.

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