Tasting notes

Published April 6, 2005

The new wines of Sicily are increasingly available but not always easy to spot because they are often grouped with other wines from the south of Italy.

While labels do say I.G.T. or Indicazione Geographic Tipica of Sicily, and use Sicilian terms and icons, the most noticeable clue is often the name of the grape.

The striking one is nero d'Avola, the black grape of Avola. There are others too, such as the red frappato, and grillo and grecanico among the whites. Merlot, syrah, chardonnay are also grown and sold on their own and blended with native grapes.

Sicily's unique grapes and traditional style make their presence known in the the glass and in the air around them, with rich aromas and full body. Most Sicilian wines, even the whites, get richer and rounder with a few minutes of aeration.

Have them with robust pastas, lamb and strong cheeses such as peppercorn pecorino or cacciovallo.

* Grillo, Arancio, 2002 ($12). When made into a dry wine, the white grapes of the best Marsala are an exciting alternative to chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. It has a gold color, a bouquet of honey, almonds and a bit of peach and melon, and a glossy texture. It's round in the mouth, slightly sweet but with refreshing crisp citrus. Part of the new all-Sicilian Arancio line from Mezzacorona. In your dreams, pinot grigio.

* Corvo Bianco, 2002 ($10). The old staple is now made entirely of inzollia (Corvo red is heavily nero d'Avola). It is still rather simple, but clean and fresh, not watery. It has full body, rich color and flowery perfume. It's silky, easy to drink and not too tart but crisp. Made for the hot sun and an ice-cold cooler.

* La Segreta Rosso, Planeta, 2002 ($16). A top name in modern Sicilian wine, the Planeta family shows off nero d'Avola, backed up with a little merlot. The result is rich, jammy with berries and thick with smoky, fatty flavors. A big-hearted wine and easy to embrace.

* Nero d'Avola, I Feudi di Sicilia, Pasqua & Fazio, 2002 ($13). A classic of modern nero, it has an aroma of plums, blueberries and woodsy tastes. In the mouth it's soft and full, with hints of pepper and a touch of chocolate as extra rewards. Nothing burning here, just great fiddle music.

* Rosso, Santagostino, Baglia Soria, 2001 ($23). Nero d'Avola is equal partners with syrah in this blend, making a sturdy wine destined for a long life. In early life it is dark, full of berries and pepper and has a rich mouth feel but still tannic and a bit harsh. Opens up decidedly in the glass, but better to keep the cork in the bottle a few more years.