This vintage of the Stemmari grillo reminds us how terrific cheap Sicilian wine can be
About a decade ago, Sicily was home to some of the world’s best – and least known – cheap wine. But then the wine geeks discovered the Italian island, prices went up, and quality suffered. Case in point is the Stemmari grillo, which alternates between terrific and not worth drinking as often as a wine judge spits.
The 2017 version of the Stemmari grillo ($10, purchased, 13%) is back to terrific. As my notes say: “Much better than expected, and especially after the past several vintages.” In fact, I bought this white wine, made with the grillo grape, because I have to buy lots of bad wine to find something worth writing about.
What makes this version of the Stemmari grillo so much more interesting? It tastes like grillo, for one thing – spicy (white pepper?), with some sort of lemony apple flavor (or apple-y lemon, if you prefer), and it’s dry and clean and almost minerally. When the wine is off, it’s sort of oxidized – heavy and brandyish and about as refreshing as a kick in the head.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame. Just make sure you buy this vintage, and not one of the previous two or three. Chill and drink on its on, or pair with almost anything Mediterranean that comes from the sea. And it wouldn’t be bad with humms, pita breads, and a bulgur salad, either.
The Tiamo Grillo, a Sicilian white, is the first canned wine worth drinking
The Wine Curmudgeon has long railed against canned wine – not because I’m a Luddite who doesn’t think wine should come in cans, but because too much canned wine tastes like Kool-Aid spiked with watered down grain alcohol.
So I’m excited to report that the Tiamo Grillo ($5/375 ml can, sample, 12%), a Sicilian white wine, does for canned wine what almost no one else has done. Most canned wine seems to be made to appeal to someone who would drink wine from a can, instead of making wine that comes in a can. The difference is a funny, faux-rich and sweet mouth feel, which the Tiamo doesn’t have. It tastes like wine. Plus, it’s quality cheap wine that’s priced appropriately, the equivalent of $10 a bottle instead of $15 a bottle because you’re paying for the can. In all, it’s a surprising candidate for the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame.
Grillo produces is a crisp, lemony wine, and the Tiamo could have been a little bit more lemony. In this case, it was more soft lemon with maybe some apricots, and I would have liked a little more crispness on the finish. But it was fresh and enjoyable and delivered value, and how often have I been able to say that about canned wine?
One word of advice: The Tiamo loses something in drinking it from the can, which I tried and found lacking. Maybe it’s the taste of the can that gets in the way. But when I used a glass, it was all I had hoped it would be.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.
• Château de la Mulonniere Chenin Blanc 201 ($15, sample, 12.5%): Premiumized wine — $10 or $12 worth of French white from the Loire region, but almost too soft and without enough of the steeliness that marks the Loire style. What’s the point of that?
• Montefalco Bianco 2014 ($20, sample, 13%): This Italian white blend, made with two Italian grapes and one-quarter chardonnay, is complex and intriguing. It’s not the usual short and simple Italian white, but has layers of white fruit and spice, plus some very integrated oak. Not for those who want a basic pinot grigio, but worth trying if you want to explore Italian wine.
The Wine Curmudgeon always tries to find wine that people who don’t drink much wine would like, all part of my goal of spreading the gospel to consumers near and far. So when I saw the Poggio Anima Uriel ($12, purchased, 13%) on the wine list at a Dallas pizza restaurant, I knew I was in business.
Sure enough, the friends we were eating with loved it, including the non-wine drinker in the group. She pronounced it as well done as pinot grigio — score another victory for Sicily and great cheap wine.
The Uriel is a white wine made with grillo, a Sicilian grape used mostly for marsala until the island’s wine renaissance of the past couple of decades. Since then, a variety of producers have turned it into tasty and inexpensive dry wines, and the Uriel is yet another example. Look for enough white fruit to be noticeable, a bit of almond on the nose, and wonderful freshness and balance. This is the kind of wine, after you take the first sip, that you know you’ll want to drink all night.
How enjoyable was the Uriel? So much so that it was close to the highlight of dinner, given that the pizza was — as happens all too often in Dallas — over-hyped to the extreme. My non-drinking friend had an entire glass, which is like the Wine Curmudgeon drinking an entire bottle.