Tag Archives: nero d’avola

Wine of the week: Sicalia Terre Siciliane 2016

Sicalia Terre SicilianeThe Sicalia Terre Siciliane isn’t very Sicilian, but it’s still worthwhile when you need a red wine for a weeknight dinner

Italian wine producers, even though they have thousands of indigenous grapes to work with, are fascinated by what they call “international” grapes — those we know as cabernet sauvignon, melot, chardonnay, and the like. Their efforts can be uneven – for every great Super Tuscan, where international grapes are blended with sangiovese, there are dozens of $8 and $10 washouts. Which is where the Sicalia Terre Siciliane comes in.

On the one hand, the Sicalia Terre Siciliane ($8, purchased, 13%) doesn’t taste especially Sicilian. There is little earthiness or dark fruit or Old World complexity. And why should there be, since it’s a red blend, featuring the Sicilian nero d’avola and the and merlot?

On the other hand, it’s an enjoyable weeknight wine. Who knew? That certainly wasn’t the case the last time I tasted it: “ashy and unpleasant.” This time, though, the Sicalia Terre Siciliane was juicy, with enjoyably tart red fruit, a clean finish, and tremendous value.

No, it’s not very Sicilian, and yes, it needs food. But given the state of cheap wine these days, you could do a lot worse when you want a $10 red wine for a weeknight dinner.

Imported by Enovation Brands

Mini-reviews 107: Big Smooth, malbec, Rioja, Sicily

Big smoothReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, four red wines.

Big Smooth Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($17, sample, 14.5%): Much winemaking and craftsmanship went into this California red to make it taste like a cherry Tootise Pop. If that’s what you want your wine to taste like, then it’s worth $17. Otherwise, taste and be amazed at the post-modern marketing cynicism that also went into it.

Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2016 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This Chilean red speaks to terroir and varietal character, and is about more than the jammy black fruit of similarly-priced Argentine malbecs. Having said that, it’s not a value this price – a little thin and tart. But if you find it for $8 at the grocery store and you need a bottle of wine for dinner, you won’t be disappointed. Imported by Excelsior Wine

Bagordi Rioja Navardia 2016 ($13, sample, 14%): Nothing special about this Spanish red – just a full-bodied (heavier, more red fruit) and not especially varietal tempranillo made with organic grapes. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Cantina Cellaro Luma 2016 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, made with the nero d’avola grape, was either oxidized (doubtful, given the vintage) or so extracted and so overripe that it was about as Sicilian as my Honda. Imported by Gonzalez Bypass

Wine of the week: Feudo Principi di Butera Nero d’Avola 2014

The real thing: The Feudo Principi di Butera Nero d’Avola is tasty, honest Sicilian red wine

The worst results of the new-found popularity of Sicilian wine has been the decrease in quality and the increase in prices. We see more cheap, ordinary wine that is priced as if it was something special, and fewer affordable, honest and authentic wines.

The Butera Nero d’Avola ($12, purchased, 14%) is a most welcome exception. It not only tastes like Sicilian wine, but the nero d’avola grape is the main focus. It’s not blended with merlot or cabernet sauvignon to achieve something that it’s not. Instead, look for cherry aromas, the dark and earthy plum fruit that I don’t find often enough anymore, and a little baking spice. Also surprising: the length, where the wine doesn’t disappear in your mouth after the first couple of sips.

This is a food wine – fresh, yes, and especially for a wine this old, but also substantial. It’s stews and red meat braises and almost any sort of warming autumn dinner.

To be honest, I didn’t expect this quality. Butera is owned by Zonin, a large Italian producer, and Butera is just one of its 10 labels. But, as always, taste the wine before you judge it.

Mini-reviews 89: The Wine Curmudgeon has questions

Mini-reviews 89Reviews 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.

This month, I have questions that the wines can’t answer.

Tasca D’Almerita Lamùri 2014 ($18, sample, 13.5%): This Italian red offers about $10 worth of Sicilian nero d’avola at twice the price, and it‘s about as Sicilian as a Paso Robles red blend. My question: Why did I get it as part of a Sicilian wine promotion when it isn’t very Sicilian?

Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($14, purchased, 13%): This New Zealand white offers $10 worth of Zealand sauvignon blanc and its citrus flavors at one-third more the price. My question: How could this vintage be so much less enjoyable than the 2012?

Les Portes de Bordeaux Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink wine is not exceptional, but tastes like it should (freshness, red fruit) and is yet another reason why rose is always a good value. My question: How can this be, in the history of the blog, the first Trader Joe’s wine I can recommend?

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): A French red that was too tart and not very Beaujolais-ish, without any of the round and fruity flavors that should be there. My question: How can anyone at Jadot, one of the most important producers in France, think this is what this wine should taste like?

Wine of the week: Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2012

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: Feudo Zirtari Nero d’Avola-Syrah 2011

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.

Wine of the week: Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2011

Cusumano Nero d'Avola 2011One day, perhaps, Sicily will take its place as one of the world ?s great wine regions. The Winestream Media will flock there, and its members will write glowing 94-point reviews about wines made with grapes most people have never heard of. The region ?s winemakers will become celebrities, starring in glossy cover photos and showing up in wine gossip columns.

Until then, let ?s drink the wine and not let anyone else know how well done it is.

Case in point is the Cusumano ($10, purchased), yet another Sicilian wine that is stunning in its combination of value and quality. It ?s made with the nero d ?avola grape, common on the island, and one that gives the wine a dark, plummy and almost earthy character. Which, of course, is not what most of us expect from a $10 red wine. There is no sweet fruit, no winemaking alchemy to take out the tannins and smooth out the acid. You get what the terroir and the grapes offer, and that ?s a drinkable, impressive hearty red wine of the kind not found often enough in California.

Pair this with a red sauce, roast chicken, hamburgers or sausage. And if someone asks you where you got it or how much it cost, mumble your answer so it stays our secret.