The Bacchus Report: Sicilian wine transformation
Written by: Libor Ševčík
"Italian wine" is too broad
a term, as the character of wines from Italy varies with the country's
lengthy landscape. Today we go to the southernmost extremity, to
the island of Sicily.
Until recently Sicilian wines had a rather poor reputation. True,
the Mediterranean's largest island produced an unbelievable ten
million hectoliters a year, but most of it was in the lowest category
of table wines. Only a quarter-million hectoliters bear qualitative
designations. Excessive sun, insufficient humidity, poorly tended
vineyards, and the absence of modern technologies had always affected
the wines, which were nothing special. Most of the varieties were
often poorly handled, oxidized, and too heavy. There were choices
among the reds, but for wine-loving Europeans the whites were practically
undrinkable. Nevertheless, viticulture has a tradition of several
thousand years in Sicily. According to Homer, Odysseus got the
Cyclops Polyphemus drunk on Etna Sicilian wine. Yet for many years
the best-known Sicilian wine was the distillate-fortified Marsala,
named for the town that lies at the island's westernmost end. Whether
dry or sweet, it is like a cross between sherry and Madeira.
Changes for the better began about ten years ago, when islanders
became aware that they had to change their wines' style to make
it marketable. Sicilian winemakers studied abroad, where many of
their countrymen worked. They started taking better care of their
vineyards, renewing and planting clones of the most suitable varietals.
They no longer let the grapes over-ripen, instead harvesting them
at the optimal time when they contained the right amount of acids
as well as sugar, giving the wine freshness. With generous EU subsidies
they invested mightily in modern technologies that allowed economical,
immediate processing of the grapes. The best vintners use controlled
fermentation, wherein the temperature of the juice is constantly
checked, and as needed the liquid is steadily cooled so the fermentation
process proceeds at the optimal rate, which guarantees that high-quality
wine is made from good grapes.
The care and new procedures gradually began bringing success in
the form of customer interest. White wines have suddenly become
pleasant and fresh, although made from the same varietals. Definitely
worthy of notice are wines from original, indigenous white varietals
like Catarrato, Grillo and Inzolia, and the universal Muscat. And
the reds, also made mainly from local varietals like Aglianico,
Frappato, Negroamaro, Nero D'Avola, and Primitivo have improved
in purity and stand out for their bouquets. Also worth mentioning
is the specialty of the outlying Lipari Islands - Malvasia delle
Lipari. Other world-famous varietals such as Chardonnay, Cabernet
Sauvignon, and Merlot are grown as well. Sicily, which was known
as the wine cistern of Italy, thus entered the new millennium with
transformed, palatable wines that are becoming quite fashionable.
The author is the editor of Hospodářské
noviny's IN magazine.
Photo: Věroslav Sixt
Never spill a drop. The Eva Solo carafe in the unusual combination
of glass, stainless steel and rubber, is designed to allow
safe serving. CZK 984.
Available at: Naoko, Revoluční
24, Praha 1
Konírna Toskánského paláce, Hradčanské nám., Praha 1
18 February - Merlot d'Or has prepared a tasting of Bordeaux Grands
Crus Classés. 30 leading ChČteaux from the Bordeaux region will
present their two-year-old wines. Until now the annual tasting
traveled only to the US, Switzerland, and Germany. Admission
to a tasting of over 700 wines costs CZK 900 in the morning,
CZK 1,200 in the afternoon.
"Refreshed" Sicilian wines are
now available in most importers' portfolios.
Catarrato-Chardonnay 2003, IGT (Indicazione
Producer: Tenuta Rapitala, Camporeale, Itálie
Characteristics: A combination of the traditional Sicilian
varietal Catarrato and Chardonnay. A fruity, mature aroma
with a pleasant bouquet, marked structure, and full body.
Price: 220 Kč
Importer: Racke-Giv, Zlatnická 6, Praha 1, tel.: 221 877
Producer: Aziende Vitivinicole Donnaafugata, Italia
Characteristics: A fresh, dry wine prepared from Sicilian Ansonica
and Catarrato varietals through controlled fermentation. Complex
in aroma with a good fruity persistence.
Price: 417 Kč
Importer: La Fattoria, k dostání jsou ve / available at Vino
di Vino, Vězeňská 3, Praha 1, www.lafattoria.cz
Tancredi 2002, Contessa Entelina DOC (Denominazione
di Origine Controllata)
Producer: Aziende Vitivinicole Donnafugata, Italia
Characteristics: A full-bodied blend of the Sicilian varietal
Nero D'Avola with Cabernet Sauvignon. The complex aroma
carries chocolate tones and ripe cherries and blueberries.
Price: 952 Kč
Importer: La Fattoria, available at Vino di Vino, Vězeňská
3, Praha 1, www.lafattoria.cz
||Danzante Merlot 2002, Sicilia
Producer: Robert Mondavi a Marchesi de Frescobaldi
Characteristics: The famed Californian Mondavi and the Italian
Frescobaldi prepared dark-ruby wines with the marked aroma
of ripe grapes and wild fruits and a nice trace of cinnamon.
Price: 315 Kč
Importer: Global Wines, Václavské nám. 53, Praha 1. Tel.: 221
965 253, www.global-wines.cz