Sicily’s Softer Side
These Sicilian wines pair perfectly with the tomato-based recipes featured in Western Living's September issue.
Mention Sicily to most wine drinkers and their minds immediately go to the chunky, rustic, full-bodied wine produced with the Nero d’Avola grape that the island produces in large quantities. But if you’re willing to look death in the face (in the form of the still-active Mt. Etna) and hike up a few hundred metres, you’ll find the vineyards planted with the lyrically named nerello mascalese grape. The wine here—light of body with spicy undertones—has more in common with the earthier examples of French Burgundy than it does with its brawny brethren grown on the baking flats of Sicily. This finesse comes from the combination of cooler temperatures and volcanic soil, and the wine can display either the forest floor notes or the more pomegranate-and-currants persona, depending on the winemaker. The one constant is a high acidity and light body that make it a perfect partner for the tomato-based recipes we have here.
The catch is that it’s tough to find and, given that it’s still a relatively under-the-radar wine, fairly expensive. You can save some money by buying wines labelled simply Nerello Mascalese (they don’t conform to the Etna Rosso D.O.C. requirements, so are less expensive), or simply buy Etna Rosso and compare it to a bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin, which will definitely help the sting.
2012 Rilento Organic Nerello Mascalese ($14.50) An exceptionally priced entry, this is a rustic take on the grape, with a medium body and plum and tobacco notes.
2012 Vigneti Zabu Il Passo Nerello Mascalese Nero d’Avola ($23) A very New World effort, with a brawny, fruit-forward approach to the grape that, though not typical, will defintely appeal to lovers of big reds.
2012 Pietradolce Etna Rosso ($29) Bush vines grown at 2,000 feet help make this the most classic expression of the grape. Brick-coloured and delicate, it could easily be an earthy Volnay. (bottom left)