Like many wine lovers, I squirrel bottles of wine away to see how they will age and then somehow forget about them. As part of my continuing attempts to clear out my cellar I opened up these four white wines over the weekend. Some had aged better than others.
Crozes Hermitage Blanc 2013, Yann Chave.
This wasn’t really forgotten wine; I am a fan of the Chave white wanted to see how it aged. The answer is very well. This had attractive plump peachy fruits, subtle toasted almonds held together by good acidity. Delicious. 13% abv. Imported by Tindal Wines.
Riesling Grand Cru Kitterlé 2005, Domaines Schlumberger
I has high hopes for this as I am a fan of both Schlumberger and mature Riesling. As it turned out, this bottle was good rather than great. Mature toasted nuts, a touch of pineapple, some orange peel, dominated by high acidity. Nice, but looking at tasting notes online, I suspect it would have been better five years ago. 12% abv. Imported by Tindal Wines.
A Chardonnay with an (unspecified) proportion of Ansonica (aka Inzolia). I have always enjoyed this wine, and been impressed with its ability to age. This was no exception, although possibly it might have been even better a few years ago. The 2007 at twelve years old was ripe and rounded with toasted nuts, honeyed, soft, round peach fruits and good length. I really enjoyed this. 13.5% abv. Imported by Liberty Wines.
Bourgogne Aligoté 2008, Domaine G. & J.H. Goisot
I bought of this wine, and this was the last remaining bottle. At the time it was very good, but I should have finished this off a few years ago. Light brown in colour and oxidised. This went down the sink. 12.5% abv Imported by Nomad Wines.
First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 25th May, 2019
Sicily is an island of huge contrasts: ugly and chaotic at times, amazingly beautiful, enchanting and serene at others. Any downsides are offset by the warmth, friendliness and vitality of the people, the excellent food and of course, the wine.
In the past, Sicily was best known for inexpensive bulk wine that ended up being turned into cheap Marsala or vermouth. Over the last decade or so, a group of high quality producers has emerged, primarily using indigenous grapes to produce a variety of red and white wines (and sparkling too) with their own unique Sicilian character.
In many ways this is the ideal place to grow vines; Sicily gets more sun than any other part of Europe, 2,500 hours, compared with 2,000 on the mainland and 1,800 in the south of France. The constant winds keep temperatures in check, particularly on the higher mountainside slopes. Over 40 per cent of vineyards are farmed organically (the highest in the world), a figure that rises further in quality estates.
While you will find some of the international grape varieties (Syrah in particular has been around a long time), Sicily has a treasure trove of indigenous varieties, some very ancient, that are only now beginning to show their true potential. Many of these have various different clones that are almost like separate varieties
Four white grapes are worth remembering: Inzolia and Cataratto are usually used in fresh fruity wines. Grillo, once used to make Marsala, shows real potential. Decent inexpensive versions of these can be found on the shelves of your local supermarket. These days, most of the white grapes are picked early and the resulting wines are crisp, light and dry. Carricante, grown almost exclusively on the slopes on Mount Etna, can be delightful – the elegant, cool fruits and acidity, tasting more like the Loire than Mediterranean.
For red wines, Nero d’Avola grown on warmer flat sites can be rich and powerful; wines from the cooler hillside sites can be surprisingly floral and elegant. Nerello Mascalese, grown primarily on the slopes of Mount Etna, produces distinctive, very exciting wines with soft, silky Pinot-like fruit, often combined with a dry tannic finish.
Frapatto, usually grown in the southeastern corner of the island (often blended with Nero d’Avola to produce Cerasuolo di Vitoria) is fragrant and light with juicy strawberry fruits. Perricone is highly regarded by many quality producers, and is often blended with Nero d’Avola.
Sicilian food is unique and magnificent, varying region by region, clearly showing influences of the various invaders that have passed through over the centuries. Every kind of fish is eaten, high quality Mediterranean vegetables take pride of place in many recipes. Sicilian whites go perfectly with fresh grilled fish, and the reds with rich pasta dishes and roasted vegetables.
Nero d’Avola Principi di Butera IGT Sicilia 2015 14%, €16.99
Attractively aromatic, with supple rounded red cherry fruits, black olives, and a nicely rounded finish. A good flexible red to serve on its own or with an Otto Lenghinian mezze of kofte and Mediterranean salads. From Deveneys, Dublin 14; Fresh, Dublin 2 and 7, freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie; Boggans, Wexford
Sherazadze Donnafugatta 2017, Sicilia DOC, Nero d’Avola 13%, €22.99
A lovely fresh juicy mouthful of voluptuous dark fruits with hints of spice, and nicely integrated tannins on the finish. Serve cool with roast lamb accompanied by roast Mediterranean vegetables or caponata. From Sweeneys Wines, Dublin 11, sweeneyswines.ie; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; Thomas Woodberrys, Galway, woodberrys.ie; Searsons, Monkstown, Co Dublin, searsons.com; Gibney’s, Malahide, Co Dublin, gibneys.com; Alain & Christine’s, Kenmare, Co Kerry, acwine.ie; Red Island Wine Co, Skerries, Co Dublin; wineonline.ie; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie
Pietradolce Etna Bianco 2018 13%, €27
An elegant, refined and delicious light white with cool green fruits, mouthwatering lemon zest, and a long dry finish. Grilled white fish with lemon and herbs. From Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Deveneys, Dublin 14
Rosso del Conte 2014, Regaleali, Tasca d’Almerita, Sicily Contea di Scalfani 14%, €53
Made from a blend of Nero d’Avola and Perricone. A magnificent wine, rich and hugely concentrated with very ripe sweet cherry fruits, held together by a fine tannic structure. Save it for your finest roast of beef or lamb. From winesofitaly.ie
Seductive rounded juicy ripe dark fruits with a smooth finish.
A good all-rounder to partner most roast or grilled red meats.
Fuedo Arancio is owned by Mezzacorona, a large company based in Trentino, right up in the north-east of Italy. I have always been very fond of the Fuedo Arancio red wines; the Syrah, at the same price as the wine above is usually very good value. Nero d’Avola is a grape native to Sicily. Ten years ago, it was seen by many as the best the region could offer. The wines tended to be big, oaky and alcoholic. Then along came Nerello Mascalese and Frappato, two varieties that produced more elegant wines, and Nero d’Avola got lost along the way. However, provided the winemaker doesn’t try too hard, they can make very good, balanced fruit-filled wines. As with the wine above.
Tenuta delle Terre Nere 2015 Etna Bianco, Sicily
€25 from On the Grapevine, Dalkey; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Baggot Street Wines.
Soft ripe pear aromas; beautifully balanced wine with clean minerals and pear and a subtle pear skin texture, with a hint of toasted hazelnuts, finishing very dry and long – an excellent evolving wine with fresh elegant precise flavours.
Lightly flavoured seafood dishes (prawns with pasta?) would allow this to show off nicely.
The wines produced on the slopes of Mount Etna have been the talk of the wine world for the last decade. A few determined wine geeks, followed by an ever-increasing horde of producers, have established, or re-established ancient vineyards, largely using indigenous grape varieties. The results have been spectacular; I intend writing an article for the Irish Times over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, I feature one delicious white wine, made from a blend of Carrica, Catarratto, Grecanico and Minella.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 200, Azienda COS, Sicily
€30 from www.cabotandco.com; No. 1 Pery Sq.Limerick; Market 57, Westport; Grapevine, Dalkey; Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Red Island, Skerries ; Listons, Camden St..
This has been one of my favourite wines for a decade or more, and also featured in my book this year. I drank a bottle last weekend, and was fighting with my wife over the last few drops. Frappato and Nero d’Avola are both indigenous Sicilian grapes; The COS single variety Frappato is good, but this blend of the two grapes is wirth the few extra euro. Soft smooth strawberry and plum fruits overlaid with dark chocolate. Wonderful wine.
This was a delicious Chardonnay, mature, with ripe yellow fruits, a touch of spice and subtle toasted hazelnuts. Medium-bodied with a lightly creamy texture, it went perfectly with fried salmon in a dill butter. I took part in a vertical tasting of this wine five years ago, and was impressed by its ability to age. Back then it was a bit too oaky in its youth but I think Donnafugata have lightened things up in recent years. Since then I have stashed away the odd bottle away to see what would happen. Sadly this wine is not imported into Ireland anymore, but according to Wine Searcher retails for around €25 in Europe. By the way, after a number of bitter disappointments with white Burgundy, I have stashed away a number of New World Chardonnays, often with very good results. Perhaps I should be doing the same with the Chiaranda. I came across a bottle of 2005 yesterday; can’t wait to try it!