From: Sicily, Italy
Blend: 60% Nero d'Avola and 40% Frappato
"Combining the deep, Syrah-like Nero d'Avola with the racy, featherweight, strawberry-scented Frappato, Cerasuolo di Vittoria is one of wine's most successful red blends." - David Lynch, Sommelier & Editorial Director at SommSelect
“Two great tastes that taste great together.” That used to be the tagline for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but it works perfectly for Sicily’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria wine, too. There are a lot of great red wine blends in the world, but Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the unsung hero of the group: It’s an opposites-attract blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato which, like the reds of nearby Mount Etna, radiates Sicilian sunshine while also displaying an uncanny level of finesse.
Today’s small-batch gem from the Gurrieri family epitomizes this balance of concentration and nerve, taking the dark, Syrah-like fruit of Nero d’Avola and giving it a jolt of live-wire acidity and floral perfume courtesy of the featherweight Frappato. Both grapes produce delicious wines in “varietal” form but put them together and you get a plush, fragrant, perfectly proportioned red that is greater than the sum of its parts. The Gurrieris farm organically and it is easy to draw a through-line to today’s ’18, which displays a breathtaking level of purity—think of those rare moments when you catch a piece of fruit at its optimal moment for consumption, and you’ve got this wine nailed. It has all the qualities that make Pinot Noir so popular with our subscribers—soft tannins, high-toned aromas, refreshing acidity, crunchy fruit—but with a decidedly Mediterranean twist. Delicious, affordable, unique…that’s the Italian trifecta!
Because of the “di” in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria, some consumers may be tempted to think of Cerasuolo as a grape variety, like Barbera d’Asti or Sangiovese di Romagna, but in this case, it is more a stylistic designation: cerasa is Sicilian for “cherry,” so the appellation name effectively describes the “cherry-colored wine” of Vittoria, the village in southeastern Sicily that anchors the production area. Located in the province of Ragusa, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria appellation (Sicily’s only DOCG, or “guaranteed” Denomination of Origin) covers rolling hills in the Val di Noto, near Sicily’s Iblei Mountains, where soils are mostly reddish, sandy clay over limestone.
Giovanni Gurrieri’s father grew grapes (and olives for oil) in the village of Chiaramonte Gulfi, and in 2010, Giovanni released the first wines with the family name on them. They own 3.2 hectares of vines and lease three others, with production of today’s flagship topping out at about 3,000 bottles. Today’s 2018 is 55% Nero d’Avola and 45% Frappato, aged in tank only for 18 months before bottling.
And trust me, you don’t miss the oak. The fruit—a juicy amalgam of every type of cherry you can think of—is the point, along with a dusting of earth, spice, and dried flowers. In the glass, it’s a medium ruby-red moving to pink at the rim, with an array of red and black fruit notes taking turns on center stage: black plum, wild strawberry, Morello cherry, and then a little hint of blood orange peel. Violets and rose and sandalwood all factor into the medium-bodied palate, which is plush but also crunchy and fresh: It’s really the perfect weight for the sultry summer evenings in our near future, and doesn’t require a lot of advance prep to show its best: Simply pull the cork about 15 minutes before serving in Burgundy stems at 55-60 degrees, or frankly, even cooler, as this is one of those reds that takes beautifully to a chill. Its medium body and tangy freshness will lend it great versatility at the table, whether it’s homemade pizzas; some sushi-grade tuna quickly seared on the grill (or not); or a good old-fashioned “eggplant parm.” This kind of easy-drinking red is truly what Italy does best, so do yourself a favor and stock up—the price/quality ratio simply cannot be beat. Cheers!
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