After discussing the upcoming and great Etna wines, lets stay on the East Coast and move further South. I will be visiting this area ( together with the Etna ) the first week of March 2019. Therefore this blogs will be updated further to add my own personal experiences.
Southestern Sicily corresponds to the historic administrative sub region of Val di Noto. This sub region focuses on local grapes such as Nero D'Avola, Frappato e Moscato Bianco.
Ian D'Agata describes Nero D'Avola in this way, explaining its origin and its name.
For centuries, Nero d’Avola has also been called Calabrese in all regions of Italy, from Calabria to Sicily to Tuscany, and Calabrese is the official name listed in Italy’s National Registry of grape varieties. However, Calabrese is a name used to describe other varieties in Italy (usually erroneously) and everyone in Italy and the world knows this grape variety much better as Nero d’Avola. For that reason, I’ll refer to it as Nero d’Avola in the rest of this discussion. In fact, the name Nero d’Avola derives from the Sicilian dialect name Calau Avulisi, which, given its spelling and pronunciation, you’d be excused for thinking meant “Calabrese,” but you’d be wrong.
Calau Avulisi means “coming down from Avola,” the little town near Ragusa from which this feisty grape set out to conquer the rest of the island, and the world. So Nero d’Avola’s nickname, Calabrese, was arrived at via a series of modifications: from Calau Avulisi, to Calaurisi, Calavrisi, Calabrisi, and Calabrese. Others have suggested that Calavrisi is simply a word in dialect meaning “from Calabria,” thereby hinting at a possible Calabrian origin of the variety, but this seems a simplistic interpretation of the name’s genesis, and few experts endorse it. The Nero d’Avola moniker is a more modern evolution, due to the typically Italian habit of calling dark grapes Nero-Something; the place from where the variety supposedly hails is one of the “Somethings” most often attached. Hence, the dark-berried grape from Avola became Nero d’Avola in popular winespeak, but the official name remains Calabrese, for now.
Variable quality levels is still the biggest problem with Nero d’Avola wines. The variety is used to make wines ranging from absolutely horrible to downright memorable. In truth, this has always been the problem with Nero d’Avola; as the poor wines far outnumber the good ones, it’s no wonder that the variety didn’t excite imaginations for the better part of the twentieth century. Still, if you were to ask a local producer’s grandfather about his youth, the gentleman would be quick to say that one of his big childhood amusements (in an age when there was no TV, video, or Internet) was to go to the local port with his grandfather and watch the tankers filled with wine leave for distant shores. Those tankers would have been full of Nero d’Avola, on their way to Tuscan, Ligurian, and French ports, aimed at increasing the color and alcohol of anemic red wines made in those colder, less sunlight-blessed northern lands. That all began to change with the renaissance of Sicilian wine in the 1980s: better winemaking and viticulture allowed Nero d’Avola and its wines to surge to the top of the heap. There was a moment in the late 1990s in which Nero d’Avola was the wine to drink at home and in restaurants in Italy: much like Argentinean Malbec today, people everywhere just couldn’t get, or drink, enough. However, just as it was quick to rise, Nero d’Avola was quick to fall: a victim of its own success, and the greed of some who churned out too many rustic, unpleasant, and nonsensical wines.
In fairness, Nero d’Avola’s great moment of popularity did serve an important purpose: it made clear, once and for all, that the variety is capable of making at least very good wines (and sometimes great ones, in the right hands), and can take its place among Italy’s noble (or almost noble) varieties. Its bright dark-red cherry and spicy, aromatic herb aromas and flavors are appreciated by wine drinkers everywhere, as are its low astringency and high but usually harmonious acidity. In my view, Nero d’Avola’s potential greatness is best harnessed in Sicily’s southeastern corner around the city of Ragusa, but monovarietal Nero d’Avola wines differ greatly in their expression depending on terroirs.
For example, when made from grapes grown at higher altitudes in the central part of the island, Nero d’Avola wines tend to have paler colors and more mineral personalities; in central Sicilian vineyards at lower altitudes and warmer climates, they are richer and more structured. Nero d’Avola wines from Agrigento and Riesi, farther south, can be astringent yet fruity. Around Noto, wines have great ripeness, with herbal and saline notes (almost anchovy-like), while those made in nearby Vittoria are lighter and more floral, almost gentle, and actually resemble wines made with Frappato.
Wines from Pachino, perhaps the single greatest grand cru of all for Nero d’Avola (another grand cru is the triangle formed between Butera, Mazara and Riesi) can be almost pungent, with aromas and flavors reminiscent of ripe tomato sauce, aromatic herbs, dark cherries, and tar, with saline nuances. In short, they are Nero d’Avola wines at their most complex, a characteristic that monovarietal wines made with this grape don’t always exude in spades. To generalize, Nero d’Avola wines from old vines (of which there is no shortage in Sicily) can be remarkably good, but finding the best wines means doing some homework, and knowing not just a little bit about the respective Sicilian terroirs, but also what the producer believes in, and does.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG
Vittoria is a Town in the province of Ragusa, a few miles from Sicilia's southeastern coast. The town was founded in early 17th century by the countess of Modica, Vittoria Colonna Henriquez. This noblewoman developed the township by offering the 75 settlers two hectares of land each, but she also stipulated that one of those two hectares be solely planted to vines.
Any Sicilian red wine is likely to include Nero d’Avola; of the blends, the wines of this DOCG must be made with 50-70% Nero D'Avola and 30-50% Frappato, a match seemingly made in heaven, as the floral fragrance and light body of Frappato marry well with Nero d’Avola’s richer texture.
Those Cerasuolo di Vittoria wines that are made with larger amounts of Nero d’Avola (wines can have as much as 40 percent Frappato) are easily recognized, invariably richer and deeper, but less perfumed. DOC wines of note include Delia Nivolelli and Contea di Sclafani, but the list is virtually endless (and includes Alcamo, Marsala, Noto, and Eloro), as is the list of IGT wines in which Nero d’Avola can be used (at last count, close to sixty different IGTs).
Wines can be designated as Classico when made with grapes grown in the Original wine growing zone delimited in 1973 when the DOC was established. These wines cannot be released before March 31st of the second year following the harvest.
The wines of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG are typically ruby red in color with aromas of cherry, red berries, plum, and pomegranate. The fresh young fruit character is typical of Frappato; blends that rely more heavily on Nero d’Avola show more tannin and hints of wild herbs. The acidity can be high for well-tended vines on the preferred terra rossa soil, and the minimum alcohol level is 13 percent. Production amounts to around 6,000 hectoliters, the equivalent of 50,000 cases (Vittoria DOC adds about 2,000 hl more).
Paolo Cali' is winemaker pharmacist who bet on a project that is focused on his territory, devoted to the cultivation of the vineyard and the production of wine, re-establishing the age-old tradition of his family in these same lands. The winery has grown together with him and those who work with him, with passion and dedication. It was the dream that he cradled as a child, the dream of reviving the countryside where the father took him every afternoon after school.
60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Frappato. The First Paolo Cali’s wine, son of Courage and Accuracy. The name is dedicated to Paolo’s son and it is how Emanuele sounded his name when he was 2 years old
Soil: Dunes of prehistoric sands
Training and yield: 70 q.ls, Espalier
Altitude: m 189 above sea level
Vinification: Meticulous selection and extraction of color and bouquet. 15/20 days of maceration in stainless steel where malolactic follows. 24 months Refining
Tasting notes: Deep cherry red. Rich, gently tannic and well-balanced. Round, fresh with notes of cherry, pomegranate and soft fruit
Planeta is a large producer of Sicilian wines, it produces in multiple region to reflect how the terroir will impact their wines.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2017
Denomination: Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Frappato
From the countryside of Dorilli, between the sea and the Iblean mountains, known as the centre of excellence for Sicilian food, comes our Cerasuolo di Vittoria. The name of the only DOCG in Sicily comes from ‘Cerasa’, cherry in Sicilian dialect. It is produced from the indigenous varieties Nero d’Avola and Frappato. A unique wine, recognisable and unforgettable for its youthful flavours and aromas of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate, due to the particular soil and climate in which the grapes are cultivated. A wine which like few others combines tradition and delicious wine.
VINEYARDS: Dorilli, Mogli. VARIETY: DORILLI: Nero d’Avola / Frappato.
MOGLI: Nero d’Avola.
TYPE OF SOIL: The principal characteristic of the soils of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria area is the sandy texture; the soil consists mainly of loose red sand with no stones and moderately deep; a layer of tufa lies at about 90 cm which is important for the water balance of the vines.
ALTITUDE: DORILLI Nero d’Avola 70 m a.s.l. DORILLIFrappato 70 m a.s.l. MOGLI Nero d’Avola 80 m a.s.l.
YIELD PER HECTARE: DORILLI Nero d’Avola 70 quintals.DORILLI Frappato 55 quintals. MOGLI Nero d’Avola 90 quintals.
TRAINING SYSTEM: Spurred cordon. PLANTING DENSITY: DORILLI Nero d’Avola 4.500 vines.
DORILLI Frappato 5.000 vines. MOGLI 4.500 vines.HARVESTING PERIOD: NERO D’AVOLA 20-25
September FRAPPATO 17-20 September.
VINIFICATION: destalking followed by 14 days lying on the skins, fermentation at 230C in stainless steel vats; particularly soft pressing with basket press (vertical press), followed by maturation in steel vats.
BOTTLING PERIOD: April.ALCOHOL CONTENT: 13% vol.TOTAL ACIDITY: 6,3 gr/l. PH: 3,36.
AGING CAPACITY: to drink at once or to keep for 6/8 years.
BOTTLE SIZE: 0,75 l.
TASTING NOTES: An intriguing wine with an extraordinary vital energy based on wild fruits, wild strawberries, mulberry and pomegranate. An extremely gastronomic version of Cerasuolo which we like very much for its meaty peppery notes. In the mouth the wine reflects its olfactory impressions and thus we happily re-encounter the black pepper mixed with carob and sweet cherries. Quick on the palate with a very savoury rounded finish with hints of mulberry.
MATCHING: In the right season, perfect with a slice of seared tuna, with chopped mushrooms or with feathered game, its harmony with pizza is a surprise throughout the year.
Valle dell’Acate is one of the most well-known and active vineyards in southeastern Sicily. The company is run by Gaetana Jacono, part of the family’s sixth generation of winemakers.
The company is committed to local territory, to bringing its traditional winemaking culture and products to the outside world, and to the use of eco-sustainable winemaking techniques. The vineyards extend over 100 hectares, most of which have been replanted from 2001 to the present day with prized local and international vines. By cultivating the most highly-prized autochthonous vines, utilizing technologically advanced systems and taking advantage of winemaking skills that have been handed down generation after generation across two centuries, today Valle dell’Acate can offer its clients a series of wines of undeniable value: radiant, dynamic and aromatic. These include its famous DOCG Cerasuolo di Vittoria, DOC wines like Il Frappato, Insolia and Zagra, plus IGTs like Il Moro, Bidis, Rusciano and Tané, which are obtained by combining a selection of the best grapes from our most important harvests. The company’s wines have earned important recognition on an international level. Each individual wine in Valle dell’Acate’s most prestigious line is born of soil that has been identified and carefully selected to help characterize the individual grapevine, resulting in a final product that is a special, unique expression of the earth that produced it. The company always operates with the idea that the “terroir” represents an important added value in producing wines.
There are seven distinct soils in the company’s territory, and each encapsulates the essence of Sicily and the Ragusa province, as well as the Jacono family’s winemaking history and Gaetana’s strength and passion.
YELLOW SOIL: these vineyards are located along the coast, where the earth has a sandy-clay structure and characteristic yellow color. The soil is relatively light, imbuing the wines with freshness and complex scents. Wines produced here include the two whites Insolia and Zagra: the first is dry and subtle yet rich in perfumed notes; the second is savory and mineral, achieving the fullest possible expression of the three elements yellow earth, proximity to the sea and well- ventilated slopes.
WHITE SOIL: this vineyard is located atop a small plateau standing 250 meters above sea level, with calcareous soil very poor that guarantees excellent depth. The grapevines suffer a little here, failing to grow vigorously. This condition makes it possible to obtain an excellent fruit concentration which, thanks to the ventilation, does not over-mature. The Bidis wine is produced here: a powerful, intense yet delicate white.
BLACK SOIL WITH WHITE PEBBLES: these vineyards are located at roughly 100 meters above sea level. The soil is black, relatively compact and riddled with white stones. The soil structure makes it possible for plant roots to oxygenate freely, extending down deep into the ground. The company produces a red wine here, Il Frappato, which draws complex perfumes and a decent acidity from the characteristics of the terrain.
RED SOIL: The soil structure is divided between clear red sand and dark, medium density earth with good depth. The grapevines planted in dark red soil produce Nero d’Avola, while the vines planted in clear red soil produce Frappato. The Nero d’Avola and Frappato grapes are blended together to obtain the famous Cerasuolo di Vittoria (70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Frappato).
BLACK SOIL: this red wine is Valle dell’Acate’s crown jewel, and has earned Italy’s vaunted DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status. Black land These vineyards are located roughly 120 meters above sea level, where the earth is extremely dark, almost black in color. Soil has a medium density tending towards compact, with a fair proportion of small, dark stones. These vines are roughly 20 years old, and produce a Nero d’Avola wine called Il Moro, which is well- structured and marked by strong hints of small red fruits like blackberries, raspberries and black cherries, as well as dark chocolate tannins that are at once powerful and enjoyable.
ORANGE RED SOIL: these vineyards are located on what is known as the “Bidini Soprano” plateau at roughly 200 meters above sea level. The earth is extremely light, with a sandy, orange-red soil composition that lends the wine great structure and complexity, in addition to “balsamic” hints that are a strong, clear note in the final product.
ORCHER SOIL: the soil’s unique characteristics find their best expression in Nero d’Avola grapes, and Valle dell’Acate has a small vineyard here that produces no more than 800 grams of grape per plant. The wine produced here is the Tané.
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Cerasuolo di Vittoria D.O.C.G Classico
RED SOIL: these vineyards are located on what is known as the “Bidini Soprano” plateau. The soil structure is divided between clear red sand and dark, medium density earth with good depth. The grapevines planted in dark red soil produce Nero d’Avola, while the vines planted in clear red soil produce Frappato. The Nero d’Avola and Frappato grapes are blended together to obtain the famous Cerasuolo di Vittoria (60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato).
Produced in: C.da Bidini – Acate (Rg) – Estern Sicily Appellation: D.O.C.G Cerasuolo di Vittoria “Classico” Grape Variety: Nero d’Avola 60%; Frappato 40% Methods of growth: Espaliers and cord, approx. 5.000 plants/hectare. Production per hectare: 6700 Kg
Aging process: Barrels and tonneaux for 12 months; bottle-aged for at least 9 months
Harvest period: The first half of September
Alcohol level.: 13,50%
Color: Intense cherry red
Aroma: Ripe hints of red fruits, blackberries, raspberries and cherries ; hints of spices including liquorice and cocoa
Flavor: Soft, full, velvety tannins, persistent and aromatic
Best paired with: Aged D.O.P. ragusano cheese, complicated and spiced dishes like chicken curry, game pâté, lamb, rabbit.
Serve at: 16°-18º C
This ends our introduction to the Southeast of Sicily, with one of the most important areas, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG. We will continue with the remaining DOC area in the next few days.