WBW #8 – Sicilian Reds
When Katia and Ronald, at Love Sicily, announced the theme for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday I was excited to see that I was going to taste something new! They selected Sicilian Red Wines as our wine to taste. And they had supplied some background on the region in earlier posts.
I read their posts and then did a bit of research in some books that I had on hand including, Culinaria Italy, one of my recent purchases in the Culinaria series.
I was a little worried that Seattle might not have a great selection of Sicilian wines. My search for wines from Lombardy took quite some time. I had three or four places in mind to check out and decided to start my search early in case I actually needed to order something.
My first plan was to look for something unusual – try something other than the Nero d’Avola which was the common wine from the area. My first stop was DeLaurenti. I was pleasantly surprised to find over a dozen red wine options on their shelves! Although I was looking for a non-Nero, I kept finding myself drawn to the many Nero d’Avola options. And then I thought – "Why am I looking for something else? I’ve never tried the Nero d’Avola, wouldn’t it be good to start with this and then branch out later?" And my answer to myself was, "Yes, that’s a very good idea!"
So I narrowed my choices to two that looked most interesting and had a price point I was happy with. The first was 2002 Santa Anastasia Passomaggio and the second was 2002 Donnafugata Sedara. The Santa Anastasia was a blend; 80% Nero d’Avola and 20% Merlot. The Donnafugata was 100% Nero d’Avola.
Donnafugata means "fleeing woman" and the name comes from a 19th century story about Queen Maria Carolina fleeing from the court in Naples and taking refuge in the Belice Valley in Sicily, according to the label on the back of the bottle. It didn’t mention why she was fleeing but I got caught in the romance of the idea and chose the Donnafugata Sedara.
Here is information from their site:
Type: Red – Nero d’Avola Igt Sicilia
Alcohol level: 13,5% vol.
Grapes: Nero d’Avola 100%
Trained in the counter-espalier system and pruned in spurred cordon. Average planting density, 5,000 rootstocks per hectare (2,204 an acre), production of about 8.5 tons per hectare (3.78 tons an acre). Terrain of medium consistency.
Vinification: The grapes, harvested in September, are vinified in stainless steel with skin contact of about 10 days at a temperature of 26-30° C. (79-86° F.). Following malolactic fermentation, the wine is matured for about nine months in oak barrels used twice and then fined in the bottle for a further three months.
Description: The ruby-red color is rounded out by extremely lively garnet reflections. The impact on the nose is intense with sensations of tobacco and spices as well as mineral notes. In the mouth, the wine is balanced with flavors of red fruit, principally blackberries and cherries. The finish is remarkably persistent.
Food matches: Combine with introductory dishes with meat sauces, elaborate baked pasta dishes and red meats. Try the wine with lightly cooked fresh tuna.
Three dishes: Tonno con polenta (tuna with cornmeal mush). Cannelloni ai pistilli di zafferano farciti al fegato grasso (pasta tubes flavored with saffron and stuffed with foie gras). "Farsu magru" the traditional meal roll stuffed with eggs, ham, cheese and herbs).
Serve: In goblets of medium size; uncorked at the time of serving; excellent at 16-18° C. (61-64° F.).
Other research suggested this wine would be good with spicy red pastas, lasagne or game.
Since I would be tasting by myself I didn’t want to make a big lasagne, but decided I could use some red sauce I had in the freezer (leftover from my Easter Saturday dinner). So on Sunday I opened the wine, poured a glass and set about warming my sauce and making pasta for it.
I let it sit for just 15 minutes or so before my first taste. I would say it had medium body, was a little spicy and had some fruit. Specifically it tasted of black pepper, blackberry and a little cherry. It lingered with a mild, pleasant aftertaste. After a few sips of just wine I added a new element – an aged Parmesan cheese. I took a small bite of the cheese and then tried another sip of wine. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they paired! I could see myself with a plate of salami and some nice chunks of cheese enjoying this wine.
I plated my pasta, filled my glass and went on to "round 2". And this is where I ran into trouble. The wine and sauce clashed! I was not expecting this! I tried again. No better. Yikes! the wine and sauce seemed to bring out all the wrong elements in each other. I’m not sure what will really describe it but the wine became almost vinegar-like, although that’s not quite the right description. I took a breath, ran to the fridge and brought out a couple slices of deli-type roast beef. A bite of beef and a taste of wine and order was restored! The wine and the beef sort of melded together. Much better.
I decided to cork the bottle, using a VacuVin wine stopper. I sometimes find that holding an opened wine overnight can mellow it a bit – especially if the wine was opened before it should have been. I thought perhaps this was the case with this wine. Monday night I tried the wine again but now it wasn’t even good on its own. I decided that the recommendation for a spicy red sauce was just wrong, although intuitively you would think that would be a perfect pairing.
I would buy this wine again and will definitely try other Nero d’Avola’s. I’d really like to try the suggested pairing with tuna! That sounds great.
Note: I’ve been trying to learn to use the "proper" words when describing wine. Not so much because I think it’s necessary but because I think any kind of communication is better when everyone is on the same page. To aid with this, here is a Wine Aroma Wheel that breaks down the descriptions into three levels. The document also helps explain how wines are scored.