Left: Giusto Occhipinti, owner of COS and Occhipinti. VinoWire contributor Tom Hyland, author of Reflections on Wine, just returned from Sicily.
I have been in Sicily for the en premeur tastings for the last three days, combining winery visits with producer tastings. A few words on the best wines I have tasted…
To date, the only competition for “Best Sicilian Chardonnay” has been between the Planeta and Tasca d’Almerita bottlings, both oak-aged wines. Now comes the 2007 “Nakone” from the brand new estate of Tenuta di Fessina. This estate is located near Mount Etna and will be specializing in the gorgeous reds from this district, but this first release of Chardonnay is superb! From a vineyard at 600 meters elevation in western Sicily, this is aged only in stainless steel and displays lovely aromas of pear and quince. Medium-full with beautiful texture, precise acidity and light minerality, this is reminiscent of a Premier Cru Chablis. It’s hard to believe this is from Sicilly — what beautiful fruit and what excellent winemaking by Federico Curtaz!
There are many examples of ripe, fat, forward bottlings of Nero d’Avola and while they are flashy wines, too many taste alike. Three that I can single out for balance, richness and complexity are the 2006 Planeta “Santa Ceclila,” the best bottling of this wine in years, the 2005 Baglio di Pianetto “Cemboli,” which has pinpoint aciidty and remarkable restraint and finesse and the 2007 COS “Nero di Lupo,” which is so far removed from the super ripe style of Nero d’Avola that is to often seen these days (no doubt styled to win high scores in a few wine publications). This has extremely supple tannins and is about as varietally pure a Nero d’Avola as you will ever find.
Speaking of COS, owner Giusto Occhipinti hosted a vertical tasting of his regular Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the classic southern Sicilian red that is a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato. This is a charming wine with soft tannins and zippy cherry and raspberry fruit. But in the hands of Occhipinti, this wine becomes a completely different experience. We tasted a 1995 bottling that had deep strawberry color and wonderful dried cherry and srawberry fruit with beautiful acidity. You’d never guess a 14 year-old Cerasuolo could show much life, but this one did.
Occhipinti also showed a 100% Frappato from 2007 that offered lovely cherry and currant fruit with a hint of oregano. Medium-full, the tannins are extremely light and there is refreshing acidity. What a beautiful bottling and what a nice example of the simple pleasures of the best Sicilian wines!