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Discovering a Mosaic of Vineyards with Assovini Sicilia

As an Italian wine lover, I enjoy Italian wines from North to South. Each region has its charm and character. Sicily is no different. However, it is remarkable to know that Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and the largest region in Italy. Moreover, this southern region boasts a variety of landscapes and climates that lead to a variety of soils. In fact, Sicily has soils that range from a composition of lava and calcareous rock to clay, basalt and tuffaceous rock. There are more than 60 grape varieties grown in Sicily, including Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, Nerello Cappuccio and Perricone for indigenous red wines and Catarratto, Grillo, Inzolia, Grecanico, Zibibbo, Moscato bianco, Carricante and Malvasia for indigenous white wines. The region of Sicily truly has a lot to offer, and Assovini Sicilia ensures that the fruits of Sicily’s land are not just highlighted, but celebrated. 

Assovini Sicilia

Assovini Sicilia, founded in 1998 by Giacomo Rallo, Diego Planeta (Planeta Wines), and Lucio Tasca (Tasca Wines), is an association that brings together over 100 Sicilian wine producers to promote the quality of Sicilian wine around the world.  Assovini Sicilia is committed to making Sicilian wine and its distinctive characteristics known, promoting the diverse viticulture of Sicilia, strengthening the territorial identity and uniting those with a common goal to define, develop and strategize about promoting and marketing Sicilian wines to the world. While awareness is promoted and quality production is key, their mission also involves Sicily’s sustainability efforts.

For the past 26 years, Assovini has been accomplishing their mission. In 2004, Assovini Sicilia launched Sicilia en Primeur, an annual event organized to preview Sicily’s best newest wines on the market. As Sicily has the largest organic grape cultivation in Italy, today Assovini encompasses Sicily’s 24 appellations (23 Doc and one Docg) and represents a wine territory of over 58,000 acres where over 12,000 are organic certified.

As Assovini Sicilia endeavors to use wine as a tool to represent Sicilia across the mediums of food, culture, art, etc., they also organize educational events and tastings in different cities throughout the year. While I did not attend this year’s edition of Sicilia en Primeur, I was able to attend their beautiful food and wine-pairing lunch in New York, at Portale Restaurant, a Michelin star restaurant, to further explore the wines and territory of Sicilia. Portale offers contemporary Italian fare, including roasted vegetables, market salads, pastas and assorted grilled meats and fish. What a fantastic choice!

The Assovini Sicilia tasting included 10 Sicilian wines from across the island to provide a nice synopsis of the region’s greatness:

Feudo Disisa – Lu Bancu Monreale DOC 2022 

The name “Lu Bancu” refers to a fabled treasure hidden in Sicily. This treasure is produced with 100% Catarratto Bianco, the most widely planted grape in Sicilian. Feudo Disisa is aged in stainless steel, then in the bottle for 60 days. It’s floral, fresh and fruity with citrus notes on the nose that echo onto the palate. Well balanced fruit, acidity and sapidity. Very drinkable. 13% Abv.

Tasca d’Almerita – Tenuta Regaleali Nozze d’Oro Sicilia DOC 2021

This lovely vino bianco cru actually represents a 50 year marriage of Count Giuseppe Tasca d’Almerita and his wife, but also a romance of Inzolia (59%) and Sauvignon Tasca (41%). The grapes are fermented in stainless steel without malolactic fermentation. This helps to maintain the freshness and acidity. The wine is, however, aged on the lees 4-5 months and then in the bottle for another 6 months. Abundant notes of tropical fruit.13% Abv.

Cantina Fina – Kike’ Terre Siciliane IGT 2022

This dry white wine from the Marsala area of Sicily is produced with Traminer Aromatico 90% and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. It is loaded with ripe citrus fruit, very aromatic, yet delicate. Great as an aperitivo or to pair with fish, seafood or grilled veggies. Fermented in stainless steel, then for 6 months in the bottle. 13.5% Abv. 

Tenute Navarra – Maribu Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG 2022

Maribu, named after the three villages surrounding Tenute Navarra, comes from Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily’s first DOCG. Here the soils are terra rossa, or reddish and iron-rich. There are also influences from the sea and the mountains. Maribu is 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato, two of the region’s predominant red grapes. It spends 12 months on the lees in stainless steel vats, followed by two months in the bottle. The result is a juicy, floral and elegant wine. 14% Abv. 

Valle dell’Acate – BDN Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG 2020 

The wine presents another style of wine from Cerasuolo di Vittoria. While  is also a blend of Nero d’Avola (60%) and Frappato (40%), it comes from the delimited classico wine-growing zone and spends more time aging. BDN spends approximately 12 months in barriques and tonneau and then in the bottle for at least 9 months. It offers an intoxicating bouquet of flowers and raspberries. The palate is well-balanced with red fruit, ripe cherries, baking spice, licorice and cacao. Very smooth with a good tannic grip. 13% Abv. 

Palmento Costanzo – Nero di Sei Etna DOC Rosso 2019 

This wine is a classic, high elevation Etna Rosso of two native grapes: 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio, from volcanic and rocky soil. Fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeast, then aged in big oak barrels for 24 months, followed by another 12 months in the bottle. Juicy, bright red fruit with balsamic notes, refreshing minerality and smooth tannins. What a beauty!

Cantine Nicosia – Contrada Monte Gorna Etna DOC Rosso 2020 

Another lovely red wine from Etna’s volcanic rock soil made from 90% Nerello Mascalese and 10% Nerello Cappuccio grapes. The vineyards are located at 700-750 meters above sea level. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, 5-6 months in barriques, 5-6 months in large oak and then aged for another 6 months in the bottle. Lovely notes of cherry, raspberry and tobacco. Very elegant with 13% Abv. 

Tenuta Ferrata – Punta Drago Etna Rosso DOC 2019 

This Etna Rosso provides yet another style, as it is produced with 100% Nerello Mascalese. Vineyards are at 650 m/asl., and of course, they’re planted in the volcanic, mineral rich soil. This wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, aging 12 mo in french oak and another 12 months in the bottle. Aromatic finesse with notes of red berries, smoke and spice. 14% Abv. 

Dei Principi di Spadafora – Sole dei Padri Terre Siciliane IGT 2012 

Sole dei Padri is a Syrah, which seems to do very well in Sicily and is the ost widely planted international grape. This one is 100% Sicilian Syrah from vineyards 450 meters asl. After spontaneous fermentation, the wine goes into cement vats. It then ages for one year in the barrel and then another 24 months in the bottle.  This single vineyard wine is a real beauty. It exudes dark berry fruit, plum and violets, with a little tobacco and spice. Integrated tannins and well balanced. 14.5% Abv. 

Donnafugata – Ben Ryé Passito Di Pantelleria DOC 2021

Ben Ryé is the sweet passito wine made from 100% Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) from the dark, volcanic and sandy soils of the Sicilian Island of Pantelleria. Traditionally, passito wines call for air-dried grapes, which enhance the sugars, aromas and extract. The vinification process lasts for over a month. The wine ages for 5 months in stainless steel, followed by at least another 8 months in the bottle. Donnafugata’s Ben Ryé is a classic and has a beautiful amber color and an outstanding, fragrant bouquet of candied fruit. The palate has intense notes of apricots, figs, herbs, honey and spice. There is an equal balance of freshness and sweetness. 14.40% Abv. 

Portale Restaurant, along with the wine director, Michael Dolinski, did a fantastic job guiding us through the tasting and pairing them with perfectly selected dishes that really highlighted the quality, diversity and versatility in Sicilian wines, as curated by Assovini Sicilia. 

Planted, harvested and aged in NY. I have a background in education and marketing, with a love and passion for travel...and all things wine. In addition to writing about wine, I also maintain an online wine boutique (thewininghour.com) that caters to the winelover, as well as the weekly vinous winechat (#WiningHourChat) on Twitter (see page for more info).

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