We know we’re starting to sound like a broken record when we say this, but wow are we excited for this month’s release! Though we love every single bottle of wine in the shop, and the regions they come from, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to having some favorites. Some we’ve already covered in Wine Club (Priorat and Patagonia, we’re looking at you!). Others are in the works.
This month, we’ve opted for one of our absolute favorites, Sicily. Those of you that peruse our Italian wine section often may have noticed that we have a high percentage of Sicilian wines, and that we like to switch up our offerings from it. Insider tip: if you notice this pattern in our store, it’s because we love that region or style.
As always, we've picked two wines. We opted for one white, made with cattarrato, and one red made with Frappato, one of our absolute favorite varietals. Frappato, by the way, pairs perfectly with pizza, as a rule.
What makes Sicily so special? Well, to start, minerality. Minerality is that special component of wine that you only notice when you go from drinking a bottle that has it to one that doesn’t, or vice versa. Like salt in food, minerality lifts wine to new heights.
Second, variety. Despite its tiny size, Sicily has a dazzling array of options, as well as its own collection of indigenous grapes rarely found elsewhere. This is a function of its equally diverse microclimates. Much of Sicily is essentially at sea level, meaning it’s climate is Mediterranean and hot. However, in the northeast corner stands the massive Mount Etna, an active volcano that provides altitude and changes mind patterns to such a degree that many of the vineyards around it are classified as “cold climate.”
In the northwest corner, there are significant altitude changes as well. One of the two wines we chose for this month really drives this point home. We had a chance to chat with the producer of Iniceri “Abisso” Azienda Agricola G. Bambina, Castellammare del Golfo 100% Catarratto, Claudio Sottile.
Claudio is the first of 5 generations of grape growers to produce their first estate bottled wine. The property sits in Contrada Inici, outside the town of Castellammare del Golfo, so named for the castle nearby perched on a gulf overlooking the Mediterranean.
“This land has been known for its fertile soil since the 14th century,” Claudio explains. “It was previously known as a hub for merchant trade of ancient grains grown in the nearby valley. This valley belonged to members of the San Clemente family, Spanish royalty. The castle was specifically positioned on what is said to be one of the largest gravitational underground granaries in the Mediterranean."
He also walked us through why the valley is so fertile.
“There’s no river now, but water once ran through it, leaving natural deposits of subsoil minerals vary far and wide throughout different elevations as the body of water dried up.”
And why it works so well for winegrowing.
“The Contrada Inici has one of the most unique yet drastic soil compositions in the area. The vineyard is positioned on a west-facing slope which in turn provides excellent sun exposure yet the topsoil limestone gives relief to the rootstock of the vines keeping the them at constant temperature throughout the drastic heat differential between day and night.
“The soils are perfect too. For the Abisso, the grapes grow at 600 meters (1,800 ft.) above sea level. This part of the vineyard is completely enveloped by topsoil limestone and calcium. It’s so rocky we can’t use tractors to aerate at all!”
The valley also has an unusual wind pattern. A predominant wind flows north to south. However, two cross winds run in opposite directions of each other. The result is a very arid yet very hot growing season, both keys for grape growing. A local myth exists as to why these winds act the way they do. This part of the story fascinates us the most!
“There are two caves in the valley. This wine is named for one of them, Abisso. A mythology sprung up over the years that these two caves have something like a gravitational pull between them, that they are the actual source of the winds.”
In this case, we like the myth as much as the science! The idea of the land literally breathing through the caves is just too magical!
We already covered a ton about the producer of this first wine above. Needless to say, it’s gorgeous!
2017 Iniceri “Abisso” Catarratto - Azienda Agricola G. Bambina - Castellammare del Golfo, TP
A crisp, mineral-driven bianco from l’isola di Sicilia, an area full of the rich mixture of limestone, volcanic and clay soils swept by the gentle breeze of the Mediterranean Sea. Pairs well with seasonal greens, such as arugula, with fresh grilled nectarines, crushed almonds and sardines sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil.
We gave a lot of attention to the white because we had a chance to speak with the producer on the phone. However, we love the red offering as well, and know you will, too!
Valle Dell’acate Frappato 2016
A sleeper grape with great personality, we are huge fans of Frappato! The vines grow in black volcanic and limestones soils, producing fragrant aromas that jump out of the glass. It pairs well with slow-smoked brisket marinated with red wine vinegar, soy sauce, panela sugar, Spanish smoked paprika, fresh oregano, sea salt, and fresh black pepper.