Over the past couple years I’ve enjoyed discovering countless wines that I would describe just as that: discovery wines. These are selections that open one’s eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. Some of the most memorable for me have been Sicilian.
I’ve been glad to see more and more people becoming wise to the Mediterranean isle’s offerings. But still, many times when I suggest a bottle from Sicily, I will see anything from non-recognition to visible wincing. This is because for a long time, the wines the world knew from Sicily were Marsala and thin, flabby white wines. Wine-makers have not always realized the full potential of Sicily’s climate and terroirs, and those who did often did not get their wines off the island.
Now, with the market beginning to open its arms, old and new producers alike are creating exciting selections that see the light of day beyond their shores, and delicious possibilities abound! Allow me to mention a few of my favorite producers, well worth scooping up, should you find anything from them:
Azienda Agricola COS—Now a name recognized for being steadfast in both quality and ingenuity. Their practice of aging some of their wines in traditional clay amphorae takes a page from ancient history to create modern selections.
Ariana Occhipinti—The niece of Guisto Occhipinti (the O in COS). This young woman, only in her mid-twenties, is turning heads and creating bright, balanced, beautiful wines. Her SP 68 bottling, named after the country road that runs through her town, is a tribute to her love of home.
Frank Cornelissen—He’s bold, he’s Belgian (aka “The Mad Belgian” as his Sicilian neighbors have affectionately nicknamed him), and he’s creating wines that are so alive, that when you open one you feel like you’re standing on the slopes of Mt Etna. On the flank of one of the most active volcanos in the world, these wines transcend the term all-natural to become a taste of nature itself.
Terre Nerre—Marc De Grazia, known originally as a prominent wine importer, set out to create pure elegant expressions of the many personalities of Mt. Etna. My favorites are his single- site bottlings, like Fuedo di Mezzo. Grown on small parcels of land, these wines are beautifully expressed and can drink like a beautiful Chambolle-Musigny.
I’ve enjoyed every wine I’ve tasted from these producers, I couldn’t say enough nice things about them. So the next time you are thinking about picking up a couple of bottles of wine for dinner, seek them out. In general, I’ve found them—although diverse—extremely versatile. Perhaps this speaks to the diverse culture and cuisine of the island itself. It truly is a place of the land and the sea.
Stay tuned for more Sicilian love songs, as I’m on a bit of a tear. A more extensive profile of some of the wines of Frank Cornelissen is on its way and you’ll want to see what they’re all about.