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Wine Review: Sicilian varieties continue Italian tradition

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Italian wines just keep on coming.

This time, the wines are from the island of Sicily, which is located just off the toe of the Italian “boot'' and has a very hot and humid climate.

Normally, no one would consider Sicily as an area where fine wine grapes would thrive; it’s just too hot. The saving grace for Sicilian winemakers is the high mountains that dot the island. The temperatures on these mountains, combined with grape-friendly volcanic soil, have proven to be the perfect conditions for growing fine wine grapes.

Dona Fuugata 2020 Lighea Zibibbo ($22)
Lighea is a dry white wine that has been made from a local Sicilian grape called zibibbo. The wine is alive with the tropical aromas of orange blossom, lychee, citrus and a little known indigenous greenish orange called bergamot, all of which are cradled in an interesting and very Sicilian mineral cloud. The flavor and finish continue the tropical theme and remain on the palate for a considerable time. This is a product for the adventurers among us, as it is a chance to sample a little-known wine made from a little-known grape variety.

Planeta 2021 Rose ($18)
This very light pink rose wine has been made from the red syrah and Nero d'Avola, a dark red grape variety found almost exclusively in Sicily. While most rose wines tend to play down the flavor and aroma of the red grapes used to make the wine, the Planeta 2021 Rose skillfully incorporates them into the blend, showcasing their floral qualities. In this wine, the floral notes of hibiscus and rose hips merge with strawberry, melon and peach. All of these flavors continue on to a long and exceptionally fruity finish. This is a wine that should be experienced, as it is most definitely not a run-of-the-mill rose.

Arrigo Nerello Mascalese ($50)
This wine proves beyond any doubt that Scillian winemakers can make a world-class red wine. Made from Sicily’s favorite red wine grape, the Nerello Mascalese, this wine can, in my opinion, hold its own against some of the more expensive red wines in today's marketplace. The color is, as is typical of an Italian red wine, a deep, dark maroon. The aroma features all of the dark red fruits common to a red wine, with the most prominent being cherry and pomegranate. They’re backed up by suggestions of herbs and spices. These fruit aromas follow the wine right through to the finish where they continue to mix and merge with each other. I must admit to being impressed by the quality and strength of this Sicilian beauty and will add that while it is costly, I believe it is worth its price and then some. A thought crossed my mind when I sampled this wine. What would this wine be like if given several additional years of aging in the bottle? I believe it should prove to be memorable.

Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2019 ($28)
The Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2019 may be a bit less costly than the Arrigo Nerello Mascalese, but it is in no way a lesser wine. While it shares the same basic flavors and aromas with the Arrigo, this wine goes a bit further by introducing a rather obvious suggestion of citrus. The mineral flavor also is more accentuated, but not overdone. There also is a bit more tannin in this wine, which puts it into the class of cabernet sauvignon. This, too, is another Italian red that I am sure will not disappoint the drinker.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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