All of Italy’s regions produce wine, and most of them have indigenous grapes which are rarely seen outside the country – or sometimes even outside the province. Although rightly proud of their native grapes, when exporting wines to other countries the lack of recognition can be an issue. Italy’s southernmost region has a clever solution: blends of local and international varieties. If consumers don’t know the local then they might still buy the wine if they know the other, and over time the local grapes get better known.
Of course, the blends have to work well as wines, otherwise they would be forgotten quickly. Here are two Sicilian blends I tried recently which I think are very successful:
Disclosure: both bottles were kindly provided for review.
Feudo Luparello Grillo – Viognier 2015 (13.0%, €15.85 at winesdirect.ie)
Grillo is a native Sicilian grape which copes well with the island’s sun-baked climate. Sometimes on the neutral side, it has received most recognition to date as the grape behind Marsala, Sicily’s famous fortified wine (One of “Frankie’s Rules of Thumb”: where regular wine is turned into another product (Sherry, Cognac, Champagne etc.) the underlying wine is usually bland as hell).
Careful viticulture, restricting yields and better winemaking techniques have allowed Grillo to be quite expressive, but Feudo Luparello add 30% Viognier in this wine. It’s quite apparent on the nose, as Viognier is highly aromatic, with floral and stone fruit notes. On the palate it adds richness, and almost a touch of oiliness (which I love in varietal Viognier). It’s not a flabby wine as the Grillo keeps it on the straight and narrow with fresh acidity.
This is an interesting and versatile white wine which represents great value for money.
Feudo Luparello Nero d’Avola – Syrah 2014 (13.5%, €15.85 at winesdirect.ie)
Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted black grape in Sicily – and indeed takes its name from the city of Avola in Syracuse – though it is held in considerable esteem. It has been likened to Syrah / Shiraz by some, though personally I don’t find them that alike. In the past it has been seen as a little rustic in character, but that was mainly down to the winemaking.
This red keeps the same proportions as the white – it’s 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Syrah. Feudi Luparello is based in Pachino, just down the coast from Avola in Syracuse, so the vines get plenty of cooling sea breezes. That sounds lovely, I hear you say, but what effect does it have on the wine? The main one is to make it smoother and more elegant – there’s no hint of rusticity at all. It is jam-packed full of juicy black fruit, with a touch of exotic spice. Even French friends who had a taste grudgingly admitted that a “foreign” wine was pretty good!
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