Friday, March 15, 2013

Tasting the Three Valleys

In a recent tasting, I had the pleasure to revisit – through the medium of flavor – three different Sicilian wine estates: Bonaccorsi, Cusumano, and Planeta.  Bonaccorsi is located on the northern flank of Mount Etna in the town of Randazzo.  Cusumano’s headquarters is near Palermo, but the estate makes wines from grapes sourced from around the island.  Planeta has been a champion of both international and indigenous varieties, and has taken the important step of building separate wineries in its principal vineyard locations throughout Sicily.  The indicated prices are the retail prices in the Boston market.

Alice Bonaccorsi, ValCerasa, Etna Rosso 2007 ($33)

Tasting Val Demone: Etna wines in the Boston area tend to retail for over $40.  So this relatively mature, well-made Etna red (80% Nerello Mascalese, 20% Nerello Cappuccio from alberello trained vines at almost 800 meters above sea level) was a pleasant find.  I had the 2006 about a year earlier.  They are both good years for Etna red, but 2006 is considered the finer vintage.  I, however, liked the 2007 ValCerasa better than the 2006 because the 2007 was more aromatic in the nose and richer in the mouth.  Now I like a little bit of rusticity if it is balanced with a fresh vibrant nose.  Hence I appreciated the violet and cherry smells mixed with leather.  In the mouth piquant and very tart flavors transitioned into an escalating fine astringency.  The finish has a salty finale.  Pair with tenderloin steak and table-talk chasing a lazy afternoon.  

Cusumano “Sàgana” 2008 ($32) 

Tasting Val di Noto: I was eager to taste this wine because the Nero d’Avola grapes from which it is made come from Butera, a town in the southeastern corner of Sicily known as the Val di Noto.  Discover what makes Butera a special place for Nero d’Avola in Chapter 12 of The World of Sicilian Wine.  2008 is a classic vintage.  This is full-blown Nero d’Avola.  The color is as dark blue as high altitude Argentine Malbec.  The strong nose of chocolate, over-ripe blackberries, cinders, and Vintage Port indicates a harvest beyond perfect ripeness.  Threshold sweetness moves into a viscous and sour jam-juiciness.  Bitterness overwhelms astringency in the finish.  (I appreciate this kind of bitterness!)  Have this wine wrestle some aged Ragusano cheese.  Let us know who wins.

Planeta “Cometa” 2010 ($48)

Tasting Val di Mazara: The Planeta and Settesoli companies have been the pioneers of developing the Fiano variety from Campania. They planted it in vineyards in the vicinity of their headquarters in the township of Menfi in the Terre Sicane area. The Cometa, 100% Fiano, has a lemon, creamed corn, and apricot nose and a viscous, piquant, and slightly bitter mouth which is reminiscent of a cross between a barrel-fermented, lees-stirred Chardonnay and a late harvest Viognier.  In other words, the wine is delicious.  The exotic character and high body suggest accompaniment with aged cheese, a low-sugar fruit tart, or perhaps a pâté of some sort.  White chocolate with an accompanying slice of dried apricot also merits a try.