Friday, January 24, 2014

Golden Pairing

The Tenuta Gorghi Tondi estate from Mazara del Vallo in Western Sicily produces a dessert wine (passito) called Grillo D’Oro (Golden Grillo).  It is made from dried Grillo grapes which have been graced by muffa nobile (noble rot or botrytis).  Bill and I had the pleasure of enjoying a bottle of the 2010 Grillo D’Oro with family and friends over the holidays.  With aromas of dried apricots, figs, dates, candied orange peel and honey, this dessert wine evokes the fruits which have filled the market gardens of Palermo since the tenth century.  In the mouth, it is velvety sweet, with an acidity that balances the sweet dried fruits and gives the wine freshness.  It was the highlight of our dessert table, a perfect pairing with both the fig-filled Christmas cookies from Sicily called buccellati  (laced with walnuts, pistachios, almonds, oranges and spices) and the buttery Christmas bread from Verona called Pandoro (golden bread).  This wine would also pair well with milder veined cheeses (like a sweet gorgonzola), roasted nuts and dried fruits for dessert.  Squisito!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sicilian School

From the Sicilian court of King Frederick II in the early 13th century there emerged a Romantic poetry written in the vernacular language and in a new poetic form – the sonnet.  Frederick II was himself a learned man of science and poetry.  This group of poets and their work, known as the Sicilian School, gave Sicily a literary identity that would survive for future generations of Sicilian poets, playwrights, and patriots.  Their literary invention also was the foundation for the earliest proto-Italian vernacular poetry of Dante and his Divine Comedy.  In his sonnet “A l’aire claro ò vista ploggia dare“ (I have seen a clear sky give rain) Giacomo da Lentini, the most renowned of the Sicilian Romantic poets, could well be describing the stark contradictions that have marked Sicily’s history -- and its ancient culture of wine.

“I have seen a clear sky give rain
and darkness produce light,
and blazing fire become ice,
and cold snow produce heat,
and a sweet thing become bitter
and bitterness transformed to sweetness,

Karla Mallette, The Kingdom of Sicily, 1100-1250: A Literary History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 176.