Cerasuolo di Vittoria: A Sicilian Secret

Ragusa in Sicily at sunrise

© Shutterstock

Ragusa in Sicily at sunrise

Ragusa in Sicily at sunrise

© Shutterstock

You think of Sicilian wine and you imagine something full-boded, southern, sun-scorched and sultry. But think again. This island’s wines are as complex and individual as its culture – and far more elegant than you might expect at this latitude.

Lovers of Etna wines will already know that Sicilian reds can be translucent, but there is another Sicilian appellation that you should not miss: Cerasuolo di Vittoria.

Indigenous blend ideal for spring

These red wines are made from two indigenous varieties:  dark and brooding Nero d’Avola and light and scented Frappato. Together, they make a style of wine that is neither light nor heavy and thus ideal for this time of year when you no longer need heavy winter warmers. These two grapes seem to complete each other – one lending depth and some body, the other lending freshness, brightness, perfume and elegance. Lithe, fragrant, raspberry scented and floral Frappato gives nuance to the depth and body of Nero d’Avola – contrary to what you may expect there is a lot of freshness as well as that Italian trump card: that alluring edge of fine bitterness, so reminiscent of almond and cherry pip.

A well-hidden secret

Stefano Girelli, owner of the Santa Tresa and Cortese estates in Sicily and a member of the consorzio of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, says: “We are a small consorzio with just 25 wineries, yet to be discovered, a very small area, a well-hidden secret.” But he is also quick to emphasise that Cerasuolo di Vittoria “is the first and still the only DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita) of Sicily, recognised in 2001 and granted in 2005, because it is a unique area.” The designated area covers just 252ha/623 acres but has been famous for its wines for centuries. “It is a wine with a strong identity,” Girelli says. Located in the province of Ragusa in southern Sicily, delimited by the Erei Mountains to the north and the Mediterranean to the south, some vineyards rise to an altitude of 500m/1,640ft.

Red wine for fish 

The quality of tannin in these wines comes across as ‘barely-there’ but gives evident structure – this is what turns them into gastronomic marvels. Girelli is quick to point out that Cerasuolo di Vittoria is not just a wine to accompany meat – it also comes into its own with much of the fish-based cuisine of Sicily: “Cerasuolo di Vittoria in the past was drunk with fish, we are close to the coast and there are a lot of local dishes based on fish, like sarde a beccafico [a local speciality of sardines stuffed with pine nuts and raisins]. It matches with tuna steak with caramelised onions, swordfish with capers and tomatoes, it's a very interesting match – that is what I tell everyone: try! It has such good acidity and is so gentle, it can really match these dishes.”

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