Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Sicilian Surprise

It was to be a simple dinner - a "spaghetti night" on the home front - however, Boo did say that, in his humble opinion, the sauce was one of his best ever. I figured that called for a nice Italian wine and I grabbed one that we'd been given as a gift a little while back. It turned out that Boo's sauce was definitely a good one and the wine turned out to be up to the task.

862. 2005 Feudo Montoni Nero d'Avola (IGT Sicily - Italy)

I can't say that I know much about Sicilian wines - especially ones that clock in at $50-plus - but this Nero d'Avola is apparently one of particular note. It's a single vineyard wine and the Vrucara vineyard has an interesting history. Having first been planted in the 16th Century, the wines produced from the fruit were prized almost from the start as Andrea Bacci, the Vatican court's official sommelier of the time wrote about the wine in his "De naturali Vinorum Historia." One site says that the wine is still served at the Vatican.

The Vrucara vineyard is located in the Sicilian hills where it is largely surrounded by grain fields and livestock farming and has been for centuries. The relative isolation has served the winery well though. Vrucara is now known for its particular clone of Nero d'Avola, having a distinct identity that has been preserved, without genetic mutation, for all these years. The isolation of the vineyard even protected it from the Phyloxera louse that devastated the vineyards of Europe in the 19th Century.

The vineyard is only 5 hectares in size though and the vines have an average age of 90 to 120 years. As a result, Vrucara doesn't deliver a whole lot of fruit. In a good year, the winery can produce maybe 3,000 bottles.

Not knowing enough about Nero d'Avola as a varietal, I can't say how representative or how uncharacteristically different the wine was. I can say that there was a balance and drinkability that I don't always find with Old World and Italian wines. The wine's feet were firmly planted in those Old World, Sicilian soils but there was a modernity to it that certainly suited our palates.

I was caught yet again, however, learning more about the wine AFTER we'd finished it. It would have been nice to have a better sense of the wine while drinking it. A future task - if ever there was one.

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