Monday, April 2, 2012

Nerello? Sicily? Huh?

With the other night's Falanghina safely behind us (and those crawdads thankfully behind us), I thought why not just jump into another, rather obscure, Italian varietal. Spaghetti and meatballs was going to be a whole lot safer as far as meals go - particularly since we were trying the smoked meatballs from the newly opened Falconetti's butcher shop - so we could afford to be a little adventurous with the wine.

1094. 2009 Orestiadi Rilento Nerello Mascalese Organic (IGT Sicily - Italy)

This bottle just goes to show why I love reading wine columns and articles. If I hadn't seen this bottle briefly reviewed in one of the local papers, I'd have never known that Nerello Mascalese is a grape varietal - and I've heard and tried of a lot of them. If the Falanghina got some of its flavour profile from the volcanic soils in the region around Mount Vesuvius, the same might be expected from the Nerello Mascalese as well, as the varietal is grown primarily - and this bottle in particular - on the island of Sicily in the shadow of Mount Etna.

I didn't find a whole lot about the winery online but I did see one reference that mentioned that there were only 6000 bottles of this wine made. That'd be rather surprising given it's made its way all way to our BC market. I know Commercial Drive used to be the old Little Italy neighbourhood of Vancouver, but I wouldn't think the neighbourhood had that much influence on wine sales half way around the globe, especially when the bottle is retailing for a reasonable $14 in our tax-riddled market.

That price must be based on the fact that it's difficult to sell varietal wines when no one's ever heard of the grape. Faces of wine geeks and Wine Century Club members might light up at the thought of obscure varietals, but I think the general public stays with the tried and true. I know I have second thoughts about buying an unknown entity when the price crosses the $20 threshold.

No worries with the Nerello though. As arcane as the grape may be, it's quite approachable. Not nearly as well known as the Nero d'Avola grape, Nerello does hail from the same region - Sicily and the Italian South. Knowing that, I might have bargained for a much bigger punch in the glass, but it was definitely softer than I'd expected. The spicy finish on the palate is maybe predictable from the region but that softness reminded me a bit of a bigger Chianti. That hint of Chianti may well stem from the fact that it is believed that the Nerello Mascalese grape is a cross of Sangiovese and another, so far, unidentified grape (Sangiovese being the backbone of Chianti wines).

The origin of Nerello may not be fully documented, but it is known that the grape has been around for centuries. And who knows? As more Sicilian winemakers look to take a stab at the international market, we may well see more and more versions of this varietal hitting our shelves.

In the mean time, I have yet another varietal to add to my Wine Century Club roll call. I'm loving that. And, those Falconetti smoked meatballs were bang on as well!

No comments:

Post a Comment