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  • hbanziger

E - 152 : Not Stocking the Wine Bar in 2021

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Nero d'Avola Grape

Last year for the trip from Liguria to Sicily, we changed the way of buying wine. Rather than stacking the boat with bottles for four weeks, we decided to buy locally and use our journey to discover wines we did not know. In Genoa we got Aqua Dolce, the elegant red from the Italian-French border and some nice Vermentino from Cinque Terre. In Corsica and Sardinia we found more Vermentino and various Rosés. In Sicily, we bought a few bottles of Etna Rosso and Greciano Dorato. It was a perfect decision. It allowed us to indulge in wines we had never heard before. We definitely do this again this summer and I am looking forward to the many surprises we are going to run into.

Sicily's Wine Regions

Starting in Malta, we will start our sailing with the bar minimum of wine and wait until we reach Syracuse on Monday to “go to town”. On the shopping list shall be Nero d’Avola and Cerasuolo, both red wines from Sicily’s south we missed out on last year.

The Nero d’Avola grows a few miles south of Syracuse around the towns of Noto and Pachino. The tradition of growing Nero d’Avola is going back several hundred years – nobody really knows where the grape is from but there are plenty of stories we shall hear this summer. The wine is full bodied, warm, dry and its colour is deep ruby red. Apparently it is the most well-known wine of Sicily. But to be honest I never had any.

The Cerasuolo di Vittoria is also from the south of Sicily and made in the Province of Ragusa, the large Baroque a good two hours west to Syracuse. Contrary to the Nero d’Avola, it is a blend of 50 - 70% Nero d’Avola and 30 - 50% Frappato, a grape I never heard of. The Frappato gives it a lighter color and a more fragrant, floral character but keeps the full body of the blend. This is also a wine I never had but it is definitely worth buying a few bottles. Since we are always 8 for dinner, we usually go through 3 bottles a night. Apparently, it is the only wine in Sicily that acquired DOCG status – it must be good then.

As for the white, we will stay with the Greciano Dorato, also known as Garganega, which we already had last year. It is a dry white which carries aromas from lemon, honey and sweet spices. The perfect wine to drink before dinner. Garganega grapes are also planted in the Veneto and around Verona. Soave is probably the wine most people know made from Garganega grapes. We cannot go wrong on this one.

Greciano Dorato Grape

Looking into the second week, I was eager to find wines from Calabria but noticed that the region is still a bulk producer and the variety is rather limited. I guess we have to stack up Sicilian wines in Catania for our trip along the Calabrian coast.

We will get richly awarded though once we arrive in Puglia. I remember from my research last year that Puglia is not only the region which produces almost half of Italy’s olive oil but is also the country’s biggest wine producers. Have no clue about Apulian wines though except Greco Bianco, the well know white wine. I guess we will have to do “taste and error” when exploring them. Found some helpful maps and some good sites such as:

Puglia, the part of the African Plate that attached itself to Italy, is mostly flat and ideal for wine growing. Grapes love limestone and sandy soils. Their root system is well adapted to the arid climate. Whilst most of the roots remain within 1 meter of the surface, some finer branches reach much further down to 9 meters depth. They are thus able to tap into Puglia’s water table. In the Mediterranean summer, the grapes’ roots busily pump water up to the leaves compensating for the high evaporation rate. With the leaves staying green and properly watered, photosynthesis continues throughout the summer and creates the sugars we eventually find in the grapes. As ever so often, it is the invisible part which makes a difference.

Puglia's Wine Regions

There are three types of red wines which I never had before – can’t wait to try them!

Negroamaro, a very dark grape with thick skin and a slightly bitter taste. It is mostly used for making Rosés. When used for making red wine, the color is almost violet. It has a herbal, some people say almost tabaco like taste and is full bodied with little tannin.

Primitivo is next. Now that I read that Zinfandel from California is made with the same grapes, I know why I never bought it. Zinfandel is not my type of wine. But it seems to be popular on the beaches of Puglia – maybe because its high level of alcohol which easily exceeds 16 degrees?

Vineyard near the traditional Tully Houses - more about them in another blog

The last red to talk about here is the Nero di Troia. It is dry with medium acidity and high tannins. Tastes somewhere between cherry and violets – wonder what that means? Sounds intriguing though!

Let’s move to the whites of which I know just one: Greco Bianco, which is rumoured to be around for more than 2’500 years, dating back to Magna Graecia. No idea whether this is true but Greco Bianco is delicious. It has a deep color, is fresh, has a peachy flavor and is best drunken young. It will be our standard white for the last two weeks. It is perfect after 6 pm when the heat of the sun is gone.

There are two more whites produced in Puglia: Bombino Bianco, a softer and more floral version of Greco Bianco. Last but not least there is Verdeca, a grape that is only grown in Puglia. It is often used for blending with other whites and people describe it as neutral. But we will be able to buy bottles which are 100% Verdeca. Because of its lemony acidity, it is recommended to be drunk at 7 Celsius. Let’s find out!

With so many wines to taste we probably leave Italy completely overstocked and continue drinking Apulian wine when sailing through Greek islands on our last week. But given that the wine originally came from Greece, I believe this is acceptable.

Large Scale Wine Production in Puglia

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