Welcome to Sicily! One of the craziest wine regions in the world. Sicilian wines are amazing.
I found this wine when I was consulting for a corporate wine and food event – pairing wine and barbecue! This wine is a great, great wine and if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend.
I wanted some fun, new and interesting wines. Many people came to my table and asked about Pinot Noir – I suggested this. As they hesitantly held out their glass while I poured a small sip, they looked unsure. However, once they tasted it – they were hooked! I went through more of this Frappato than anything else that night!
Main Grapes of Red Sicilian Wines
The cool thing about Sicily, is that while they do grow some international varieties (Chardonnay and Syrah), they mostly stick with native grapes.
Nero d’Avola is the most popular, so I wanted to cover that one as well in case you come across it in your local stores. When looking at Sicilian wines you will likely find this style. These grapes provide medium to full bodied, medium acidity, and medium tannin wines. These wines have notes of black fruits, like plums and cherries. They are often made in fruitier, early-drinking styles but can be heavier more complex if from one of the best producers (get in the $28+ range for those, and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Check out this one from Martha Stewart’s Wine Co.
Frappato is another really fun grape from Sicily and that’s the main subject for today’s post. It can be blended with Nero d’Avola for a more powerful and robust red, however this Irmàna Frappato is 100% single varietal. This grape yields wines that could be easily compared to Pinot Noir or Beaujolais Cru (top wine villages of Beaujolais, made from Gamay grapes) style wines from warmer climates. Light body, lower tannin, great acidity, and a fairly deep color thanks to the winemaking techniques of cold pressing with the skins.
Sicily also has some killer white wines, but those are harder to find here in the US and are pretty great in their own right, so we’ll save that for another post!
So, before we dive into the actual wine review, what do you need to know about Sicily?
Sicilian Geography & Climate
Sicily is an island in the Mediterranean. That means that Sicilian wines get a lot of sunshine and moderate rainfall. Winters can be a little wet, but the summers and harvest will be dry and drought can be an issue. It’s also mountainous. Many of the best vineyard sites are at higher elevations to combat the heat, so that the grapes can have a long and slow ripening season (to become more concentrated and complex) while still maintaining adequate acidity (higher elevation = cooler temperatures and more concentrated and flavor-packed wines).
Sicilian Wine Designations to Look For
Most sicilian wines fall into one of three designated areas for quality – however there are others outside of these.
IGT Terre di Sicilia (also seen as Terre Siciliane) covers all of Sicily. This is the most basic level of quality with the least restrictions.
Sicilia DOC is the next level up, which requires lower yields in the vineyards to produce more complex and concentrated grapes (think about it — too many vines in one area can water the grapes down because they don’t get enough nutrients…. in some areas that are extremely fertile high density planting is actually a good thing because the grapes have to compete more and won’t get so many nutrients, here in Sicily, there’s not too much to go around, so lower density planting is better).
Etna DOC is one of the best smaller appellations in the entire region. This area produces great wines from old, low-yielding vines at really high altitudes. Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio are often the bases for these fabulous wines. Really aromatic, high acidity and tannins, with sour red cherries, cranberries and raspberries and that classic Italian dried herb aroma. As they age you can begin to find certain mushroom notes too! Great quality whites also come from this region, that can be drunk young or bottle aged that develop complex waxy honeyed notes.
What You Need to Know About This Sicilian Wine
This wine, the Irmàna Frappato, has been made using a technique called cryomaceration, also known as cold soaking. What this means is that the grape skins (where all the color is!) are soaked with the juice at a cool temperature. The purpose of this is to extract color, but not tannin especially because Frappato is low tannin grape (tannins are the astringent and prickly feeling you can get when drinking a “big bold red”). The result? A Pinot Noir style body (light and fruit-forward) with a Merlot style coloring.
The Wine Review: Irmàna Frappato
Appearance: This wine is Medium Ruby.
Nose: This wine has youthful and light intesnity aromatics, with notes of tart red cherry, ripe raspberry and strawberry, and red currants.
Palate: This wine has a medium flavor intensity, and is dry with medium minus tannins, medium plus acidity, medium alcohol, light body, and a medium finish. There are notes of ripe and candied strawberry, red raspberry, and dried violets.
Assessment of Quality: This is a good wine. I would argue that it’s a very good wine for what it is – however WSET doesn’t quite work that way, and instead the wine must be measured against all other wines, not merely just other Frappato based wines.
Level of Readiness for Drinking: This wine is good to drink now, but not suitable for long term aging.
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