A tame and supple red from Sicily

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Red ahead: While the majority of Sicily's wine production is rected to the white wines of Marsala, Moscato and Malvasia, it is the red wines that have established Sicily's recent reputation. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

Sicilian reds are less well known than the northern Italian wines of Tuscany or Piedmont, yet Sicily is Italy’s largest island with more vineyards than any other region in the country. Evidence has it that the cultivation of grapes and winemaking has surrounded Sicily since 1,500 BC and was influenced by nearly 20 civilizations including the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Germans, Normans and others. It wasn’t until the 1990s that there was a concerted effort in revitalizing this wine-growing region with the replanting of vineyards and new winemaking practices emphasizing quality rather than volume.

Currently there are more than 19 native grape varieties in Sicily within 23 DOC zones. While the majority of Sicily’s wine production is directed to the white wines of Marsala, Moscato and Malvasia, it is the red wines that have established Sicily’s recent reputation. The Nero D’Avola grape is to Sicily what Sangiovese is to Tuscany and Nebbiolo is to Piedmont. This dark skinned, highly extracted red grape is indigenous to Sicily and the most widely planted red from the region. It has been commonly used as a blending grape with similarities to Syrah, but when managed correctly in this Mediterranean climate the end result can be a tame and supple red that works well for any summer venue.

Owners Salavatore and Vizia Firriato developed this relatively new property in the early 1980’s. Firriato is comprised of seven estates, each run by its own enologist with a total production of nearly four million bottles.

The 2010 Firriato Chiaramonte Nero D’Avola is 100 percent Nero D’Avola and is aged for only a few months in small oak casks. It has a transparent ruby color with fruity aromas of violets and candied berries. Just past the first sip there are savory red plums, rhubarb and black cherry notes that carry through to a pleasurable finish. The tannins and acids are almost absent, leaving a soft core of delicate red fruit in its place. This wine is straightforward and meant for immediate consumption.

Suggested Retail: $ 14.99

W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.