I’ll be continuing over the next month or two sharing some of my personal selections from the Gambero Rosso event I attended earlier this summer. Thankfully I have been invited to tour the vineyards of Mt. Etna and some other locations this October so I can’t finally wait to truly understand what makes these wines unique. Sicily has always been a wine region I find intriguing, mostly due to its volcanic soils. I have a number of favorite grapes that I have enjoyed from this region, including today’s feature of nero d’avola and the unique native, perricone grape.
I had the opportunity to meet Alessandro, the brand ambassador for the Assuli Baglio winery of Sicily. Such a kind, enthusiastic man that was so ready to share the wonderful wines of this winery. I was surprised that they didn’t have an importer yet in Boston and am glad when wineries get this opportunity to share their wines so that we can all experience them.
The Winery ~ Assuli Baglio
Assuli Baglio is located in the western part of Sicily near Marsala in the town of Mazara del Vallo in the Trapani province. They own about 100 hectares dedicated to vineyards that are 50-60 years old. Their goal is to go all organic next year too! The winery is owned by Roberto Caruso whose father was known for discovering a new kind of marble known as the perlato di Sicilia back in 1948. The Caruso family has strong ties to the land and Roberto decided to continue with their pride of the land and bottle the wines from their expanded vineyards. He even used his father’s perlato di Sicilia in part of the winery’s architecture as you'll see from the video below.
Assuli’s main focus is on the autochthonous, native, grapes of Sicily. These grapes include nero d’avola, zibibbo, grillo, perricone, insolia and catarratto. I personally I have found some great nero d’avola over the years that I have enjoyed and Assuli was just another to add to the list. Even better at its suggested price of only $15. I’ve always also enjoyed zibibbo in Sicily and have tried it in both a dry style and dessert style. Both a pleasure!
The Grapes ~ Perricone & Nero d’Avola
Nero d’avola is the most well-known and widely planted red grape of Sicily. This grape was previously known as calabrese due to the dialect in Italian calavrisi. It hails from the town of Avola in the southeastern corner of Sicily. It is a thick skinned, late ripening grape that does particularly well in Sicily’s hot climate. It‘s a grape that lends deep colors to the glass with red and dark fruits. A grape developing wines with generous body.
Never heard of perricone? It’s no surprise. Perricone is a grape that disappeared over the last century. It was basically wiped out by phylloxera. He stated it is only produced in western Sicily. It can also be known as pignatello. I don’t know why so many Italian grapes have so many other names. Like it’s not confusing enough, right?! Perricone lends texture and tannin to wines, therefore, it’s typically blended with nero d’avola. I was lucky enough to try this wine from Assuli made from 100% perricone. I was able to see what this grape is really made of.
I tasted multiple wines from Assuli, but my personal favorites were the 2017 Assuli L’orlando Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia and their 2016 Assuli Perricone Furioso DOC Sicilia.
2017 Assuli L’orlando Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia – Made of 100% nero d’avola this wine was aged partially in stainless steel and in the bottle. Deep ruby in color with purple tinges. A very intense nose of ripe red fruits balanced on the palate with soft tannins, nice acidity with a little spice. SRP $15
2016 Assuli Perricone Furioso DOC Sicilia – This was my top pick. Made of 100% perricone the wine macerated with the grapes for about 25-30 days. This wine spends 1 year in big barrels and 1 year in the bottle. An intense ruby color with purple tinges. A very well-balanced wine with nice structure and jammy fruits. A wine with lots of character. SRP $20
What are your discoveries with Sicilian wines and any particular favorites?
I love this video below on Assuli's website. It show's the family's involvement with the perlato d'Sicilia and tying it into their passion for their land and vineyards. All copyright of Assuli.