As we continue to highlight the Sicilian wine region this month I’m highlighting today a wine I brought back from Sicily on my last visit in October 2019. It’s amazing to me sometimes how fast time flies and how this wine hasn’t been opened yet. My commitment for 2023 is to feature a food and wine pairing at least once throughout the month and today I’m featuring the Nero d’Avola grape paired with an eggplant parmesan stacker.
The bottle I’m sharing today is a 2015 Caruso & Minini Cutaja Nero d’Avola Riserva Sicilia DOC. I wasn’t familiar with this winery when I scooped it up at a local wine shop in Sicily as a recommendation from the salesperson. It’s no surprise I haven’t seen it either as it seems this particular bottle isn’t available in the states, but you may be able to find some other wines from Caruso & Marini.
The Winery ~ Caruso & Minini
Nino Caruso began growing vineyards in the beginning of the 20th century in the hills of Marsala on the western coast of Sicily. At that point in time Nino was selling off the grapes to other producers. His son, Stefano Caruso, saw the dream of his father and decided to fulfill that dream. He was an agronomist himself, but was lacking on the commercial business side. He paired up with Mario Minini whom was a marketing businessman from Brescia in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Stefano and Mario became partners and in 2000 renovated “Il Baglio”, which was built back in 1904. A baglio in Sicilian dialect stands for an ancient building or house.
Caruso & Minini began selling their wines in 2004. Today Stefano is joined by his two daughters, Giovanna and Rosanna, whom primarily run the business as the 4th generation along with Giovanna’s husband Andrea. Their aim is to “enhance what the land gives them” on their 300 acres of property. The winery is situated inland the hills between Marsala and Salemi, but they also have a close proximity to the sea whichs gives their wines “freshness and salinity”. Their focus is dedicated to whites that ascend upwards to 450 meters above sea level, while their red grapes grow on the valley floor. They produce mostly indigenous grapes along with some international grapes.
The 2015 Caruso & Minini Cutaja Nero d’Avola Riserva Sicilia DOC comes from handpicked grapes that are macerated and fermented for 15-20 days in stainless steel with malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged 24 months in total with 18 months in French and American tonneaux of 500 liters with an additional 6 months in the bottle.
The wine “Cutaja” is named after the family vineyard as well as the round, smooth stones called “cuti” that are present in the vineyard in the area of Mazara del Valla past the gravel banks of the river. This wine was deeply ruby colored with some garnet undertones. Aromatics of plums, jammy blackberries and chocolate. On the palate this wine was full-bodied and smooth and silky with nice acidity and a touch of tannin. Rich fruits continued through to the lingering finish. 14% ABV
The Pairing with Nero d’Avola
I always think of eggplant when I think of Sicily. Sicilian cuisine is labeled as “dinners for the rich and food for the poor” by Giuseppe Pitre, scholar and folklorist of Sicily. Diets rich in bread, nuts, olives, beans, pasta, fruits vegetables and of course seafood. I chose to pair the Cutaja Nero d’Avola with a stack of eggplant layered with ricotta cheese and sauce which paired nicely. This wine could also easily stand up to some heavier meats as well and pasta dishes.