Cerasuolo di Vittoria is one of Sicily’s best-known wines. It is grown and made near Ragusa, in south-east Sicily, a blend of the local varieties Nero d’Avola and Frappato, both of which are also bottled individually. Frappato is an slightly aromatic red grape, very distinctive in aroma and flavor, whereas Nero d’Avola is a more conventional red variety, sometimes compared to Syrah. I love varietal Frappato for its spicy, aromatic verve, medium weight and pomegranate character, but the blend with Nero d’Avola is also very successful, taming the wildness of the Frappato a bit. The Gurrieri family produce excellent examples of these classic Sicilian wines, and a varietal Grillo that is very good too. The climate is baking hot (Ragusa is further south than the northern tip of Tunisia) but all the wines are fresh, testament to the local grape varieties they use and great care in the vineyard.
Giovanni Gurrieri’s introduction to his estate, in his own words:
‘The history of Gurrieri, in the panorama of Sicilian viticulture, stems from a family passion. Giovanni and Angela, born and raised with the agricultural and peasant passion of father Vincenzo and mother Graziella who have been producing grapes for fifty years, decided to continue the family tradition and to produce grapes, wine and oil in Sicily, near the little town of Chiaramonte Gulfi, in the province of Ragusa. The dream of making a Sicilian wine which represents the identity of its territory began with the first bottling in 2010.
We are in the countryside of the Iblei Mountains, in the fertile Val di Noto, in the area of the only Sicilian DOCG, that of Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Giovanni cultivates his family's 3.2 hectares of land in the Chiaramonte Gulfi and Mazzarrone countryside and also rents about 3 hectares, in Chiaramonte Gulfi. Soils of calcareous origin give richness and complexity. The breezy Mediterranean climate, here characterized by important temperature variation between day and night, gives the wines strength, vigor, aromas and unique flavors. For each label, small quantities are produced: about 3000 bottles.
The family cultivates organically, growing native vines such as Nero d’Avola, Frappato, and Grillo. Nero d'Avola, also known as Calabrese, is an ancient Sicilian grape variety. Frappato, a vine native to the Vittoria area, is grown on the farm with measured yields so as to offer particularly sweet and fine tannins. The Frappato vinified in purity gives a wine of great persuasiveness, with intensely fruity aromas. In the classic Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, Nero d’Avola adds strength and complexity to this harmonious blend.
The wines are born from the meticulous selection of grapes, grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, harvested by hand in two passes to obtain the best result from different maturations, transported in small boxes to avoid mistreating the grapes, chilled, softly crushed and vinified (with long maceration for the reds) in temperature controlled tanks. After the malolactic fermentation, the wine is decanted into wooden barrels or steel tanks where it matures; after bottling, there is a period of aging in the bottle, necessary to fully express the potential.'
Grillo DOC Sicilia
Grillo is a white grape, thought to be native to Sicily and to be a cross between Catarratto and Moscato di Alessandria/Zibibbo. When grown and vinified correctly it shows fine freshness and perfume, with notes of citrus, apple, and herbs.
Estate-grown near Mazzarrone, west of Chiaramonte Gulfi, at around 180 meters/600 feet in altitude. Soil is sandy clay; the grapes are picked around mid-September, pressed immediately and fermented at controlled temperature in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts. After about 9 months in tank the wine is bottled.
Gurrieri’s Grillo is a beautiful example of the variety, pale straw color in the glass with green glints, aroma and flavor includes citrus, herbal, green apple notes, very bright and fresh. Delicious dry aperitif, or would be perfect with most seafood, fish pastas, or roast chicken.
Frappato DOC Vittoria
Made entirely of Frappato grapes, planted in 2008, estate-grown in the parishes of Ponte and Fegotto, near Chiaramonte Gulfi. These vineyards are of reddish iron-rich sand interspersed with layers of clay, at about 280 meters (900 feet) above sea level; the climate is very hot but with cooler night-time temperature (which leads to better acidity in the grapes). The fruit is harvested in several passes, at moderate ripeness, normally around the middle of September; the grapes are lightly crushed and fermented at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts. Maceration is around two weeks. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 9 months before bottling.
Frappato is an aromatic variety, unusual for a red grape. The wine is brilliant mid-red in color, with clear floral and berry/pomegranate fruit notes and some spice and tea-leaf on the nose and the palate. Very useful food wine; I pair this with many pasta dishes, fish, pork, and roast chicken. Amazing with grilled tuna, and a clear candidate for the Summer Red Wine Hall of Fame. I drink it slightly chilled, but then any good red wine should be drunk at the temperature of a cool cellar, not room temperature.
Nero d’Avola DOC Vittoria
100% Nero d’Avola, a red variety that is indigenous to south-eastern Sicily (Avola is not far from Vittoria), organically grown in vineyards planted near Chiaramonte Gulfi in the Contradas Ponte and Biviere. The vines were planted in 2008, at about 900 feet/290 meters above sea level; the soil is calcareous clay.
The grapes are normally picked in early October, destemmed, crushed, and left ferment without the addition of yeast. Maceration takes about 2 weeks; the wine is left on the lees for another 3 weeks, then racked off and aged for 15 months.
Gurrieri’s Nero d’Avola is finer than many examples, but still a substantial, meaty red wine with berry notes (more black than red), tea-leaf, and a hint of licorice. I would pair this with more substantial pasta dishes, and red meats.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG ‘Don Vice’
Made of a blend of Nero d’Avola (Frappato 45%, Nero d’Avola 55%), estate-grown in vineyards near Chiaramonte Gulfi, in the Contradas Ponte, Biviere e Fegotto. The soils are a calcareous mixture of clay and sand, at just under 300 meters (1,000 feet) above sea level. The grapes are picked at moderate ripeness (with care to avoid over-ripeness, in other words, in this hot climate) around mid-October; fermentation is carried out with indigenous yeasts, and maceration with the skins lasts for about 3 weeks. After fermentation the wine is aged on the lees in tank for a further 2 weeks, then racked and aged in tank for 18 months.
Nero d’Avola is the best-known Sicilian red wine grape when bottled on its own, but for my money this blend is better. The Frappato lightens and lifts the meatiness of the Nero d’Avola, giving it juicier aromas and flavors and making it MORE DELICIOUS. See note above about temperature; stick the bottle in the fridge for 30 minutes for best results. Drink with red meats or more substantial pasta dishes. I bet this will age well, but I doubt I’ll have any left to find out.