'The most perfumed and delicate wines of Vittoria come from Paolo Calì.'
-Bill Nesto, 'The Wines of Sicily'
Cerasuolo di Vittoria is one of the four most interesting wine appellations in Sicily*, and the only one to be denoted 'DOCG.' Made from grapes grown around the town of Vittoria in southwestern Sicily, Cerasuolo di Vittoria is madea combination of two varieties indigenous to that area, Frappato and Nero d'Avola. Frappato is a very unusual grape, giving wine that is light in color but strikingly aromatic and flavorful, while Nero d'Avola is a more conventional red variety that is sometimes compared to Syrah. Paolo Calì is a pharmacist whose ancestors made wine; in the 1990s Paolo replanted his family's property to the two traditional local varieties, making his first wine in 2003. He makes Cerasuolo di Vittoria as well as single varietal wines from Frappato and Nero d'Avola; his winemaking style is unintrusive but clean.
*the others being Etna, Faro, and Marsala.
- Estate-grown examples of the three classic wines from Vittoria, in south-eastern Sicily: Frappato, Nero d'Avola and Cerasuolo di Vittoria (a blend of Frappato and Nero d'Avola).
- First vintage 2003. About 4,000 cases total production.
- Soil: reddish-brown sand, requiring irrigation in some years (ancient marine sand)
- Climate: very hot. Vittoria is further south than parts of Tunisia
- Style: wines are fresh, bright, and very well-made, no new wood is used
The Calì winery is in Vittoria, which is red wine country, but Paolo Calì wanted to make a white wine too. This varietal Grillo is grown near Butera, west of Vittoria and at higher altitude (350 meters above sea level). The soil is limestone-rich clay with many rocky outcrops.
The grapes are left in a cold tank for some hours to pick up flavors from the skins, then pressed and fermented at low temperature in stainless steel tanks. Most of the Grillo we see in the US is grown in western Sicily at low altitude; this is quite different, very fresh and redolent of green apple, Mediterranean herbs and citrus.
Frappato/Nero d’Avola ‘Jazz’
The same two grapes as Cerasuolo di Vittoria, but in the inverse proportion, roughly 60% Frappato and 40% Nero d’Avola; also released younger, and lower in alcohol (12.5%, instead of 13.5%). This is a great use of these two varieties, fresh, vibrant, aromatic but not as intense as pure Frappato. Paolo Calì mentions that Frappato drinks well with seafood, this blend would also be terrific with grilled tuna or salmon, or many other dishes. ‘Jazz’ is bright, savory, distinctive, extremely drinkable, and very fairly priced. Throw it in the fridge for 20 minutes before drinking.
• Distinctively aromatic red wine (strawberries, dried flowers, dried orange peel); the grape is indigenous to south-eastern Sicily.
• Fermented and aged in stainless steel; no oak used.
• Lighter red wine; delicious with pizza, chicken, many seafood dishes.
• This well-known Sicilian variety originally came from near Vittoria in south-eastern Sicily; sometimes compared to Syrah.
• Medium weight, elegant, spicy, drinkable version; blackberry fruit notes; much more elegant than the average Nero d'Avola.
• Fermented and aged in stainless steel.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria
• A combination 60% Nero d'Avola, 40% Frappato, the striking aromatic character of the Frappato being tamed with Nero d'Avola; mid-weight, spicy red wine.
• One of Sicily’s oldest wine types, first mentioned in 1606 but wine has been grown here at least since the time of Pliny the Elder, two thousand years ago.
• Relative lack of tannins makes this a versatile food wine: drink with substantial seafood dishes, many different pasta, and grilled meats.