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Bangalore Gourmets get a Taste of Sicily

Posted: Saturday, 02 February 2013 12:45

Bangalore Gourmets get a Taste of Sicily

Feb 02: A select group of wine professionals and connoisseurs of Bangalore had a taste of Sicily last week when a first-ever Masterclass of its kind was organised by the Indian Wine Academy at ITC Gardenia where Susan Hulme MW and a group of producers ‘took the participants to various parts of Sicily’ with different wines and delicious snacks made by a visiting Sicilian Chef were savoured, writes Jaclyn Paul, our Bangalore Correspondent

Click For Large ViewThat a wine bottle holds the very essence of nature is a mature and heady fact. That it shares secrets of climate and soil, vine and toil is passé.  That it is, in moderate quantities, good for the heart is heartening.  What is always refreshing is the effect even one sip has on the senses. Flavors of fruit, flower, nut or spice ping the palate and leave a warm afterglow of aromatic satisfaction.

Take Sicilian wines as a case in point. At the Master Class, a first-ever in Bangalore, conducted in Bangalore a week ago by Susan Hulme, a Master of Wine from London, Michele Shah from Tuscany and Subhash Arora, President Indian Wine Academy, the romantic infusion of rose petals and violets, dates and sultanas, together with zangy, mineral overtones was tasted by the 50-odd guests present. 

The Wine Ambassador of Sicily Mr. Diego Planeta (Planeta) and four other producers of Sicilian wines-Giuseppe Benanti (Benanti), Giuseppe Tasca (Tasca d’Almerita) , Piero Boffa (Castellucci Miano), Gaetana Jacono (Valle d’Acate) spoke of the character and diversity that this Mediterranean island lends to Sicilian viticulture.

Susan Hulme very ably shared her expertise and took us on a journey of the vineyards of Sicily. Talking diversity in respect of soils, there are 7 different kinds, from mineral laden volcanic on the slopes of Mt. Etna, to interior reds, limestone, clayey, sandy and rich alluvial soil of the plains of Marsala. 

Temperatures - both seasonal and day/night as well - hugely vary according to the change in topography. Vineyards grow in the cold of snow capped high mountain slopes in the northeast, hot and dry interiors of the sun-bathed areas and coastal vineyards where sea breezes bring humidity.  All these individually affect the body of the grape grown, the time required to mature, the yield per acre, the containers ideal for fermentation, maturity et al. 

Sunny, hot areas produce big, red robust wines that are not flat or flabby. Grapes grown on the plateau have day/night temperature swings and require blending and monitoring when ripening to control sugar levels, tannins and flavors. Such wines are lively with an acidic zest that is dry though flavorful. 

Although the average rainfall is 300 – 600 mm per year, there are areas that receive about 1100 mm while others get as low as 300 mm of rain. Rescue irrigation is carried out only when crucial, said Mr. Planeta. 

Sicilian wines are value for money because of their good quality and still affordable prices. Predominately a white wine producing region of Italy, of the 120,000 hA (about 300,000 acres) given over to viticulture, 64% grows white grapes and 35% red grapes. The native, indigenous grape varieties (Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nero d’Avola) are used for traditional wines which are bold, different and thought provoking; also affordable. Clone grape strains are constantly being experimented with and then used to improve taste and raise yield- Piero Boffa whose white wine is made from Catarratto was very proud of  his clone which is much darker than the white grape grown elsewhere. 

Both entry level wines as well as those produced for the international market have come of age and are making their presence felt in stores and homes.  Sicily now has its own DGCA/DOC wines (with Cerasuolo di Vittoria being the only DOCG wine of Sicily). While earlier the larger quantity produced was traditional bulk wines, today international varieties have made their mark on world markets. Sicily has a Chardonnay too! And other international varieties like Merlot.

As each wine was being tasted, Susan explained its character and the area of cultivation urging guests to ‘sip, roll and draw the wine through the teeth’ to fire the senses and distinguish one flavor from another. A total of 8-9 wines were up for tasting and each one left its own lasting impression.

Tasting of wines

White wines:

1. Ottoventi Zibibbo 2011 - Ottoventi meaning '8 winds' and Zibibbo meaning 'dry' comes from Western Sicily.  This wine has a fragrant bouquet of summer flowers, rose petals and actually smells of grapes! The colour is light amber and it tastes dry while being mild. It is this last trait that would pair it with spicy Indian snacks like the hot samosa as it would compliment the spices.

2. Planeta Segreta Bianco 2012- This entry level wine comes from the Agrigento area and has a strong perfume.  The bold flavour of volcanic minerals with underlying flowery tones makes it quite distinctive and likeable. Prolonged aging makes for a rich, individual character of wine. This wine would go well with grilled, fried or baked fish or vegetable rice dishes.

3. Castellucci Miano Catarratto 2011 – This wine is made from small, almost pea sized condensed grapes.  The mineral content is high and since the rainfall received in the growing areas is not much, the clayey soil helps to trap water which is what feeds the vines. Though the yield per acre is low, the wine produced is very nice, smooth and not very dry. It was perhaps quite the best white wine tasted that evening. One could enjoy a coconut based shrimp dish or even butter chicken with naan with this wine.

Red Wines:

4. Valle dell’Acate Frappato Vittoria DOC 2011

This wine comes from the province of Ragusa and grows on red soil.  It is made from one of the oldest grape strains in Sicily and has taken about 40 to 50 years of experimentation to achieve the balance between flavour and taste. A variety of berries and flowers caress the palate. One could smell and taste strawberry, cherry, blackberry, and violets. This wine appeared shy but enticing and utterly wonderful! Cottage cheese, vegetables in mild red gravy and a serving of long grained steamed rice would be quite a good combination when drinking this wine.

5. Benanti Rovitello Etna DOC 2004

This wine comes from Etna with the area having a lot of dry spells with less rainfall and so rescue irrigation is sometimes resorted to. The wine is put through long periods of fermentation in French oak barrels that are slightly ‘roasted’. The wine is dry, strong and slightly bitter with a definitive mineral aftertaste. This Sicilian wine would be great with spare ribs and roasted potatoes. 

6. Tasca d'Almerita Lamuri IGT 2010

Lamuri means 'love' in Sicilian. Nero d’Avola, the best known red, almost black Sicilian grapes go into making this wine. It is an entry level wine that can take anywhere from 6 to 14 months to mature. The taste is dry and bitter but the wine is strong and smooth on the palate. The colour of the wine is almost burgundy and would pair well with a mutton biryani.

7. Feudo Montoni, Vrucara Nero d'Avola IGT 2009

Strong flavour, slightly astringent, this full bodied wine with berry flavours and persistent taste was slightly bitter on the palate but perhaps a mushroom dish for vegetarians will mellow the tannins. It would be perfect with mutton and lamb tandoori dishes like sikandri raan.

8. Donnafugata Ben Rye 2008 – Shades of Muscat come through in the aroma of sultanas in this Dessert wine.  Rich and mildly sweet, one can almost imagine dry fruits such as apricot and dates when sipping this glorious liquid.  Fortified Marsala wines can ably take the place of a Sherry, Madeira or a Port and if this wine from Pantelleria, already sold by Aspri, is served after dinner, there would not be a need to serve dessert at all!

Click For Large ViewOlive Oils

Olive oils made by Ravida and San Lorenzo from this beautiful Mediterranean island went into making four antipasti (appetizers) which were served along with the wines.  Minutely chopped Zucchini on toast, Egg plant caviar garnished with sesame seeds, creamed potatoes with fresh black pepper and a Fisherman’s salad made with green fennel and orange pods were truly delightful.  Michele Shah also took us through an olive oil tasting with olive oil from Planeta and San Lorenzo.

The wine tasting and master class not only introduced some wonderful Sicilian wines to Bangalore but also promised a bouquet of value, great taste and good quality.

Jaclyn Paul

Tags: Michele Shah,Tuscany, Subhash Arora, Wine Ambassador of Sicily, Diego Planeta,Sicilian wines-Giuseppe Benanti (Benanti), Giuseppe Tasca (Tasca d’Almerita) , Piero Boffa (Castellucci Miano), Gaetana Jacono (Valle d’Acate),Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nero d’Avola, Catarratto, DGCA/DOC, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Chardonnay, Merlot, Ottoventi Zibibbo 2011,Planeta Segreta Bianco 2012, Agrigento, Castellucci Miano Catarratto 2011, Valle dell’Acate Frappato Vittoria DOC 2011 ,Ragusa, Benanti Rovitello Etna DOC 2004,Etna,Tasca d'Almerita Lamuri IGT 2010 , Lamuri,Feudo Montoni, Vrucara Nero d'Avola IGT 2009, Donnafugata Ben Rye 2008, Muscat, Fortified Marsala wines, Sherry, Madeira,Port, Pantelleria, Ravida, San Lorenzo, Planeta,


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