Sicily is one of the most prolific wine-producing regions in the world, but until recently the vast majority of its wine was unclassified simple vino da tavola (table wine). A quality revolution during the past decade has elevated the image of the island’s wines, the best of which are now beginning to appear more regularly on restaurant wine lists and at retail shops. These three blind-tasting champs all tend to have softer tannins and flavors that express a substantial measure of the island’s considerable sunshine.
Sandy Block is the vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods.
Cusumano, Nero d’Avola, Terre Siciliane IGT, 2012
($15, Winestone, Chestnut Hill)
Nero is Sicily’s most widely planted red and the closest it comes to the island’s breakout varietal, but the problem is its quality and style can be all over the map. This family-owned producer makes one that is rich, ripe and chunky, with pruney, tobacco-like aromas and bold chocolate accents. It’s more intense and powerful than your average nero on the market, with a darker fruit expression. It’s delicious with barbecued meat.
COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG, 2010
($34, Lower Falls Wine, Newton)
Among the most irresistible Sicilian reds I’ve tasted, this is a medium-bodied blend of nero (60 percent) and frappato (40 percent), a rarely encountered but fashionable grape that is fresher and more cherry-like. With enticing aromas of violet, ripe-red berries and licorice, this is a silky, layered red that is Sicily’s first wine to carry the prestigious DOCG designation. Versatile with food, it will complement charcuterie, grilled vegetables, risotto-based dishes or roasted herb-rubbed chicken.
Tascante “Ghiaia Nera ” Nerello Mascalese, Sicilia IGT, 2010
($22, Central Bottle, Cambridge)
This is an underground red grape, native to the area around Sicily’s Mount Etna, that is often used as a base for rosé. Reminiscent of the charms of pinot noir, the wine has a light red color, tart, juicy flavors, and strawberry, floral and herbal scents. Bright-tasting and elegant, it partners well with grilled fish.