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Siccagno & shut up

Occhipinti 2009 Nero d’Avola “Siccagno” (Sicily) – Everyone has their dirty secrets, and here’s mine: a plurality of the time, I prefer this wine to her frappato. Why such heresy? Because this one is almost never intrusively volatile, and because the occasionally-present hint of brett (in both wines) melds better with nero d’avola than it does with frappato. (In fact, I usually prefer her Tami frappato to her eponymous one, and for similar reasons.) But enough about the wine that this isn’t. What about the wine that it is? The very transparency that makes the frappato – oh dear, here I go again – so compelling is what’s brought to this often-opaque grape, to its great benefit. It’s still a big, muscular, dark, powerdy-dirt wine…but that’s not all it is. Frankly, it’s a work of somewhat mad genius, or (perhaps more appropriately given the personality of the winemaker) wickedly joyous genius. Is it the “best” nero d’avola one could ever have? Probably not, but mind: a good part of it’s appeal is that it’s not trying to be, either. (8/12)

Myrina Sirtis

Buceci 2010 Nero d’Avola “Myrina” (Sicily) – Chewy and just a bit wild, as if the grapes couldn’t quite be wrestled into politesse. Fiercely dark, of course, with a fair bit of prominent (rather than lush) structure for a sun-drenched southern red, though of course there’s more tannin than acidity. Rocks and dark, dark soils…or perhaps charred old-growth forests…as well. I don’t expect much from this wine, and as a result it somewhat exceeds my expectations. (7/12)

Cusumano y mano

Cusumano 2009 Nero d’Avola (Sicily) – Perspiration fruit under black light, dark bluish-purple, with smoked walnuts in neon-like ultraviolet. Very straightforward wine that probably requires something that was very recently bloody, but good in that idiom. (5/12)

Nere a doubt

Terre Nere 2010 Etna Rosso (Sicily) – Surprisingly lavish, like a fine-grained cloud of minerality and dried morels, but much more forward and overtly floral than I’d expected, with structure but even more non-structural appeal. I don’t think a little age is going to hurt, but if it’s this consistently appealing in its youth, this vintage is going to be hard to hold on to. (2/12)

Heavy sunscreen

Occhipinti 2009 “SP68” Rosso (Sicily) – Nero d’avola & frappato. This is my favorite of all Occhipinti’s wines to show to people for the first time, due to a varietal pairing that offers qualities both affable and serious (and, it must be said, a much lower instance of random volatile acidity spikes). There’s fun, strawberryish fruit and there’s darker, moodier, silt-and-bark “fruit” carrying the structure along with it, and the combination is captivating. (12/11)

Samperi Como

de Bartoli Marsala Vecchio Samperi “Ventennale” (Sicily) – On the other hand, this is one way to grab my attention, hard, and wrench it back to the wine in front of me. That no one in his region makes wine like de Bartoli is well known, that no one in his region makes wine as well as de Bartoli is pretty widely acknowledged, and yet he achieves something beyond mere iconoclasm and superiority. I’m not sure these are the right words, but there’s a palpably different sort of life to them, as if they’re existing simultaneously on this plane and another that can’t quite be perceived with straight sight. Some might point out that the previous is really just another way of describing complexity, and they’d be somewhat right, but I think it’s necessary to specify that the complexity is not of the usual, three-times-the-descriptors, type. It’s something else. Though the wine doesn’t suggest electric guitar to me at all, this particular quality puts me in mind of Jimi Hendrix as he was first perceived, channeling a muse that was so far afield from that of his peers that it was often clear he was working in a different language, that whatever he was hearing inside his head (which didn’t always translate to his hands) was something that others weren’t going to be capable of hearing for a long time, if ever.

I note, at this point, that I haven’t actually described the wine in any useful fashion. Well, it’s dry, complex in both the usual way and [see above], incredibly persistent, and monumentally compelling. I suppose my lack of enthusiasm for actual descriptors here is more or less a suggestion that you should go out and try this yourself rather than listening to me ramble on about it. One action is much more rewarding than the other. (11/11)


Valle dell’Acate 2009 Il Frappato (Sicily) – Less adventurous or aspirational than the ones I’ve been drinking from Occhipinti and COS, but still utterly refreshing; like spiky young Beaujolais, except with more flowers and less squeezed-berry fruit. Volcanic? Maybe the power of suggestion. But it’s absolutely delicious while not quite allowing itself to be thirst-quenching…fun, but not too fun. (8/11)

Summer of ’68

Occhipinti 2010 “SP68” Bianco (Sicily) – Sweaty (good sweat) crystalline stone fruit and flowers. Heavy, but sitting atop a strong updraft. It’s a little difficult to get to know, but maybe a few more dates are required. (7/11)

COS & effect

COS 2008 Frappato (Sicily) – My hand-in-your-wine-geek-card secret is that, bottle for bottle, I prefer this to the middle initial’s neice’s frappato, due to a more developed and complex character and far fewer problems with brettanomyces and/or volatility. I think there’s more upside potential in Arianna’s wine, but it’s not realized consistently enough (and I should note that I’m speaking only of the frappato here, not the range). As for this version, black raspberry and boysenberry snap crackles with energy without bursting beyond its boundaries. There’s dusty black earth with gentler grey tones and a long, welcoming finish. An assured wine. (8/11)

Nere, a word

Terre Nere 2006 Etna Rosso (Sicily) – Without tasting blind, it’s impossible to know how actual the loquaciously ashen foundation of this wine is suggested by identity rather than taste. But taste it is…textural layers and swirls of ash-cloud minerality, rich…almost luxuriant…dark fruit, with a certain polish and sheen, but not too much of either. Incredibly lovely right now, albeit Euro-masculine, with an unquestioned future. Not for the delicate of palate, though. (5/11)