As there are hundreds (or is it thousands) of grape varieties planted throughout Italy today, it is no surprise how many unique wines are produced in the twenty regions of the country.
For this post, I’d like to discuss one of Sicily’s most distinctive reds, Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Produced from grapes grown in a district near the town of Vittoria in the southeastern province of Ragusa, Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a blend of two grapes: Nero d’Avola and Frappato.
Nero d’Avola (see previous post) is Sicily’s most widely planted red variety and gives Cerasuolo its body and richness, while Frappato adds aromatics (usually fresh cherry – the word Cerasuolo means cherry) and acidity to the final blend.
For years while Cerasuolo was a DOC wine, the mix was almost always 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato. As of the 2005 vintage, the wine was recognized with DOCG status and with this classification, there is more blending freedom for winemakers. Some blends are now 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Frappato, while others are just the opposite, while there are also 50/50 blends. Producers may bottle a DOCG version or a DOC version or both.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a medium-bodied wine that can be aged in various ways. Some producers use large oak casks, while others prefer small oak barrels (barriques). Then there is Giusto Occhipinti and his partner Giambattista Cilia at COS, who ferment and age their bottlings in amphorae, the ancient vessels made from terra cotta that are modeled after the same pots used by the Greeks more than 2000 years ago.
Generally, most bottlings of Cerasuolo di Vittoria express ripe cherry fruit, medium weight on the palate and a finish with moderate tannins and lively acidity. Most versions are meant for consumption within 5-7 years of the vintage, although a few exceptional bottlings, such as the “Pithos” from Cos can drink well for 20 plus years.
Here is a short list of the best producers of Cerasuolo di Vittoria:
- Valle dell’Acate
- Terre di Giurfo
- Santa Tresa
As Cerasuolo di Vittora has excellent levels of natural acidity, it is a wonderful food wine. Pair the wines with a variety of dishes, from couscous with vegetables, risotto with a Cerasuolo sauce, grilled mackerel, chicken with herbs or simple arancini (rice balls).