Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and almost any sea voyage east to west will pass close by its shores. That key strategic position resulted in the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders and the Moors all taking an interest in the island and evidence of their presence is still clearly visible for tourists to see. The Greeks and Romans also, undoubtedly, had a major influence in developing the local wine industry although, until the last 20 years or so, very little from Sicily was of any great interest to wine lovers as producers focussed on quantity rather than quality.
Happily, all that has now changed and you can easily find fresh, fragrant whites from grape varieties such as Catarratto, Grillo and Carricante and deep, rich reds from, among others, Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese – the latter particularly good when grown on the inhospitable, volcanic slopes of Mount Etna.
But, in the heat of this record-breaking English summer, deep, rich reds are not really the sort of wines we choose to drink with our salads and other lighter dishes. Fortunately, Nerello Mascalese is also a good blending partner, adding weight and some tannin to softer fruitier varieties such as Frappato.
Corte Ferro produce an attractive, very quaffable example of this mix (Majestic, £9.99). Only light-medium bodied but with intense black fruit flavours and surprising complexity and length for the price. As so often at the moment, we are even giving our reds a half hour in the fridge to bring them down to a more refreshing 16 – 18°C (equivalent to a cool room temperature) and the Corte Ferro drank very well as a result. (It’s probably best to leave very tannic reds on the wine rack just now, as cooling them tends to emphasise the tannins).
If you have yet to discover Sicily’s wines, I recommend you look out for them. Many are delicious and most are excellent value for money – an increasingly important factor with so many prices rising so quickly.