Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sicily comes to life in Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey

It's not often that a new book on Italian wine hits the shelves and even more irregular for that book to concentrate on a region other than Piedmont or Tuscany. However, I recently found myself with a new addition to my Italian wine library, and it's an addition that I’m very pleased with that focuses on Sicily. Author Robert Camuto successfully transports your imagination to the Island or "continent" (as some Sicilians like to call it) of Sicily in his new book, Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey. There is no useless filler or ego stroking of famous producers found in these pages; instead, this is a book that focuses on Sicily, it's people, its challenges and how it all relates to its wine.

Here we are, standing at the forefront of the rebirth of Sicilian wine. What was pale and disinteresting five years ago has suddenly been reinvigorated by a number of quality-oriented producers who are determined to put Sicily back on the map. Some are hard-line traditionalists or modernists; others are on the frontlines of the biodynamic movement, but all are producing wines that are now worth international attention. Roberts Camuto's Palmento captures it all and gives you not just a sense of place, but an understanding of the struggles that these passionate producers are taking on from day to day.

It's a great read that pulls you in by telling the stories of each colorful producer while masterfully weaving in the facts about the wines, the grapes and the vineyards. It even manages to tell the story of how the Sicilian mafia seriously impacted the forward momentum of all of Sicily and how, even today, its people continue to struggle. I would highly suggest this book as an informative and highly enjoyable reading experience.

You can find Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey at Chamber Street Wines

Lastly, this article wouldn't be complete without a list of wines that I've enjoyed this year from Sicily. The Occhipinti, Nero d'Avola was exceptionally good and truly unique.

The Notes:

2007 Occhipinti Nero d'Avola Siccagno Sicilia IGT - Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT (3/25/2010)
The main event for me at a recent tasting as this bottle came to life over the course of four hours. Showing a dark red color in the glass and a nose of undergrowth and earth for the first two hours. As time went by the nose transformed, keeping some of the undergrowth funk but picking up aromas of sweet onion soup, tomato sauce, tar, cinnamon and clove. On the palate this showed great balance between extract and acidity with flavors of black current, cranberry, citrus rind and bitter almond skins. Finished fresh with cranberry fruit. Some of these descriptions may seem odd to some but I assure that this wine was magical.(90 pts.)

Find the Occhipinti on Wine-Searcher!

2008 Valle dell'Acate Frappato Sicilia IGT - Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT (3/21/2010)
Best described by one of my guest, like a basket of fresh berries on the nose. It reminded me quite of bit of a lovely wine named La Crima, the Il Frappato showed wonderfully fresh aromas of blueberries and cherries with cedar and a hint of undergrowth. The palate is light bodied and refreshing with strawberry, blackberry and herbal tea with orange blossom following through the finish. A great example of the unique qualities of Italian wines. This bottle could pair easily with a number of different foods and would probably show well with a very slight chill at a summer BBQ. (89 pts.)

Find the 2008 Valle dell'Acate Frappato Sicilia IGT on: Wine-Searcher!

2008 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso - Italy, Sicily, Etna DOC (8/28/2010)After a half hour in decanter, this wine showed wild berries, top soil and rosemary on the nose. On the palate this shows juicy blueberry that turns sour cherry, cinnamon and granite. It was elegant and dazzled the senses as it started sweet, turned dry and then left you with a finish of spicy sour fruit. (89 pts.)

Find the 2008 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso on Wine-Search!


  1. Thanks for the tip. I bought the Terre Nere at Zachies a few days ago and WOW. Great wine!

    I'll be looking for the Occhipinti this weekend. Chambers street, here I come.

  2. Hey Max, make sure to let me know what you think. I know chambers street has a number of bottles from this producer.


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