The SOMM Journal

April / May 2015

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Page 52 of 112

52 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2015 IT WAS A WINTER OF BLIZZARDS (threatened and real) with some 25 days of snow that gave us inspiration to explore Southern Italian wines for this edition of The Quaff Report. The tasting gave us the opportunity for armchair travel to sunny Sicily, fast- becoming one of Italy's most dynamic wine regions, and lesser-known regions on Italy's mainland, with a focus on Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria. We had no short- age of interesting, delicious and, above all, surprising samples. Team captain Mike Madrigale invited Italian-centric sommeliers Liz Nicholson of Marea, and Adrian Weisell of Il Buco Alimentari. SOMM Journal contributor and Italophile Sarah Hughes Bray assisted with the samples coordination and joined us for the tasting. Though Southern Italy has hundreds of indigenous grapes that have been long ignored—some even nearly lost—the regions share commonalities: each has a relationship to the sea along with challenging ter- roirs—from the heel of Puglia, along the craggy arch of Basilicata, to the rugged toe of Calabria. Sicily, long considered insular and insolent, is now making wines of elegance and complexity in Mt. Etna (Nero Mascalese) and Vittoria, the island's only DOCG, where Frappato and Nero d'Avola dominate. "You can only barely scratch the sur- face of Southern Italy or Italy in general because there are so many grapes and styles and price levels," said Mike. "Nothing is really codified yet, and you can still find a treasure trove of value and wines with real character and personality that haven't even been totally cultivated yet." Liz noted Italy's back story of preserving its vines helps her sell wines to customers who question the unfamiliar varieties. "I always say, there are all these families that are preserving their history in cultivat- ing these vines . . . it would probably be a lot easier for them to rip out Greco and just plant Chardonnay, and it would prob- ably sell, but they're keeping history by choosing to keep these," she said. Adrian agreed, adding, "In the '80s, they were all trying to uproot and plant inter- national styles, but it's just now that they're starting to realize what they have." The Tasting We started with Sicily and worked our way along the southern coast before end- ing in Campania, the most northern of our plots. Eight island wines were evenly split between DOC and IGT, with the IGTs slightly more favored for their freshness, aromatic qualities and food-friendliness. Passopisciaro's Nerello Mascalese from Etna was a hands-down favor- ite for its acidity, ripe but elegant fruit, and adaptability. Sunny, Sunny South OUR NYC PANEL TASTES ITS WAY THROUGH SOUTHERN ITALY by Lana Bortolot / photos by Doug Young team captain: Mike Madrigale, Head Sommelier Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud

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