Authentic Wines from the Indigenous Grapes of Sicily and Southern Italy

Italy has many indigenous red grape varieties used for making wine including several lesser known ones in Sicily, Campania, and Molise reviewed here: Perricone, Corinto Nero, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Tintilia, and Aglianico.  These are wines of character and a welcome change to the common French varieties. In this article we review several excellent examples of wines made from these Italian grape varieties. For more on the wines of this part of Italy see our full reports on Sicily and Southern Italy.  This is the second in our series of articles on the top wines of Italy; the first was Top Wines of Northern Italy: Tuscany, Veneto, Friuli and the Piedmont.


Girolamo Russo Vineyard on Mt Etna

Assuli 2016 Furioso Perricone Sicily 91  Medium dark ruby. This Perricone based wine offers an exuberant bouquet of dark cherry complemented by spice and earth notes. It’s nicely balanced and full in the mouth with good flavor depth, showing dark red fruit with hints of tobacco and spice. Finishes with good persistence and late arriving acidity that provides a lingering sense of freshness. Made of 100% Perricone, a native Sicilian grape, from Mazara del Vallo in northwestern Sicily; fermented with 25-30 days maceration and aged 12 months in large oak barrels. 14% alc. Lorenzo Landi is the winemaker. Importer: Girasole Imports

Tenuta di Castellaro 2016 Nero Ossidiana Terre Siciliane Rosso 92  The Nero Ossidiana offers a vibrant nose of dark red fruit accented by a hint of kirsch. It’s soft on entry and lush and broad on the palate with lovely, fresh fruit and layers of dried herbs, and a touch of underbrush.  There’s excellent integrated acidity and a very long flavorful finish.  Handpicked 90% Corinto Nero and 10% Nero d’Avola grown at 350m elevation on Lipari Island at 7 thousand plants/ha trained Alberello style. Fermented with native yeasts, matured with full malo in barrel for one year and further aged in steel tanks. 13.5% alc. Emilio Falsini is the winemaker; he previously made wine at Robert Mondavi in Napa and Villa Maria in New Zealand. US Importers: Massanois, Vino Veritas, Girasole, Flint Wines

Girolamo Russo 2017 ‘a Rina Etna Rosso 92  This is a delicious Nerello Mascalese based wine from the volcanic slopes of Mt Etna. The bouquet is refined with incisive scents of red cherries and berries with an herbal accent. It’s full and suave on a nicely sculpted palate with good acidic backbone and layered with light herbal and underbrush notes complementing the fruit and minerals. Finishes long with dry tannins. A blend of 94% Nerello Mascalese and 6% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from organically farmed, estate vineyards in several contradas. 13.5 % alc.  Giuseppe Russo, a native of Passopisciaro, founded this winery in 2005; his family has 15 ha of vineyards around Passopisciaro, including some free-standing bush vines over 80 years of age. US Importer: Panebianco, Grand Cru Selections


Catabbo Cantine 2015 Tintilia del Molise Rosso Colle Cervino 90  This dark ruby red wine is made of the Tintilia grape variety that is indigenous to the small region of Molise in Southern Italy. With notoriously low yields, Tintilia has been largely abandoned, but a few quality producers like Catabbo Cantine have resuscitated it. This wine shows berries and plum on the nose.  The medium weight palate reveals pure dark red fruit with a note of underbrush and bright acidity. Made of hand harvested 100% Tintilia from a 10 ha vineyard planted in 1998 at 300m elevation on the slopes of San Martino in Pensilis in the Southern Italy province of Molise; it is fermented and aged in stainless steel for 12 months.  14.5% alc.  Tintilia is the principal focus of Catabbo Cantine. Giuseppe Pirro is the enologist.

Fontanavecchia Estate in Campania

Fontanavecchia Vigna Catarrate Aglianico del Taburno Riserva Campania 91  Medium dark garnet in color with a bouquet that’s a mélange of earth and dark fruit, this is a very smoothly textured and brightly flavored wine enhanced by good acidity. The tannins are there, but they’re well integrated.  Matured 18 months in French barriques. This is an historic winery built by the Rilo family at the beginning of the 19th century in the Torrecuso district of Campania.  Today Libero Rilo oversees the production of wines from the estate’s 18 hectares of vines on the slopes of Mount Taburno. US Importers: Vitis, Cantiniere, Wine Emporium, Tavolo Vigneto


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