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Friday, 18 April 2014

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WINE connoisseur PAUL QUINN, from Barrow, is a member of the Association of Wine Educators and a judge at two of the most prominent wine competitions in the UK.This week he raises a glass to Sicilian wine

I FIRST got into the wines of Sicily in the mid-nineties having the odd glass of Marsala with a dessert.

Although Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea with nearly 290,000 acres of vines, a lot of the vineyards were in a total mess, with a lot of growers who were just keen on grabbing EEC money and distilling the wines and selling the rest to the tourist industry.

Sicily is a great place for growing grapes. It enjoys hot summers with very limited rain. It also has vineyards at high altitude of around 700 metres that can benefit from an excellent exchange of day and night time temperatures, with temperatures reaching the high 80’s in the summer but dropping to 60 degrees over night. Sea breezes, too, have an important part to play, by cooling the vineyards down.

In the past decade Sicily’s wines have changed for the better.

As well as making a large amount of international varieties such as Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Viognier and Chardonnay, the wines that are getting all of the attention are its impressive array of native grapes, red Nero d’Avola, Frappato and Nerello Mascalese, and white Grillo, Grecanico, Caricante and Minella.

The good thing about the local grapes is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to try them.

The most exciting wines are coming from the region around Mount Etna, their volcanic soils help with the vibrancy and minerality.

One of the best grapes to come from Sicily is Nero d’Avola.

It loves the heat, is a good blender for international grapes and works very well on its own.

This can be fearsomely acidic if over-cropped, but wonderful when it’s well made.

It is quite tricky to grow, as it has a tendency to be very productive and vigorous, so yields need to be strictly controlled. It also dislikes high humidity, but that is rarely a problem in Sicily.

Wines to try:

ASDA Extra Special Nero d’ Avola (£5.00 ASDA)

Sicily 2010

Italy

Light ruby in colour. Bursting with ripe red and black plum flavour and a hint of liquorice on the nose.

On tasting, a big mouth full of juicy black fruit is well structured by tart acidity and soft but distinct tannins.

Ideal with a Sunday roast.

Nero d’Avola (8.99 Marks and Spencer)

Sicily 2007

Italy

Ruby red. An elegant nose with spice, vanilla and ripe dark fruit dominating.

This rich red wine has powerful, yet rounded flavours of blackberry, damson and plum, with enticing undertones of mocha, chocolate and liquorice. The finish is long and fruity.

Good with peppered steaks.

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