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2002 Feudo Arancio Syrah, Sicily

This is it. I've discovered by far the best wine for under ten bucks I've ever had. You think Yellowtail Syrah is a good value? In a street fight, this scrappy Sicilian is going to send Australia packing. Fortunately for us they're probably going to stay far under the radar of most consumers. While it's made by a relatively large wine conglomerate in Italy, they've not yet figured out how to market wines to the US in the same way that the Australians can. Never you mind though. Just go out and buy some.

Feudo Arancio is a new winery project started in 2001 by Gruppo Mezzacorona, one of Italy's largest and most powerful wine producers. Determined to create a cutting edge Sicilian property from the start, they set up shop in Sambuca di Sicilia (in the Agrigento province of southwestern Sicily) and purchased 2,200 acres of prime vineyards planted with Nero d'Avola, Grillo (a varietal native to Sicily), Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. Perhaps most impressively, they also hired the young Calogero Statella to be their head winemaker.

This guy is the Doogie Howser of Sicilian winemaking. He graduated from Italy's prestigious winemaking institute, Instituto Agrario di San Mechele in Adige, Italy at the age of 19. He then went on to get a masters in viticulture and oenology, and immediately started working at wineries while also teaching classes to Italian Sommeliers. He's 26 now and presiding over the entire Feudo Arancio operation.

Winemaking is in his Statella's blood. His father, Antonino Statella, is one of Sicily's most noted sommeliers and a restaurant chef-owner, and since an early age, Statella remembers lessons from his father both about Sicilian wine and its relationship to food. "Growing up in a restaurant, I really appreciate the connection between wine and food. If the wine is made in the right style, the wine and the meal should make each other better."

Feudo Arancio produces a full lineup of wines using all the varietals previously mentioned. I don't know much about how this particular wine was made, but I would guess it was picked pretty ripe and saw some new French oak for a little while before bottling. It's about 13.5% alcohol, and is 100% Syrah despite a light floral note to it that tricked me into thinking it had some white wine blended in.

Tasting Notes:
A rich dark ruby in the glass, this wine has a high-toned elegant nose of cassis, blackberry, and violets. In the mouth it is smooth with primary flavors of cassis, blackberry, leather, and smoke with a little bit of the floral aspect coming through on the substantial finish. It is by far the best Syrah I have ever had at its price point.

Food Pairing
I had this wine with braised short ribs with red wine gravy and found it to be an excellent pairing.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $8.50

This wine should be readily available. Check your local shop that tends to have Italian wines, or look on the Internet.

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