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2000 Curto "Fontanelle" Nero d'Avola Riserva, Sicily

Old cobblestone streets, waves crashing at the base of limestone cliffs, old women in black shawls sipping espresso in the morning. Ah yes. Sicily. This month's virtual wine tasting event, Wine Blogging Wednesday is all about Sicilian red wine.

curto.fontanelle.bottle.jpgThe Curto family is judged by some to be newcomers in the winemaking trade in Sicily. It's easy to understand why. After all, they've only been making wine since 1670, quite a few hundred years less than some of their neighbors. Just around the time that the town of Charleston (in what would be South Carolina about 100 years later) was being settled, the family began farming grapes, along with their crops of almonds, olives, carrots, grain, and other typical products.

Antica Azienda Agraria Curto, otherwise known as the Curto family farm, is located in a region of Sicily known as Ispica, a fertile region between the provinces of Ragusa and Siracusa, which has recently been recognized by UNESCO for its historical importance. This region also happens to be the ancient center of cultivation for Sicily's famous native grape: Nero d'Avola. Literally the sunniest place in all of Italy, these sloping plains that back up against the low Iblean Mountains are limestone rich and hot and dry, receiving very little annual rainfall. In the evenings, however, cool sea breezes sweep through the landscape of vineyards that seem to be everywhere.

The vines that the Curto family tends are very old, and have been described as miniature olive trees, twisted and gnarled from the heat of the day and from years of head-pruning. These vines naturally yield very little fruit, giving up less than two tons per acre for wine.

This wine is 100% Nero d' Avola, and comes from a vineyard in a town called Pachino in the Eloro DOC appellation. The grapes are usually harvested in the first two weeks of September, and after crushing are soaked with their skins for 5 to 8 days before fermentation begins. The wine is aged in steel barrels for 18 months, and then in French oak for 6 months before being bottle aged for a final 12 months before release. At only 13% alcohol it is a great example of how it is possible to have a rich, dynamic red wine without being 15% alcohol.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a medium ruby color with a slight hint of brick to it. It has a rich, thick nose filled with aromas of smoked meats, caramel, incense and a hint of cherry. In the mouth it is tart with primary flavors of sour cherry, raspberry, dust, and leather wrapped in fuzzy tannins. The finish is substantial and incorporates notes of mixed spices and a slight lingering animal aspect, that is hard to describe, but is more pleasant than not. This is a very distinctive wine with a strong personality that is hard not to love.

Food Pairing:
This is a great wine to go with smoky meats of all kinds, and would be a lovely accompaniment to something as simple as a barbecue.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $25

I got this wine from my favorite source of Italian wines, Wine Expo in Los Angeles. Give the guys down there a call and they can hook you up: (310) 828-4428.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud