We love invitations that arrive by the glass. At a recent tasting of Sicilian wines, we became so enamored with the reds that we were poised to hop on the next plane to Palermo. The occasion was a visit by Fabrizia Lanza, author of “Coming Home to Sicily: Seasonal Harvests and Cooking From Case Vecchie.” Case Vecchie is the renowned cooking school she runs in north-central Sicily. The ruby-hued wines in the tasting were from her family’s wineries, Tasca d’Almerita, and dishes paired with them were recipes from her mother, Anna Tasca Lanza, who founded the school in 1989. These evocative pours are a glimpse of an emerging wine frontier with ancient roots.
Sicily, at the toe of Italy’s boot, is the largest Mediterranean island. Ancient Greeks established settlements and promoted viticulture in the eighth century BC, calling it Trinacria after the land’s triangular shape. Once the granary of the Roman Empire, it remains an ideal climate for cultivating durum wheat for pasta, olive oil, and wine. To describe growing conditions as sunny, hilly, and dry only hints at the diverse climates and soils. A new generation of winemakers, many farming organically, are intent on allowing this terroir to shine, making the most of indigenous grapes such as nero d’avola, known for deep color and robust tannins; frappato for freshness and finesse; and nerello mascalese for a light body and lively acidity.