Daily Archives: March 4, 2017

Discovering Tasca d’Almerita, A Sicilian Icon

I first heard of Tasca d’Almerita  many, many years ago. I knew it was one of Sicily’s great wineries with a long and noble past and family behind it. What I didn’t know was how innovative the winery is as well.

bassa_res_20

Tasca d’Almerita is its 8th generation of their history. They have five estates and
about 600 hectares of vines in Sicily. They are exported all over the world and are brought into the US by Winebow

They also have two amazing resorts and a serious commitment to sustainability.
The estates are Capofaro on the Aeolian island Salina, Tascante on Mount Etna, Sallier de la Tour in Monreale, a joint venture, with the Whitaker Foundation on Mozia, and the Regaleali estate which now stretches over 500 hectares in the very heart Sicily. They also have Villa Tasca (formerly Villa Camastra) in Palermo.

6

I first met one of the two brothers running Tasca today –  together with their father Count Lucio –  at Vinitaly in 2011. I was translating for the Wine Spectator at meetings they had with groups of 10 wineries from each region. All of the Sicilian wineries that day were impressive but Tasca was something more.

Every year I spend a long time at the Tasca stand at Vinitaly. It is always artfully done with interesting materials and with vegetation from Sicily. One year they brought orange trees, another herbs that grown on the island. It is usually so packed it’s hard to get a space to taste but I always taste through all of their wines.

12

I’d be hard pressed to say which one I prefer because honestly I love almost all of them. One that of course stands out is Almertia Extra brut. It is made from 100% Chardonnay and has the Contea di Sclafani D.O.C designation and hails from the Regaleali Estate. It stays on its lees for 36 months. It has rich, apple flavors with a great almond note. I also love that Tasca has a female winemaker, Laura Orsi on their team at Regaleali. Tasca planted Chardonnay in Sicily in the 1980s, the first to bring Chardonnay to Sicily.

Another Tasca wine that has always appealed to me is their Regaleali Rose made from 100% Nerello Mascalese. I drink a lot of rose all year and this one went well with the lovely pizza I had this weekend. I was surprised at its freshness but then I remembered that the estate is located at 400-900 above sea level and therefore the grapes do get to rest from the heat of the hot Sicilian sun.

Regaleali Rose

Tasca is not only at the forefront of Sustainability but they also are trying to make wines without sulfites. I tried a version of their wine Antisa that was made without sulfites in 2015. Antisa means “wait.” It had great acidity, again thanks to the elevation at Regaleali.

img_0982

Catarratto bianco is a widely planted grape on the island of Sicily. There are two very common types of Catarratto grown: bianco comune e bianco lucido. Antisa is made with bianco comune. The wine was also under screw cap which was interesting. Tasca tries everything it seems.

3

Nozze d’oro is another famous Tasca wine. This one is made from 72% Inzolia and 28% Sauvignon Tasca, This Sauvignon clone  has been growing at Regaleali since the First world war. It was soft, fruity and beautiful and I am not even a huge fan of Sauvignon.

Tearing myself away from tasting wines from Regaleali, I did a tasting of their wines from Etna. I was particularly taken with one of them called Buonora. Made with Carricante, it was rich and sapid with loads of minerality. I also love their version of Nerello Mascalese from Etna, known as Il Tascante. It had depth and layers of nuanced flavors much like a great Pinot Noir. It was elegant with finesse as well.

media_res_21

Before I write more about other Tasca wines, I want to mention that  Tasca is at the head of a group of wineries working on a project called SOStain that is involved in protecting the environment. The mission of the project is to promote sustainable agriculture. Tasca is convinced that the responsibility of each producer is to make great wine and to protect the land and the local flora and fauna while doing so. They have also created a mini-agricultural group called Naturaintasca that involves a group of local farmers who work with typical Sicilian products. At one event I attended, Alberto Tasca d’Almerita showed a film I just loved about his family but I can no longer find it on the website. At a certain point in his speech, Alberto said the following line which I really appreciated as well, “We didn’t receive the gift of our lands from our fathers but as a loan from our children/Non abbiamo ricevuto la terra in eredita dei nostri padri ma in prestito dai nostri figli.” So much more to say about this project but for now I will go back to the wines.

4

Three more wines which I must mention are  their Riserva del Conte 2010, Contea di Sclafani D.O.C. made from 67% Perricone and 33% Nero d’Avola. The grapes are vinified together with ambient yeast.  The wine then ages in 500 liter wooden barrels made from Chestnut wood for 26 months. After 40 years, they wanted to commemorate the first vintage of the Riserva del Conte  and made this wine in 2010.

Ruby red in color with developing aromas of earth, fruit, animal skin and bacon, the wine was dry and full-bodied on the palate with flavors of oak, chocolate, and vanilla. It had sweet ripe tannins and a velvety mouthfeel.

Rosso del Conte is their flagship “SuperTasca.” Count Giuseppe planted vineyards of Perricone and Nero d’Avola in 1954 with a desire to create a wine to rival  French wines for both their elegance and longevity. The true expression of their family and their terroir. It spends 18 months in 100% new French oak (Allier & Tronçais) 225 liter barrels and 6 months in bottle before being released. According to their exhaustive website, it is  made from a selection of best Nero d’Avola grapes (63%) and other red vaieties among those authorized by the DOC (37%). I always find it a sensual wine with sweet tannins and a long finish.

img_0985

The last wines to mention are from their incredible estate Capofaro on Salinia. I went on an amazing sailing trip to Salina but didn’t get to Capofaro. I hope to spend time their one day. Their amazing Malvasia are always the perfect ending to these exquisite tastings. They have two and every year I try to decide which one I like better. One is sweeter, Malvasia Capofaro and the other Didyme which I was told means twins but is also the ancient name for Salina is dry with great acidity.

Tasca also makes interesting wines with Cabernet Sauvignon, Grillo, Grecanico and Syrah which I have tasted but the ones I mentioned were my favorites among their very vast range.

img_0983

I am an unabashed fan of this fantastic Sicilian winery and I look forward to this year’s mega tasting. Tasca is at almost every big wine event in the U.S and in restaurants and wine stores all through the country so everyone should have the occasion to try their wines.  Don’t miss out, I’m sure you will become a fan as I have.

Join the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel Group (#ItalianFWT) later today  as we virtually return to Italy’s southernmost wine region, and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea – Sicily! We’ll be posting and chatting about our discoveries with a live chat on Twitter 8-9am PST/11-12 EST . Come join us!

Italian Food Wine and Travel is a bloggers group that focuses monthly on a particular region of Italy showcasing our experiences with the food, wine or travel from that region.

  • Cam of Culinary Adventures With Camilla with be sharing Gnocchi Con Salsa di Pistacchi + Donnafugata Sherazade Rose 2014
  • Jill of L’Occasion offers a Winemaker Rendezvous: Lucio Matricardi of Stemmari
  • Susannah of Avvinare will be Discovering Tasca d’Almerita, A Sicilian Icon
  • Jennifer of Vino Travels will be serving Sicilian Steak with Eggplant Caponata & Nero d’Avola
  • David Crowley of Cooking Chat Food will be offering Pairings That Work With Sicilian Wine
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick with be having Sicilian Fun with Frappato, Grillo, Swordfish and Artichokes
  • Lauren of the Swirling Dervish – A Week-Night Dinner in Sicily
  • Gwendolyn of the Wine Predator will be serving up Sicilian Wine and Food by Candlelight
  • Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog will be exploring Two Tastes of Sicily’s Autochthonous Grape – Nerello Mascalese!

10 Comments

Filed under #ItalianFWT, Italian regions, Travel, Winery of the Week, wines