Every year for the last 6 or so years at Vinitaly, Sicily has been front-and-center in the advance of Italian wine. Wineries such as Planeta and Donnafugata have raised the bar of expectations, while other lesser known wineries, such as Arancio and Colosi have increased interest in easier to access styles of wine. More established wineries such as Tasca D’Almerita and Rapitala are re-inventing themselves. Sicily is like Mt. Etna, always in a state of change, often explosive in some of those changes.
At this moment, Etna is tossing and turning within. Sicily wants on the world wine stage, capable of production in quantities rivaling Australia, but wanting to be seen as serious.
Now we are seeing non-islanders coming with their ideas. And this is just a facet of the revolution that is going on in Sicilian wine production. But if 2 is a pattern and 3 is a trend, we’re on our way to the next trend in wine from Sicily. How about 4 ?
The two wines are Fourplay from Tuscan winery Dievole and Quattro from Veneto winery Voga. Both play on a sexy concept, with clever packaging to boot. Both capitalize on blended red wine, in each case 4 varietals. Fourplay uses traditional Sicilian grapes, Frappato Nero, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Nero d'Avola in equal parts, while Quattro utilizes Merlot, Cabernet, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. The two wines couldn’t be more different in their makeup but both are aiming for a similar audience. A youthful market? Can they do it? Who will succeed?
Smoke rings from Mt. Etna
It will be an interesting experiment to watch. Right now, it’s a fairly minor battle as the Sicilian market isn’t a dominating one, at least in the United States. But it is illustrating the willingness to experiment with both traditional and modern styles. In the next week or so we will try them together, but today I’m not really interested in the taste.
Sicily is a captivating developmental laboratory for the European wine community, not just for Italy. For historical reasons the Sicilians have had good relations and trade with the French wine industry. One of Emile Peynaud’s protégé’s, Raymond Chandou, once told me of his many friends in Palermo and the Sicilian wine community. And that is going back 20 or more years, at this writing. And while there is word of a wine glut in Europe, there is always hope that this cycle will swing back up. It has before, and when it does, will the Europeans, and the Italians, and Sicily, be poised to supply export markets with their fighting varietals?
I’m not saying Fourplay or Quattro will be the next Yellow Tail or 2 buck Chuck. That more likely will be for other companies, say Settesoli or Arancio. As for the idea of selling sexy bottles of wine, most often to women, the marketing folks might want to ask those women what they really want, instead of treating them like sex objects. Young women, speak up.
One last wish. Go to many of the wineries linked in this post and find yourself confronted with the frustrating confinement of the Flash player. Some time ago I commented on this and could only hope someday the web designers come back to a simpler way of presenting their ideas on the web. For God’s sake you can’t get a decent connection in much of Tuscany, let alone in Piazza Armerina.
I’m not really going any farther with this, just sensing something happening in Sicily below the surface. My own impression, Sicily has been my California in Italy. If only they could capture that energy, that Etna of the spirit that flows through the hearts and minds of the Sicilians. Then Australia would have something to worry about.