Wine of the Month
Note: Create joy, one sip at a time.
Featured Wine: Gulfi Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Denominazione: D’Origine Controllata E Garantita
Grape Variety: 50% Nero d’Avola 50% Frappato
Production Zone: Cerasuolo de Vittoria, Sicily
Color: Deep Garnet
I was at the grocery store the other day, perusing the wine, looking for a specific bottle when a woman started talking to me. Some of my best memories are my exchanges with strangers and this one, although not a show stopper was interesting and came back to me that evening as I was admiring the label of Gulfi, Cerasuolo di Vittoria. The label is a beautiful rendering of a mosaic that exists in the Roman villa of Casala di Piazza Armerina; Eros and Psyche in a romantic embrace, kissing, next to them, a Sicilian Vine tree. I truly love all Gulfi wine labels. Here is where my conversation with this woman comes in to play. She asked what I was looking for and I told her, telling her about a region in Oregon where there are a lot of great vineyards. She listened to me, and then said, I just choose wine by the label. That made me chuckle because that was the first lesson in wine my father taught me, ‘Never choose a wine by the label alone.’ But, if I was shopping for a wine, with no knowledge, this label would intrigue me and if that was all I based my choice on, I would not be disappointed.
Gulfi takes everything into consideration when creating a wine; the label is no exception. Gulfi is a family vineyard run by Matteo Catania. It was passed down from his father Vito upon his death in 2017. Vito’s primary focus was growing indigenous grapes Alberello Style which is the Roman tradition. Alberello cultivation involves non-irrigated, densely planted, head-pruned bush vines. What makes this more interesting is that they base what grapes they grow and where, on Sicily’s micro-climates and the different soil types, as the soil impacts the taste of the grape; it seems obvious, when you think about it, but they really have this mapped out and take it very seriously. Since they do not irrigate, the roots go deep into the soil for nourishment in turn creating exquisite grapes. Once Matteo took over, he continued in his father’s footsteps, but focused even more on biodynamic and organic practices.
Beyond the beautiful label, Cerasuolo di Vittoria fascinated me because I have never had a 50% Nero d’Avola, 50% Frappato blend; this is the perfect blend if you enjoy the strength of the Nero d’Avola grape but can sometimes feel overwhelmed by it; or if you are craving something lighter, a lighter medium bodied wine. The Frappato adds an undeniable juiciness.
The color is a beautiful deep garnet, swirl it around in your glass and enjoy the beauty while the scent of berries, pepper, frankincense, cedar and earth rise up to greet you. The palate is surprising because there is this burst of blackberries and black cherry but before it gets sweet a hint of peppery spice jumps in as well as a touch of acid, minerality and tannins. The tannins greet you almost immediately, pair up with the fruit and gift you with a long finish. This wine is an enigma, like a pinot noir from another universe. It is simple but sophisticated, fruity but meaty too; it is all encompassing, embracing every taste bud, thrilling them all.
You definitely have the option of drinking Cerasuolo di Vittoria without food, which I did while I was cooking. I also enjoyed it with salad, bread and aged Italian cheeses, then continued enjoying it with Pasta Con le Sarde sprinkled with fresh basil. I long for the past, when my Grammy would make a giant platter of antipasti, this wine would be a wonderful companion to the artichoke hearts, stuffed mushrooms, meats, cheeses, and my absolute favorite, fried smelts. Pair this wine with the ones you love, use the beautiful bottle as your centerpiece(s).
Depending on where you are, you can dine cozily near a fireplace indoors or a firepit outdoors; the crackling and popping of the fire is your soundtrack.
Matteo Catania’s love of the culture and history of winemaking in this region, as well as the respect he has for embracing and applying old knowledge while still being open to new ways of safeguarding his land, the vineyards and the environment as a whole are all commendable attributes. Those attributes aide him in creating excellent wines.
Hopefully I will run into that woman again, in the wine section, and I can recommend Cerasuolo di Vittoria to her, she would love the label and there is no way she would be disappointed with the wine.
This wine is delicious and unique; I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I did.