I taste a lot of wines, at home or on the road, every day. Most wines I sample fall into the okay, good but not exciting category; some are questionable and a few are awful from the start - with an unpleasant nose and a taste to match. I feel that some wines I appraise are simply too young for release and need to sit for a while longer. Fortunately numerous wines I sample within wineries, at organized tastings, in restaurants or here at home are happily quite good and worthy of notice. Every now I then I come across a truly special wine that makes me say (for one reason or another)…Wow! And I recently tasted a fabulous “Wow” wine in Sicily that deserves widespread recognition. “Dalila” (pronounced De-Li-la) a lovely white wine from Stemmari is a masterstroke blend of Grillo and Viognier, and should be tasted by all. Better still, this charming wine with the musical score on the label retails for only $13.99 (or less) in the US. This wine could be enjoyed all day - summer long.
Sicily was long known for the Mafia, Marsala and mostly mass produced, lousy table wines. However, today Sicily is in the midst of a wine making revolution. And not only for its best known red grape, Nero d’Avola or NDA as I call it. Sicily’s climate is ideal - (they compare it to California) generally hot and dry, with volcanically laced soils. Really there is no reason why this ancient Mediterranean island cannot become a major player in the wine world given proper investment, modern techniques, a willingness to work hard and shoot for the stars.
I recently met Stemmari’s Director of Winemaking, Lucio Matricardi, a bulldog of a man with strong opinions and a ready smile, in the pretty vineyards of Feudo Arancio, one of the company’s Sicilian wineries. “We try and be an ambassador for producing modern, affordable wines from Sicily,” said Stemmari Director of Winemaking Lucio Matricardi.
These vineyards and wineries are extremely modern and utilize various up-to-date green and sustainable practices. In fact, this is the second winery in Italy to earn the prestigious Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) certification. Their main facility has 450 planted acres of grapes under cultivation such as Grillo, Nero d’Avola, Pinot Grigio and Catodoro as well as international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Matricardi is extremely passionate about his wines, including Dalila. “This Dalila combines the beauty of Grillo with a touch of floral from the Viognier. The Grillo is kept clean and fresh in stainless steel tanks while the Viognier is matured in new French oak barrels.” I’ve tasted various Grillos by themselves and the wines are nice but usually fairly one-dimensional.
This combo is a great pairing, right on the mark, with slight lemony citrusy notes with the Viognier providing an elegant roundness. This Dalila is an open, curious and a resplendent creation ready to be embraced. It’s a modern wine from a modern Sicily. Look for it and try it.
c. Bob Ecker 2014