I’ve got grilling on my mind.

Yes, we’re all talking about grilling and I’m talking about pairing wine with your grilled food. You expected that, right?

But did you expect me to turn around and suggest that you pair your grilling with Frappato or Cerasuolo di Vittoria? Of course not, because nobody expects Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Frappato, on the other hand, is a goer, nudge nudge, wink, wink, say no more!

Say what? Okay, late 1970s Britcom references aside, both Frappato (which is a grape) and Cerasuolo di Vittoria(which combines Nero d’Avola with Frappato) come from Sicily and should be on your radar this summer. These are perfect wines for grilling, rich and fruity with bright acidity but never over the top. They play the perfect second fiddle to grilled food gone adult and by that I mean free of gloopy, gloppy, sweet sauces.

So fire up the grill, whip out some Mediterranean marinades. Think garlic, mint, maybe orange rind, rosemary and thyme; and grab a bottle of Frappato or Cerasuolo di Vittoria. It’ll make it a summer to remember.

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Frappato

Frappato is a grape and the red wine made from that grape, coming from the province of Ragusa that roughly covers the southwest half of the southern tip of Sicily.

The wines made with Frappato tend to be rather light-bodied, especially when one thinks of these as Sicilian red wines. But at the same time they are wonderfully light and fresh; red wines that can take a light chill and are somewhat similar to a good Beaujolais, though with a bit more fruit.

Frappato makes for the perfect summer wine, combining refreshing acidity, moderate alcohol and a wonderful freshness of fruit that may never be profound, but almost always bring a smile to one’s face.

Cerasuolo di Vittoria

If you’re looking to take things to the next level, you might want to follow the lead of the Sicilians, who beefed up their Frappato by blending it with the denser, darker Nero d’Avola.

Cerasuolo di Vittoria might seem an unlikely appellation to be awarded DOCG status, but in 2005, DOCG’ed it was. Along with that extra G in the name, the rules were changed for the wine, allowing for the reality that had set in on the ground.

While Cerasuolo di Vittoria was a DOC wine, the blend was typically 60% or more Nero d’Avola, the remainder being Frappato. As is typical in Italy this regulation was neither strictly adhered to nor strictly enforced. Under the DOCG regulations, the wines must contain between 50% and 70% Nero d’Avola, the remainder being Frappato, certainly closer to covering the majority of wines made; but some producers will still admit privately that their wines were and continue to be majority Frappato (not that anybody really cares).

Another feature of the DOCG elevation was the creation of a Classico subset of wines that come from the historic heart of the region, a region that was curiously expanded in 1995 just before being awarded the DOCG! In addition, the wines must be aged 18 months before release, as opposed to the 10 months for the standard bottling.

The blending of these two indigenous grapes produces a wine that carries traits of both: the black fruit and richness of Nero d’Avola, coupled with the bright acidity and fresh red fruits of the Frappato. This end result seems to be greater than the sum of its parts and produces a wine that not only pleases on release, but ages remarkably well as I learned from tasting during a recent visit to Sicily.

As much as I am enamored with Frappato (it is a delightfully happy wine), I am even more impressed with Cerasuolo di Vittoria. I never would have guessed that these wines could age as well as they do, fully capable of delivering complexity and elegance at a fraction of the price of many comparable wines. I strongly urge you to try a few and discover how wonderful these wines are!


Frappato


2009 Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato $35
Root beer on the nose with a complex nose of candied astringent red fruits, a bit of greenish watermelon rind, medicinal herbs, earth and a hint of lemon. Bright and balsamic on entry with refreshing acidity accenting the core of strawberry fruit. The fruit here is soft and gentle, astringent with the tannins helping to tense things up towards the back half. The finish is moderately long with nice raspberry fruit and a nice underlying firmness. The fruit remains very fresh and really has excellent persistence gaining mineral and earth tones with air. This quickly grows on me. 91pts

2008 Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato
$35
Fresh on the nose with intense floral notes and fine herb stem aromas framing gorgeously pure red fruits that retain watermelon-y freshness. Round in the mouth with some austere tannins up front. Rich, if not powerful, though packed with lively fresh red fruits. This offers the perfect blend of fresh berry fruit and cool forest floor in a super zesty package that finishes with a long strawberry fruit note, Ideal for summer sipping. 91pts

2009 Terre di Giurfo Frappato $16
Intense on the nose with spice, floral, medicinal herbs, tar, talc and iron tones. Rich yet bright in the mouth with intense acids and fine-grained tannins keeping this firm and focused in the mouth. The fruit is well-framed on the mid-palate by savory tannins and picks up gentle suggestions of vanilla, rose petal and mineral on the taut, fresh back end. The mineral tone grows on the modest finish. This is very attractive and will most likely improve in the bottle. 89pts

2010 Terre di Giurfo Belsito Frappato $12
Pretty on the nose with fresh herbs and ripe red fruits. In the mouth this is round with soft edges up front, followed by a much tenser, more mineral-tinged mid-palate with acid heightened notes of red currant fruit. This flavor profile is a bit light but this has a very nice texture with good length. 88pts

2010 Valle dell’Acate Frappato
$20
A bit reductive on the nose with floral notes and gentle fruit tones. Bright and juicy in the mouth with fine acids and just the barest tannins. Very floral-toned fruit with a light, transparent feel and a slight mineral edge to the refreshing finish. 86pts

2009 Cos Frappato $20
Intensely aromatic spicy wild fruit on the nose has a touch of orange and guava adding an exotic edge. Rather broad in the mouth, a bit pillowy in that it is mouth filling if a bit hollow, with tannins that have a bitter edge. The tannins dominate the finish and keep the strawberry/cherry fruit compressed on the palate. With air the finish gets a slightly dried fruit, jammy strawberry edge. 86pts

2009 Terre di Giurfo Belsito Frappato $12
Fresh on the nose with red fruits framed with gentle balsamic herb and spice notes. Soft and easy in the mouth with a nice blend of fruit and mineral tones, though the mid-palate here feels a bit diluted and the finish is short. 84pts

2010 Maggio Vini Rapadu Frapatto $NA
Animal and mineral on the nose with sweet, roasty notes topped by hints of red flowers and rosemary. In the mouth this is round, fleshy and a bit heavy with muddy fruit and extracted tannins. The short finish is dry, compressed and bitter.

Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Planeta
Cerasuolo 65% Nero d’Avola – 35% Frappato vinified in stainless steel-lined concrete with each varietal picked and vinified separately, blended wines are aged in 550-liter third and fourth passage tonneaux for 12 months. Introducing a Classico designation with the 2009 vintage, which has a bit more Nero d’Avola and benefits from a few extra days maceration (around 12).

2009 Cerasuolo Classico $NA
Floral and mineral with a touch of herbs, root vegetables and old wood adding complexity. Glassy transparency in the mouth with fine-grained, slightly astringent tannins adding tension. The black, lightly spicy fruit is streaked with mineral notes and maintains great focus from entry to finish. The tannins here are a touch dry and austere, which may be off-putting to some, but they work well with the overall balance of the wine. 91pts

2010 Cerasuolo
$20
Strawberry and strawberry leaf on the nose with a slightly creamy edge and subtle undertones of fur, mineral and a slightly green berry tone. Silky in the mouth with fine balance to the tight mid-palate with dark mineral and fruit notes. There’s a little smoke and anise adding complexity with front-loaded fruit that emerges with time. This needs some time to relax, though the finish is already quite long with sweet spice and herb notes. 89pts

2009 Cerasuolo
$20
A nice, fairly complex nose with notes of spice cake, soil, and smoke over a rather beefy, slightly roasted bed of fruit, decidedly not fruit-driven. Fresh and round in the mouth with a nice note of strawberry tops highlighting the succulent acidity that drives this wine. A touch of forest floor creeps in on the mid-palate and adds to the green spice and strawberry styled finish that exhibits good length. 87pts

2004 Cerasuolo
$20
Herbal and lightly vegetal on the nose with a touch of sweet pipe tobacco and briar adding complexity to the core of jammy raspberry fruit. Lean on the palate with front-loaded black fruit that’s supported by tannins that remain firm. This is still alive but very lean, leaving tannins uncovered on the short, slightly hot, finish. 84pts


Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Valle dell’Acate

2002 $NA –
Rather wild aromatics full of tobacco with a distinct autumnal undercurrent that lends a woodsy tone to the licorice and smoke-accented aromas. Round and generous in the mouth with mineral-accented raspberry fruit that remains tense with mouthwatering acids and mostly resolved tannins that turn savory on the moderately long finish. Drink up. 91pts

2003 $NA –
A bit stinky on the nose with an almost reductive funk to the earthy, clay aromas. Some sweetness of fruit and noticeable power in the mouth, but this lacks some harmony. The black fruit shows some nice minerality, but the tannins stick out on the mid-palate and obscure the finish. Impactful, but clumsy at the same time. 86pts

2004 $23 –
Flat on the nose with a smoky, spicy, gentle oxidized character and top notes of old damp wood. Elegant and finely textured with a gentle sweetness of fruit and a slightly more muscular mid-palate that reveals dark fruit and a bit of tactile extraction, leading to a long black cherry finish. 85pts

2005 $26 –
Spicy on the nose with a nice array of nettles, flowers, dusty soil tones and fresh fruit. Bright and juicy in the mouth with excellent focus to the pure transparent mid-palate the reveals ripe fruit and tannins that are well-balanced. The black cherry and blueberry flavors seeps out on to the moderately long finish. Combines some power with ripeness, yet retains its elegance. 89pts

2006  $20 –
Fruity and floral on the nose with youthful strawberry fruit accented with orange oil. Gentle and juicy on entry with light black fruit tones that pass over the palate with elegance and energy. The finish is a little low key, but this is just so pure and fresh with fine cherry pit and mineral flavors that a little lack of flesh here and there is unimportant. 90pts

2007 $20 –
Rather assertive on the nose with dark cherry fruit topped with fine floral and herbal top notes. This smells decidedly ripe. Youthful and maybe a bit closed on the palate with a slightly dense feel, though this remains lively and elegant. There’s a really fine blend of fruit and flowers here with a long, complex layered finish. This is quite the complete wine, rich yet lithe; and it’s youthful, so expect this to really shine with a few hours of air or two to three years in the bottle. 91pts

2008 $20 –
Orange oil and green anise seed dominate the nose, which has very laid back slightly candied black raspberry fruit. Very tense in the mouth with fine balance and super integration. There’s a slightly tarry edge to the core of bitter black cherry fruit and a decent finish with nice cherry skin tannins, but this is not revealing all it has. The brightness and harmony here lead me to believe that this too will improve with two to three years in the cellar. 88pts

2009 $NA –
Sweetly raspberry-toned on the nose with a bit of a woodsy overlay. Good acids in the mouth give this a bright feel and help to highlight the wild strawberry fruit. It’s a rather lean wine, but refreshing with a simple clarity. 85pts

Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Cos

2010 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico $30
Gorgeously aromatic nose of flowers, herbs, briar wood, blueberries and raspberries. Bright and juicy in the mouth with a layered palate impression that starts off with a rush of bright black cherry fruit, which is followed by a rich wave of ripe yet astringent fruit (which is notably aromatic), ending on a richly fruited black cherry finish. This is fruit-driven yet vibrant and firm with something for every palate. 92pts.

2009 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico $30
Floral on the nose with lightly roasted red fruits topped with hints of rosemary, seaweed and a salty edginess. Sweet fruit on entry with a nice bed of soft tannins offering support. The acidity is perhaps a touch low, failing on the finish, though the lightly perfumed fruit does linger. 87pts

2008 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico $30
Very perfumed with clay soil tones, a touch of animal, some iron notes and fine, lightly astringent red fruits. Soft and broad in the mouth with slightly austere tannins and acids that are more mouthwatering than spiky. The finish is fabulous with perfumed fruit that has a peachy sweetness to it. Wonderfully exciting wine. 92pts

2007 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico
$30
Very rose petal-scented with hints of black cherry and juniper adding complexity. Almost silky in the mouth with very floral and herbal inner mouth perfumes. This is elegant and refined with great length to the fresh black cherry fruit that is supported by a bed of fine tannins. 91pts

2006 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico $30
Very evolved on the nose with real autumnal character. Soft and loose in the mouth with fruit that is a touch roasted, though there are nice mineral, clay and burnished cherry flavors that end abruptly. 84pts

Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Other Wines Tasted

2008 Arianna Occhipinti Grote Alte $NA
In effect, a Cerasuolo Riserva Nero d’Avola and Frappato blend.
Floral on the nose with an up front pine needle note, which is covered by red currant and berry fruits. Velvety in the mouth with nice power and good density without much weight. The fruit is quite dark, recalling black cherry and black raspberries with a very refined, elegant feel. With air this gains a nice layer of soil tones that creep from entry to cover the entire palate and adds complexity to an already building spice tone on the cherry pit finish. The tannins here are fine but firm, though totally covered by the rich fruit. 92pts

2009 Feudo Santa Tresa Cerasuolo di Vittoria $15
Floral on the nose with touches of white pepper and talcy soil adding some detail. Easy in the mouth with a soft, broad uncomplicated feel and easy, obvious, front-loaded black cherry and black raspberry flavors that finish briefly. 85pts

2008 Terre di Giurfo Maskara Cerasuolo $NA
65% Nero d’Avola, 35% Frappato
Tight and jammy on the nose with sweet raspberry fruit and spiky acidity. Nicely textured in the mouth with good acid cut and fine intensity of fruit. With air the acidity definitely takes over the palate here, tamping down the fruit and cutting the finish short. May just need time for the fruit to open. 85pts

2007 MaggioVini Cerasuolo $15
60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Frappato
Sweet and fruity on the nose with black cherry fruit topped with some licorice and spice. Light feeling in the mouth with a roundness that is punctuated by angular tannins. This retains nice weight, though it feels a bit extracted on the finish. The mid-palate drops out a bit, though the black cherry and licorice tones return on the finish. 83pts