Surprising, Sleeper Hit from Sicily
2008 Terzavia Occidens
Fascinating Texture, Freshness, Salinity and Soul
At the end of a recent staff tasting, we went around the table to hear everyone's favorites. This is the wine that won: a grippy, broad-textured, gently orange wine out of western Sicily - a total wild card somehow pulling down the most votes.
I shouldn't say "somehow," because the 2008 Terzavia Occidens actually is that compelling (more on that in a second). Still, there's something remarkable about a $25 slightly orange wine from obscure indigenous grapes in western Sicily taking center stage. Especially for a group that spends a lot of time drinking snappy, high-acid wines from more northern climes (many of which were included in the staff tasting that night).
The Terzavia Occidens doesn't even pretend to try to be that. It's soulfully Sicilian in its traditional winemaking and blend of indigenous varietals Grecanico, Catarrato, Zibibbo and Grillo. The grapes are all vinified separately: Some see skin contact, resulting in the slightly "orange" nature, while others are vinified in the conventional way (off their skins). The wines also age separately in barrel and steel tank before they're ultimately blended.
The end result is a wine that offers up impressively complex aromas and flavors along with a fascinatingly textured presence on the palate. There's an oiliness as well as the distinct grip of an orange wine, but it's gentle, warmly welcoming and, as evidenced by its popularity at the tasting, it's not as polarizing in its "orange" nature as these sometimes can be. In terms of the palate, there are layers of interwoven peach and nectarine, soft floral notes and a lovely, unique saline element.
The vibe is distinctively Mediterranean, evocative of its warm and easy-going environment, sunbaked herbs and the nearby ocean. There's also a breezy freshness that keeps the wine surprisingly nimble.
Perhaps, in the end, none of this should come as a surprise. Terzavia is made by Renato de Bartoli; he's the son of Marco de Bartoli, the unyielding advocate for Marsala and Sicilian wine in general, who sadly passed away this March. Renato clearly shares his father's uncompromising nature in pursuing quality and respecting the winemaking traditions of Sicily.
As for those traditions, it's worth briefly observing that winemaking in Sicily (partially thanks to the push of those like de Bartoli) has been getting considerably more serious in the last decade or so. While this island used to be seen as a big, hot wine lake where quantity most decidedly reigned over quality, things are moving in the opposite direction of late. Areas like Etna seem to have officially "made it," and other regions are following suit. Exciting, fresh, soulful wines like today's are hitting the market from quality-obsessed producers, and we're excited to be able to discover them with you.
To wrap up, while I believe the Terzavia would actually pair well with many foods, it seems to cry out for a richer, oily fish - grilled or, better yet, fried. Serve it with a wedge of lemon, a side of herbed, aromatic rice and a fresh salad; close your eyes and pretend you're on the Sicilian coast. Today's three-pack, which brings bottles down to $24.30 each, will come in handy in the coming cooler months - and it's way cheaper than a flight to Italy.
To order, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at (212) 980-9463.
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