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SommSelect’s “Explore 4” surveys the vast landscape of wine and breaks it into small, digestible bites. Each month, we select four bottles that fit a theme, allowing members to experience a diversity of styles while developing their own palate preferences. It’s an ongoing exploration of wine through a sommelier’s eyes and there’s no more effective, and enjoyable, way to learn about wine.
This edition of the Explore 4 is a dip of the toe into the Mediterranean Sea, whose two largest islands produce some magical wines. Sicily and Sardinia are perhaps better described as continents rather than regions of Italy. Both islands were treated as “breadbaskets” by the Roman Empire, and, in more modern times, they were known more for bulk wines than fine wines. But today, Sicily is arguably the most dynamic wine region in Italy. Sardinia, despite its famously insular culture and remote location, is not too far behind.
The natural gifts here are too plentiful not to produce great wine. And the value-for-dollar remains unbeatable. Here is what is in the box:
Curatolo Arini, Sicilia Catarratto “Paccamora” 2022
Curatolo Arini is a legendary family in Marsala who, like so many traditional Marsala producers (their winery dates to 1875), pivoted to producing dry whites and reds as consumer tastes shifted. The source vineyards for this white are in Western Sicily, in the communes of Vita and Salemi, in the Trapani province. These east-facing parcels are rooted in soils of sandy clay and benefit from wide variations in day/night temperatures. Given its Sicilian origins, you might expect this wine to be a rich, syrupy monolith, but it’s a tribute to the adaptations of grape to place that you get freshness, florals and nerve instead.
Argiolas, Vermentino di Sardegna “Merì” 2022
Vermentino is famous for its hardiness—it thrives in poor, rocky soils and hot Mediterranean climates. Much of Sardinia is granitic, but there are also many areas with a substrate of limestone, as in Serdiana, in southern Sardinia, where the famed Argiolas family farms a whopping 600 acres of grapes. “Merì” is herbal, brisk white conceived by Argiolas’ technical director, Mariano Murru, along with the Italian Ministry of Research’s “Project Vinex.”
Cantina Horus, Vittoria Frappato “Sole e Terra” 2021
Cantina Horus is a Certified Organic paradise growing grapes, almonds, and olives. Natural fertilizers are used to enrich the soil, rose bushes line each row of vines, and pest-fighting organisms are deployed throughout to protect the crop and promote biodiversity. Like the best reds of nearby Mount Etna, 100% Frappato wines are more about brightness, freshness, and perfume than weight.
Antonella Corda, Cannonau di Sardegna 2021
Serdiana, toward the southern end of Sardinia, is one of the prime terroirs for the Cannonau grape. The climate is arid and Mediterranean, the soils are a mix of sand, silt, and limestone marl in an old riverbed. Antonio Argiolas, mentioned earlier, is Antonella Corda’s father; she inherited the vineyards with which to start her own label in 2010. Corda’s flagship Cannonau is vinified on indigenous yeasts in stainless steel and aged in a mix of steel tank and used French oak barrels. It’s a rare example of a varietal Grenache with real tension to complement its velvet-smooth texture.