For the last decade, the remote, coastal Sicilian appellation of Vittoria has gripped the attention of sommeliers, critics, and collectors around the globe. Be it a savage red from Arianna Occhipinti or the deep, amber-hued whites of her uncle Giusto at COS, Vittoria’s unique clay-limestone terroir has enraptured an entire generation of wine enthusiasts. So, you can imagine how excited the SommSelect team was when, earlier this year, we were introduced to a third superstar in Vittoria: Cantina Horus.
A few months ago we offered Horus’ Cerasuolo “Pittore Contadino” and this fire-breathing, eye-catching red sold out in a matter of hours. Since then, we’ve been besieged by unfulfilled re-order requests. And while we won’t see more of that wine until 2021, we’re no less elated to share a second, truly breathtaking red from Horus today. This 2018 “Sole e Terra” is everything I want from Frappato: plump cherries and strawberries bursting from the bottle, impossibly elegant floral and herbal perfume, high-toned white pepper and stone, and a tightrope balance between freshness and ripeness that persists as the wine evolves flatteringly into days 3-5 (multi-day stamina is a quality often absent from other Vittoria reds). Perhaps most importantly, this wine has proven to be an indispensible “skeleton key” at my dinner table. While many classic, piquant and umami-rich southern Italian dishes like
present a challenge for tannic Nebbiolo or Sangiovese-based reds, this Frappato effortlessly lifts its native cuisine to higher heights. This is an exceptional Sicilian red and I suspect it won’t last long!
Grown almost exclusively in southeastern Sicily, in the sandy-clay soils around the magnificent hill town of Ragusa, Frappato is the traditional blending partner with Nero d’Avola in the wines of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG. But in addition to being the treble to Nero d’Avola’s bass, Frappato does wonderfully on its own—to the point of taking a major star turn on its own in recent years. Like the best reds of nearby Mount Etna, 100% Frappato wines are more about brightness, freshness, and perfume than weight. The big-time Sicilian reds of a generation ago had a heavily extracted, ‘international’ sheen to them, and often incorporated international grapes to achieve that; this wine, contrarily, is crafted only from Frappato and performs like a Mediterranean answer to Cru Beaujolais.
Cantina Horus is headquartered in the town of Acate, in Sicily’s Ragusa province—which, incidentally, is also the home of the Valle dell’Acate winery, another legendary source of Frappato. And it just so happens that the man who crafted today’s wine is the same one in the cellar at Valle dell’Acate. Giuseppe Romano does not pose for splashy pieces in the New York Times and he isn’t active on Instagram, but he is one of the most experienced, gifted talents when it comes to Vittorian varieties Nero d’Avola and Frappato. So much so that he has earned the nickname “Mister Frappato” in Vittoria. At Horus, Romano has teamed up with owner/farmer Rosario Giudice to create a Certified Organic, no-expense-spared winemaker’s “dream scenario” in Acate.
About 10 minutes or so from Vittoria, Acate is the namesake town of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria appellation, which covers a broad plateau in the island’s southeastern-most corner. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the first and only DOCG on the island of Sicily, and though it is a sprawling ‘Grand Cru’ appellation, only two grapes are authorized for use: the Syrah-esque Nero d’Avola and the spicy, strawberry-scented Frappato. Because of the “di” in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, some consumers may be tempted to think of Cerasuolo as a grape variety, like Barbera d’Asti or Sangiovese di Romagna, but in this case, it refers to the actual nomenclature of the word (‘cerasa’ = Sicilian dialect for ‘cherry’). The soils here are referred to as terra rosa, and consist of reddish, sandy clays with a stratum of limestone underneath. Cantina Horus is a Certified Organic Mediterranean 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. As is typical with ‘varietal’ Frappato, they craft this one in the most straightforward manner: stainless steel fermentation and aging, to preserve all that wild red and black fruit.
In the glass, today’s 2018 Frappato “Sole E Terra” shines a deep, but translucent cherry-red with hints of pink and orange. A fruit-basket of aromas including concentrated wild strawberries, red currants, black cherries, raspberries, rose petals, black pepper, and underbrush. It is light-bodied and refreshing, with bright acid but very soft tannins and refreshingly modest alcohol—a chillable, food-friendly red of the highest order, right up there with our favorite Cru Beaujolais red from villages like Fleurie. Pull the cork on a bottle now (with another one close at hand) and serve it in Burgundy stems with tomato-sauced pastas, sausage pizza, or quick-seared tuna steak. And as I mentioned above, this sings into days 3-5 so it is well positioned to be your new ‘daily drinker’—at this price especially, it’s a no-brainer. Enjoy!