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Tasty Wine Explorations for the New Year
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jan 2, 2020
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Tasca d’Almerita, Tenuta Whitaker, Sicilia DOC “Mozia” Grillo 2018 and Tenuta Capofaro Salina IGT “Didyme” 2018 (Dalla Terra Imports, $22 and $26):  High on the list of 2020 wine resolutions for many wine lovers is undoubtedly the desire to explore new grape varieties and new wine regions.  While neither of these wines is made from a recently rediscovered variety, and Sicily is by no means an unsung wine region, these wines are both curiosities worthy of wine lovers’ attention.

Each of these wines hails from an island off the island of Sicily itself.  The Grillo comes from Mozia, a.k.a. San Pantaleo, a tiny island in the Marsala lagoon about half a mile from Sicily’s west side.  Didyme comes from the island of Salina, one of the Lipari (or Aeolian) islands, north of Sicily; Salina lies northwest of the island of Lipari, which is known to some wine lovers for its sweet Malvasia di Lipari wines, and like that island is volcanic in origin.

The Grillo grape is a white variety significant for its historical role in the base wine for Sicily’s famous, fortified Marsala.  In 1902, Joseph Whitaker, an amateur archeologist, purchased the island of Mozia, and in 2007, the Whitaker Foundation partnered with the Tasca family to develop 30 acres of Grillo vines on the island.  The vines are cultivated organically and trained as small bushes using the traditional “Marsalese” pruning, which involves tying the shoots together in an arch to protect the fruit from the strong sun and winds.  The harvested grapes are transported to Tasca d’Almerita’s Regaleali estate in central Sicily for wine production because the island is too small for a winery.  

The 2018 Tenuta Whitaker “Mozia” Grillo is a dry, medium-bodied, unoaked white wine.   It’s shy in aroma and flavor; wafts of sea air emerge on the nose along with a complex but delicate mélange of floral notes such as jasmine and vanilla blossom, wild-herb notes and dry earth, while the palate reveals a sea-air tanginess, gentle lemon notes and distinct minerality.  I find this an earthbound white, medium in acidity, broad in structure, not uplifted or ethereal — and for such a style, impressively delicate.  This is an unusual and very particular wine. 

Malvasia, specifically Malvasia di Lipari, is the grape variety of Didyme.  In 2002, the Tasca family purchased 12 acres of Malvasia vines on the island of Salina and created Tenuta Capofaro as one of its now five wine estates.  The family’s goal was to produce a fresh and elegant Malvasia from Salina’s rich, volcanic soil.  The 2018 Tenuta Capofaro “Didyme” is a dry, unoaked white wine that’s medium-bodied veering toward fullness.  It’s an aromatic white with quiet notes of honey, roses, green apple, fresh herbs, and tart grapefruit skin on the palate; all of these aromas and flavors show good concentration.  The wine’s acidity is crisp and the finish is minerally. 

While the Mozia Grillo is more about structure, the Malvasia has more to offer in terms of aromas and flavors and is a bit more obvious.  Either of them would satisfy your resolution to try wines from unusual places or grape varieties.

2018 Tenuta Whitaker “Mozia” Grillo, 90 Points
2018 Tenuta Capofaro “Didyme” Malvasia, 90 Points

Read more by Mary Ewing-Mulligan:   "On My Table"