Tasca d'Almerita Leone d'Almerita 2009
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The island of Sicily is home to the Tasca d’Almerita family of estates: Regaleali, Capofaro, and Whitaker. The Regaleali estate is at the heart of the family’s wine production, and also serves as an escape from the bustle of the coastal capital of Palermo. In 2002, the family purchased vineyards on the small island of Salina to create Tenuta Capofaro, which produces elegant sweet wines with high acidity yet fresh balance throughout. The Whitaker estate consists of vineyards originally planted by the English family of the same name in the 19th century. As a result of Count Giuseppe’s hard work and dedication over the past 50 years, all the wines of Tasca d’Almerita are celebrated worldwide for their outstanding value and prestigious history. Count Giuseppe’s son, Count Lucio, is president of the family-run winery, and his two sons, Giuseppe and Alberto, serve as vice president and managing director, respectively. In addition to the wines, the estate is practically self sufficient, producing most of the vegetables, fruits, wheat, olives, cheeses and meats they need. This inspired Marchesa Anna Tasca Lanza, Count Lucio’s sister, to establish a culinary school, considered one of the best in Italy today. The school has inspired culinary professionals from around the world, including Julia Child and Alice Waters. In addition, Anna has introduced hundreds more to the art of Sicilian cuisine through her cookbooks, Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali, a Country Estate and The Flavors of Sicily: Stories, Traditions, and Recipes for Warm-Weather Cooking. While the history of Tasca d’Almerita dates back to the 19th century, it was Count Giuseppe Tasca who started a new era for the winery and the Sicilian wine business in the late 1950s, devoting himself to the promotion of Sicilian wines and introducing a new business model based on quality and innovation rather than quantity and bulk production. He invented the winery’s two flagship wines: Rosso del Conte and Nozze d’Oro. Located in the mountainous heart of Sicily, Tenuta Regaleali is a world unto itself: a vast estate owned by the Tasca d’Almerita family since 1837 and best known for its fine wines and its internationally recognized cooking school. Tenuta Capofaro is located on the small island of Salina, known for its northerly winds and rich volcanic soils. Located in western Sicily, The Whitaker estate takes advantage of a coastal ecosystem well suited to the production of white wines with typical Mediterranean floral notes. Since the family owns and produces wines from five different estates, the winemaking process for each is varied according to each estate’s unique terroir and the diverse planting, growing and harvesting conditions its grapes require. Tasca d’Almerita employs both traditional and contemporary winemaking techniques with the latest technological innovations to produce wines with terrific balance and character. Their Rosso del Conte, created in the early 1970s, elevated the quality of the native Nero d’Avola grape through the use of modern winemaking techniques. It is considered the father of modern Sicilian high-end reds.
A large, geographically and climatically diverse island, just off the toe of Italy, Sicily has long been recognized for its fortified Marsala wines. But it is also a wonderful source of diverse, high quality red and white wines. Steadily increasing in popularity over the past few decades, Italy’s fourth largest wine-producing region is finally receiving the accolades it deserves and shining in today's global market.
Though most think of the climate here as simply hot and dry, variations on the sun-drenched island range from cool Mediterranean along the coastlines to more extreme in its inland zones. Of particular note are the various microclimates of Europe's largest volcano, Mount Etna, where vineyards grow on drastically steep hillsides and varying aspects to the Ionian Sea. The more noteworthy red and white wines that come from the volcanic soils of Mount Etna include Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio (reds) and Carricante (whites). All share a racy streak of minerality and, at their best, bear resemblance to their respective red and white Burgundies.
Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted red variety, and is great either as single varietal bottling or in blends with other indigenous varieites or even with international ones. For example, Nero d'Avola is blended with the lighter and floral, Frappato grape, to create the elegant, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, one of the more traditional and respected wines of the island.
Grillo and Inzolia, the grapes of Marsala, are also used to produce aromatic, crisp dry whites. Pantelleria, a subtropical island belonging to the province of Sicily, specializes in Moscato di Pantelleria, made from the variety locally known as Zibibbo.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.