Saserello 2011


If you want to learn about Sicily, one of the best books you can read is “The Leopard” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. The novel chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the “Risorgimento” or the Italian unification of 1815.  It also allows you to get a good idea how Sicilians think, and that is pretty awesome.
I know what you are thinking: Griffy what does the Risorgimento got to do with wine?  Well, when you look closely, everything has to do with wine, especially after you’ve had a few glasses.
This week’s wine is Mario Ercolino’s Sasserello 2011, which has been labeled a “super Sicilian”.  Now the best way to describe a super Sicilian is this: think “super Tuscan” and head south.  A super Tuscan is generally a wine made outside of the Chianti DOC, with Sangiovese as it’s base and blended with international varietals, say Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other Bordeaux blends.  Very tasty!
So now let’s head south about 1,100 miles to and visit with master wine maker Mario Ercolino and his Saserello.  The grapes come from two small estates–Cabernet and Merlot from Menfi–where the deep mineral-rich soils impart complexity to each varietal. The Syrah and Sangiovese from Sciacca, grown in two neighboring vineyards overlooking the sea, achieve excellent ripeness. Mario matures a little of each variety in small American oak barrels for six months, then sets to work blending the four, tasting and re-tasting until the wine is just right.  He has to do all that tasting and re-tasting because he has no recipe for the wine; it’s done when he says it’s done!  I can hear his Nana saying ” Mario, you don’t need no recipe, your Sicilian”!
Saserello is a wonderfully rich, complex, and elegant red with plenty of upfront fruit and a long, complex finish. It’s a great drinking red wine I got from the Wall Street Journal Wine club.
Now let me tell you what drove me nuts about this wine.  It’s called a Super Sicilian, and the grapes are from Sicily, but let me ask you a question: what are the indigenous red varieties of grapes from Sicily? If you answered Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, Nerello Cappuccio, Perricone, Nocera, you nailed it!  Let’s read what’s in Saserello: 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Sangiovese and 25% Syrah. Hello this is a southern fried Super Tuscan, not Sicilian!
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good wine, tasty as hell, but we’d be talking a whole different wine here if we dropped the Sangiovese and replaced with Nero D’Avola or Nerello Cappuccio or Nerello Mascalese.  And if Mario Ercoline is reading this, it would be really cool if you tried. He’s probably thinking, “God forbid that would be awful,” but at least it be Sicilian.
The big pull quote from the Leopard is, “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” If Sciliy is to find it’s voice in its wines, they have to start speaking Sicilian!
I’m going to keep shopping and I’ll find a real Super Sicilian. When I do, we’ll reconvene, raise the “trinacria” and say wow now that’s Sicilian!

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