£18.20–£24.50, Tannico, Vinvm, XtraWine, Shelved Wine, Hic! Wine Merchants, Eton Vintners
I don't often do split vintages, but these Cartagho reds are both very good (as are earlier vintages I tasted) and, while most merchants are still on 2018, they're likely to move on soon. Tannico is already on 2019, for which I have a marginal preference, but I'm enthusiastically recommending both.
Recommending what exactly? A barrique-matured Nero d'Avola from Menfi in southwest Sicily, the flagship wine of the Mandrarossa range, itself the top brand of Cantine Settesoli.
The grapes come from three vineyards on calcareous clayey soils lying at 250–300m near the coast. Here they catch warm, drying Sirocco winds in May and cooling breezes from the extensive Magaggiaro woods. The vines average 20 years of age.
The wines are aged for 12 months in French oak and the 2018 is rich, velvety and spicy, with red and black fruit, cocoa, polished oak, melt-away tannins, a savoury black olive note and fresh acidity (14% abv). The 2019, the product of a cool, late, small harvest, is a little more delicate and lifted, silky rather than velvety, with floral, redcurrant and red cherry notes (13.5%). Both can be cellared: the oldest vintage I tasted was 2014 and it still has time to go.
Red meat, magret de canard and nutty, aged, hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, Manchego and other sheep's cheeses, are obvious matches, but the acidity and refinement of the tannins give the wines a lift that lets them stretch to dishes such as marinated anchovies with herbs and garlic, roast summer veg (aubergines, red peppers, tomatoes, fennel, shallots), to oeufs en meurette if the sauce is well reduced and intense, and to cassoulet.
Mandrarossa Cartagho 2018/2019, DOC Sicilia, Italy