£10.99–£14.89, Costco, The Wine Society, Ocado, Vintage Roots, Cheers, Amazon
A delicious, distinctive and original red wine seems a positive way to start the new year. That Santa Tresa's organic Cerasuolo di Vittoria is outstandingly good value and a magician when it comes to matching food only adds to its lustre.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily's only DOCG (the top tier in Italy's wine classification system), is a small but varied region – topographically, geologically and climatically – between the sea and the Hyblaean mountains around the commune of Vittoria in southern Sicily. There are only 25 producers, some in the original Classico heartland and some outside it, or inside it but choosing not to use the Classico name, allowing themselves greater freedom, for example to bottle earlier, as is the case with Santa Tresa. Production is low throughout because yields are some of the lowest for any DOCG.
Whether Classico or not, the wine is a blend of Nero d'Avola (50–70%) and Sicily's own Frappato, a variety which produces approachable, juicy reds with floral, pepper, strawberry and cherry flavours that complement the darker, plummier, more robust fruit and tannins of Nero d'Avola.
Santa Tresa is a 60:40 blend of the two varieties. The Nero d'Avola, about 15% of which is dried on the vine (appassimento) to get ripeness and soften the tannins, is fermented in large Slavonian oak casks. The Frappato is fermented at a lower temperature and has a shorter maceration. The blend is aged in oak, mostly large, for around a year and there's one very light filtration before bottling.
The result, as I say, is delicious: bright, fresh and mouth-filling, with juicy red cherries and Bakewell tart meeting Christmas spices, sweet earth and touches of bitter herb and liquorice, all wrapped in soft-suede tannins and finished off with a refreshing tang.
It's partly this tang that makes it such a good red wine with fish, ranging from tuna steak dusted with smoked paprika even as far as smoked salmon (traditional dry-cured, wood smoked). And it's a captivating chameleon with food; equally at home with friton de canard, sticky roast quail, spiced roast duck leg with slow-roast tomatoes, pork belly, cassoulet, or meaty, tomatoey ragù. 14%. Bottle weight: 766g.
Other producers to look out for include Donnafugata, Valle delle Ferle, Cantina Horus, Terre di Giurfo and Cortese (I've previously recommended the latter's Cerasuolo and its compelling dry white wine Vanedda).
Santa Tresa Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2018, Sicily, Italy
£10.99–£14.89, Costco, The Wine Society, Ocado, Vintage Roots, Cheers Wine, RF Vintners, Amazon