Frapatto part two … the ultimate summertime red

Jason introduced Frappato in a posting last week, but I want to expand on the story (it’s a good one!)…

I visited Sicily ten years ago, and was the fortunate guest of a winemaking family on the Western side of the island, in a former tuna fishing town called Trapani. The warmth and passion of these people made an indelible impression and it remains one of the most exotic and romantic places I have been in my wine travels. I have been so in love with Sicily that I couldn’t possibly say no when my friend and Italian wine agent, Colleen McKettrick asked me to meet her friend and wine producer, Gaetana Jacono of Valle dell’Acate. Gaetana reinforced everything that I had always associated with Sicily; she was exotic and beautiful, had a devotion to family, a passion for her home, history, and traditions, celebrates life with food and wine, her business relationships are usually woven into personal ones, life is embraced everyday.  A wine selector would rarely admit this but, I was charmed by Gaetana even before I had even tasted her wines.

The first time I tasted the wines of Valle dell’Acate was many years ago, not long after Gaetana had left her profession as a pharmacologist, to return home and take over the family business from her father.  She was showing off her first vintage of Tané ( I think it was the 2001). It was a wine she inspired and the label carried her own nickname, Tané, which was short for Gaetana.  It was very dark colored, with lavender and blackberry scents, thick, sappy and powerful on the palate.  It was the indicator of what was to come at Valle dell’Acate under her guidance.

Fast forward to the present, I am the import director at World Class Wines, and we are once again re-acquainted by our mutual friend Colleen McKettrick. This time, Gaetana has made her influence with much broader brush strokes at Valle dell’Acate.  The wines are vibrant, fruity and modern and yet traditional in their varieties and blends. In particular, the Frappato is so much fun to drink; light, fragrantly fruity and spicy, succulent and juicy on the palate with very light tannins.  My first thought was “Why would anyone buy a less-expensive wanna-be Pinot Noir when they could buy this!”  It has the palate weight, fruit and spice they are seeking and the food compatibility factor is very high.  Now, I am NOT saying this IS Pinot Noir, but one might drink it for the same effect! You have red fruits instead of black, a lighter palate impression, you can chill it, it’s a traditional choice for fish (drunk locally with blue fin tuna), less tannin, and so forth.  They say timing is everything. Thanks to the recent Pinot Noir craze and the new lighter red wine profile evolving, consumers just may “get” the appeal of this wine.  Ten years ago, we would have sold this wine to only a select few.

So what is Frappato?

It is a variety that has been in Sicily for centuries but has unknown origins.  It is genetically similar to Gagliopo which is grown in Calabria.  It is a part of the blend for Sicily’s only DOCG : Cerasuolo di Vittoria, located near Ragusa in the southeastern part of Sicily.The vines experience warm days, cooler nights and also a very hot, dry wind that sweeps across from Africa known as the Sirroco. The soil is primarily composed of calcium rich sandstone and clay. The wine produced from Frappato is generally lighter with red fruit notes and spicy undertones.

Valle dell’Acate is located in the town of Acate near Ragusa.  The estate is known as CASE BIDINI (Case is dialect for “house”)  Gaetana is the 6th generation of the Jacono family to make wine at this estate.  The family produces the following wines: the celebrated Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG; the IGTs Moro, Frappato, Insolia, and Bidis, and the most recent, Tané, made by selecting the best bunches of Nero d’Avola and Syrah.

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