What: It is always fun to discover a grape that you don’t know much about. Most wine drinkers, who choose the safe route of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, miss out on the thrill of discovery.
Sure, sometimes you end up with an unpleasant wine, but in the modern world of wine, very few wines are undrinkable.
This gem from Feudo Principi di Butera more than makes up for trying a host of so-so wines.
This dry, white wine is made from the grape insolia (in-SOW-leah). It is the Sicilian name for the Italian grape known as ansonica. Planted mainly in western Sicily, it is best known as the grape from which Marsala is made. It also is grown in Tuscany.
If you have ever had Marsala dessert wine, you will be amazed that the same grape can produce such a nice dry wine.
The wine is straw yellow in the glass, with green tints. The first sniff reveals a definite mineral aroma, along with flowers, fresh apples and tangerines. It is a medium-dry wine dominated by citrus flavors and hints of almond and elegant minerals. It all leads to a long, crisp finish with good acidity.
The grapes are machine harvested between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. before they are fermented in stainless steel tanks for 7-10 days at temperatures between 64 and 70 degrees. The juice stays on its lees for three months. The wine ages in stainless steel for six months and an additional three months in the bottle.
This is a great wine for summer and fall grilling. I enjoyed sipping it as I cooked, but it is even better with seafood. Serve it well chilled.
Sicily is Italy’s largest wine region and home to many great wines. We don’t see many wines from Sicily except for red wines made from Nero d’Avola, the island’s most famous grape. I think we will see more Sicilian wines in the years ahead as the island’s exports grow.
Winery: Feudo Principi di Butera has a long history, dating back to the 16th century. King Philip II of Spain bestowed upon Ambrogio Branciforte, who owned the estate, the title of Prince of Butera in 1543, when he started living on the estate.
The Zonin family acquired and restored the estate in 1997 after conducting thorough research on the best-suited areas for the cultivation of Nero d’Avola grapes. Its proximity to the sea, optimal elevation, and abundance of sunlight combined with its rich soil and hilly terrain provide ideal conditions to yield outstanding wines.
The estate is in the southeastern part of the province of Caltanissetta, making it a part of the DOC district of Riesi, Sicily. The estate is about two hours from the city of Palermo, Sicily’s regional capital. It has 334 acres dedicated to vineyards, as well as 3,000 olive trees at 740 feet elevation.
The estate’s vines run east to west, compared to the usual practice of planting north to south. The grapes ripen slowly, benefiting from the the cool Mediterranean breezes that blow across the island.
Growing on the estate are chardonnay, insolia, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, syrah, nero d’avola and petit verdot.
With its close ties to the land for seven generations, the Zonin family heads the largest private vine-growing and winemaking company in Italy (and one of the most important in Europe as well).
Domenico Zonin, president of Zonin1821 since 2014, took over from his father Gianni Zonin, who had run the company since 1967, transforming it from a local winery to being one of Italy’s most important wine producers and an established, well-known brand all over the world.
The heart of the company is located in Gambellara, in the province of Vicenza, an oasis of lush green hills, meticulously arranged vineyards, and the ancestral home of the Zonin family.
Goes With: This is a perfect wine for chicken or fish, so we tried it one night when we grilled salmon. Summer is a good time to grill fish, and we try to do that at least once a week. I picked up some beautiful salmon filets from a Saturday sale at Fresh Market, so we had a very inexpensive, yet elegant, meal.
When I grill salmon I usually go for simplicity: salmon, lemon juice, herbs. Most often I will use basil, when I can pluck some from my garden. This time I tried a mix of basil, thyme, Morton’s Natures Seasons and dried parsley. It was superb.
Just sprinkle lemon juice over the salmon, rub in the herbs and cook on the grill until the fish starts to get flaky. You also can put the salmon on a cedar plank that has been soaked in water, but I usually just put the salmon directly on the grill. The skin peels right off when you remove the fish from the grill.
We added a tossed salad, corn on the cob and a baguette to complete the feast. It was wonderful.
The citrus and mineral notes make the insolia a perfect wine for fish. All the flavors mesh nicely without one element overpowering another. The clean, refreshing taste of the wine really hits the mark with salmon.
This wine also would pair well with grilled chicken, turkey and even duck. You might also drink this with a seafood pasta, risotto, or slow-roasted chicken. I think it might be good with a chef’s salad that includes ham or chicken. If you want to dress up a meal that you picked up on the way home, it would even pair nicely with fried chicken or chicken sandwiches.