Offbeat Sicilian white
Let's take one of those quick trips down the less-traveled byways of wine today. Thanks to a reader's suggestion following up on my recent report on Cusumano Nero d'Avola-Syrah from Sicily (March 31), I went back to the wine shop to pick up a Cusumano white wine, a blend featuring another offbeat grape variety that rarely makes it into export bottles.
The grape is the Sicilian Insolia (or Inzolia - even the winery Website spells it both ways), a native grape that's primarily found in Western Sicily, with scattered plantings in Tuscany, where it's usually known as Ansonica (or Anzonica ... I'm not sure what's going on with this "s" versus "z" thing). In Cusumano's version, it dominates a blend of 70 percent Insolia with the familiar Chardonnay. (The proprietary name "Angimbé," by the way, honors a local forest.)
Reader Pam S. loved the wine and recommended that I try it, too. "It was a beautiful golden color with honey and melon aromas," she wrote. "The taste was everything I love in a wine: round, creamy, and lovely fruit. This wine was fun, and made me think of summer."
Not a bad description! The wine reminds me a bit of other whites from Southern Italy and France's Mediterranean coast, with its golden color, rich, full body and gently "oxidative" qualities that confer a subtle nutlike quality and hint of bitterness in the finish. It's a complex wine that will hold up with robust fare or stand alone for casual sipping, and actually gains dimension when served only lightly chilled, not ice cold.
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Cusumano 2001 "Angimbé" Sicilia Insolia, Chardonnay ($14.99)
Clear gold, surprisingly rich in color for a relatively young wine. Mixed fruits - apples, figs and dates - meet white flowers and brown spices in an exotic aroma. Luscious tropical-fruit flavors follow the nose, mouth-filling and textured, dry and suitably acidic; there's a hint of caramel and a slight but distinct bitter-almond quality in the long finish. U. S. importer: Vin DiVino Ltd., Chicago. (April 13, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Not bad with simple baked halibut, although the wine's robust character suggests something a little less delicate to match; roast pork with a fruit accent might be perfect.
VALUE: Exotic complexity makes it a decent buy in the mid-teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: Full body and character may help preserve it, but its oxidative qualities militate against long cellaring; store with care and drink over the next year or so.
WEB LINK: Animated and musical, accessible only with the "Flash" plugin, the Cusumano Website is in Italian with some pages in English.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: The winery Website includes an international list of distributors, and there's a list of U.S. distributors by state on the importer's Website,
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Wednesday, April 14, 2004