Let me suggest two good reasons to take an interest in offbeat grape varieties and wines like the Sicilian white grape Inzolia:
First, there's the simple, intangible but pleasant sense of discovery that comes with trying something new to you. For me, this is a significant part of the joy of wine, although it only works if it's new and good.
Then, even if the shock of the new doesn't awe you, there's the value factor: With the market in hot pursuit of wines in more familiar niches (Chardonnay, Merlot), the producers of "exotic" grapes from less-familiar wine regions are likely to be what the real-estate industry calls "motivated sellers," offering their wines at competitive prices to bolster sales.
To illustrate this phenomenon, let's take another taste today of an interesting Sicilian white grape that we last examined in in the April 14, 2004 Wine Advisor with a bottling from a different producer: Inzolia (often spelled "Insolia"), a grape that's found here and there around Italy under various names but is the trademark grape of Western Sicily.
Cottanera, with its vineyards on the slopes of Mount Etna, is a new producer, but its name is already gaining notice, and it may not need to be a "motivated seller" for long. Its Inzolia is a good one, fairly widely distributed, a textured and aromatic white that makes a good alternative to Chardonnay. (Also watch for the Cottanera "Barbazzale" Sicilian red blend, which is attracting critical attention in Europe.)
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Cottanera 2002 "Barbazzale" Inzolia Sicilia ($9.49)
This is a clear, bright straw-color wine, showing rather lush, fresh-fruit aromas that blend citrus and melon, fresh white fruit with an intriguing whiff of musk. Full and round in texture, it's given structure by snappy citric fruit and tingling acidity; there's a hint of flowers and a slight drying sensation in the long finish. U.S. importer: VIAS Imports Ltd., NYC. (Aug. 9, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Good with veal or poultry, it made a fine match with turkey-breast scalloppine with a light lemon-butter sauce in the style of veal piccata.
VALUE: Motivated sellers make it an easy pick in the under-$10 category.
WHEN TO DRINK: Its oxidative style might reward a few years of age under perfect cellar conditions, but there's no reason not to enjoy it now.
WEB LINK: The U.S. importer has a page about Azienda Agricola Cottanera, with links to fact sheets on each of its wines, at this location:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Look up Cottanera and its wines on Wine-Searcher.com,
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Friday, Aug. 20, 2004