Lucio Matricardi wants you to know that there’s more to Sicily than Mafiosi, mountains and red-sauced pastas. “Everyone knows Sicily, but no one knows about Sicilian wine,” says Matricardi, winemaker for Feudo Arancio, in the Sicilian province of Agrigento.
Despite a centuries-old winemaking tradition and an impressive amount of land under vine, much of the island’s production stays in Italy. Quality is also an issue: Less than ten percent is certified DOC (short for Denominazione Origine Controllata), a designation earned by adhering to specific production standards.
But that’s been changing thanks in part to new investors in the region who are bringing new takes on wine-making and wine-marketing—including the six-year-old Feudo Arancio. Belinda Chang, a former Charlie Trotter sommelier who now directs wine and spirits for Cenitare Group, says that most of the Sicilian wines she sees are the products of these recent investments, “so there is definitely a very clean, modern winemaking approach in this region.” It is, she says, like “a New World sensibility in an Old World wine-producing country.”
Yet efforts to win the hearts and wallets of the everyday American wine drinker remain underway. In May the energetic and easy-on-the-eyes Matricardi brought his Italian élan stateside as part of a good old-fashioned promotional tour to meet with distributors, merchants and, yes, members of the press.
Of course Matricardi’s trip also was about selling his own company’s line of varietals, specifically Arancio’s newly released Pinot Grigio, which just arrived in Chicago.
Matricardi describes the straw-yellow wine as “different and fresh.” It smells like a citrus grove and tastes of apricots and minerals, with just a touch of oak and a natural acidity that will please both the salad-lunching set and balcony griller with chicken or salmon on the hibachi.
Now here’s the best part: It’s only $7.99 at Binny’s Beverage Depot and Sam’s Wine & Spirits. In fact, all of the Arancio wines are priced under $10. And, as the price suggests, this is a wine made for the moment, to be opened and enjoyed pronto. (Jenny B. Davis)