Nuragus and Frappato—characters in a Roman tragedy or ancient grape varieties? Even though we may not be up on the works of Seneca, we’ll venture a guess here and go with the latter…and we’d be correct. NosVino has decided to go south for the winter and taste two truly extraordinary wines from Italy’s often underestimated island regions: Sardinia and Sicily.
In the 18th Century BC, the island of Sardinia was inhabited by the Nuragic Civilization. They were mainly an agricultural civilization who became traders with the Phoenicians around 1000 BC. After one failed attempt, the Phoenicians ultimately conquered parts of coastal Sardinia in 509 BC, and the Nuraghe fled to the mountains. By 238 BC Sardinia surrendered to Rome where over time the Nuraghe integrated with the Romans and were almost completely forgotten. What the Nuragic Civiliaztion did leave behind, all over the island of Sardinia, were myriad tower-shaped stone ruins that are known as Nuraghe—which is where the Nuragus grape gets its name.
Nuragus is a white grape variety that is thought to be either native to Sardinia or to have arrived with the Phoenicians. It happens to be Sardinia’s most widely planted white grape, with about 8,000 acres grown throughout the island (and nowhere else in the world)–as luck would have it, we have one for you to try. The Pala Nuragus i Fiori is grown within the southern town of Cagliari. It is a striking medium-bodied wine with a pale straw hue. Fruit is prominent on the nose with hints of melon and ripe pear. With a very pleasant, creamy mouth-feel and balanced acidity, the taste of honey and bitter almonds are present on the palate. Nuragus is meant to be enjoyed young and well-chilled. It really needs no accompaniment but will play very nicely with a variety of appetizers, lean fish dishes, and lighter fare. This soft and delicate treasure has most certainly stood the test of time. Bring some home, and raise a glass to the ancient Nuraghe.
So what’s with Frappato? While it may not be as well known as Nero d’Avola or as famous as Marsala, this silky red is no mixed up siciliano—it embodies a style and grace that goes way back (just prior to the 17th Century, that is). Thought to be native to the Vittoria area in southeastern Sicily, the Frappato grape is a rarity that stands out among the island’s reputation for mostly bulk wine production. With its hot Mediterranean sun and sandy red soils, Sicily creates tantalizing reds that will make you will fall head over heels (especially if you’ve consumed them in bulk); the Melovivo Frappato is no exception. Frappato comes from the word “fruity” and this wine positively stands up to its name. The dazzling and intense aromas of this ruby red are intoxicating; bursting with nuances of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, violets, and fresh herbs—to sum up: it is astonishingly fragrant, so much so that you might forget to drink it because you can’t stop smelling it. When you do finally take that sip, you are introduced to a light-bodied wine whose pronounced aromas carry over to the palate in perfect harmony. This wine is juicy with soft tannins and zesty acidity. It is an absolute pleasure to drink and will pair very well with roasted vegetables, light pasta and tomato-based dishes, grilled fish, poultry, and always with cheese and salami.
As we taste through Italy, celebrating these ancient southern grapes and digging into their origins, we can grow to value the wines made from them in ways we might not have thought possible. A little history goes a long way. In the future, when we enjoy these wines with our family, friends, and loved ones we, in turn, create an extraordinary history of our own—one that will hopefully repeat itself for centuries to come.