After a three-week trip–including a visit to Marsala (where I photographed pottery sherds on Rob and Emma’s Marsala Hinterland Survey Project) followed by travel in Tunisia–I’m trying desperately, to reintegrate myself into city life. And while I can’t quite let go…I will, for a short while here, revisit a bit of where I’ve been in regards to wine, and what I’ve sensed.
Marsala, known for it’s namesake, also produces some very fine wines. Yes, there’s Florio (image 1), who’s been making Marsala since 1833. But in the mid- to late-80’s, Sicily, and specifically Marsala, experienced a change. The production of Marsala dropped, some say from over 200 companies (including farmers) before WWII to now maybe ten; and the vinification of finer wines, such as DonnaFugata, has only increased. I visited and toured the winery, before sampling a few wines. Their most stellar is the Mille e una Notte (third bottle from the right), made mostly from Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most widely planted grape. It’s deep ruby in color, with notes of blackberry, plum, and leather; and non-aggressive tannins that fade into the finish, integrated with spice. This wine would benefit from aging, and I can only regret that I do not yet know where to find it at home. (It would have been impossible to carry a bottle into the heat of Tunisia; it would only have turned…)
At Cantine Florio, I toured and tasted two of their Marsalas: Terne Arse, Marsala Vergine, 1998 and Targa Riserva 1840, Marsala Superior, Semi-Secco, Vendemmia, 1999. The Riserva contains 2% cooked must, which acts as a deodorizer, so there were surprisingly no aromas in this glass. On the palate however, it’s incredibly rich! Nutty, with almond and caramel, it’s hot, burning just a little as it passes down the throat–a lovely dessert wine!
In Tunisia for a week, I unfortunately did not visit any wineries, most of which are located in the Cap Bon region, in the northeast. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine where or how such a journey might have begun. I did visit two supermarkets in Tunis though, which had a somewhat ample selection of Tunisian wines. With only a week to drink in the evenings, after running around all day–Carthage, the Bardo Museum, the beach in Hammamet, and Kairouan, I did the best that I could. The best of the lot? The last bottle I bought: Domaine Lansarine 2005 Premier Cru, Coteaux de Tebourba (TD10 or about $7.70); a blend of Carignan, Granache, and Syrah. Ruby red in color with a garnet rim, the Domaine Lansarine shows pipe tobacco on the nose and red fruit. Earthy and spicy, it possesses a silky texture and a spicy finish. Quite quaffable, despite the blistering heat. If only I could say the same about the rosés I tried…