Sicily was once considered a key contributor to the European wine lake, with 25% of the wine bottled on the island. However, since the 1980s Sicily has undergone a renaissance and the once great wine producing island of antiquity has now become a fine wine producer once again. Jancis Robinson MW, for example venerates Sicily, saying ‘[It is] undergoing the most exciting revival as a fine wine producer’. The leading wines of the island are making huge strides in the world of fine wine, yet still offer incredible value for money. Over the last few decades some of the leading winemakers in Italy have made investments into Sicily, ensuring a great future.
One in particular is the Mazzei family, who are responsible for one of the highest scoring Super Tuscans, Siepi and one of the leading Chiantis, Gran Selezione Classico Castello di Fonterutoli. Mazzei have focused their efforts in Sicily and are now producing stunning, award winning wines. Their expertise and commitment to quality shines through in their Estate in Sicily where they exploit the island’s flagship red grape variety, Nero d’Avola to its peak capacity. Their vineyards are located in Noto at the south tip of Sicily, contiguous to Syracusa and the town of Avola, the grapes apparent birthplace. The vineyards are found 130 metres above sea level, on a western/south-western exposure, thereby benefiting greatly from their altitude and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea.
Mazzei’s Zisola Nero d’Avola is a special wine that offers immense quality at a compelling price point. In 2015 The Wine Spectator chose Zisola in its top 100 wines of the year: this is based on quality and relative price. The last three vintages have all been given 92 points from James Suckling. The Zisola is a glorious expression of 100% Nero d’Avola. The wine spends 10 months in 33% French barrique (225 litres), which integrates the soft, ripe and juicy fruit while adding notes of smoke and toast. The intense blueberry flavours that succulently envelop orange peel and forest fruit notes. The tannins are delightfully ripe and there is ample acidity that lends the wine to an extremely balanced yet potent finish: Nero d’Avola is a naturally acidic grape, making it perfect for the warm weather. However, the most impressive thing is the price, £75 per case of six bottles. No major critics have tasted the 2015 yet, however if it follows the same score trend, which is likely given the quality of the exceptional 2015 vintage, Zisola will have a Price Over Points Score of 12.5.
The Doppiozeta 2013 is a step up, a special blend of 60% Nero d’Avola, 30% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Franc. The grapes are fermented for 14-16 days at 26-28°C and then the wine spends 16 months in 50% French barrique. The inclusion of the international varieties and the longer barrel ageing result in a muscular wine, with wonderful complexity. On the palate, a heady concoction of ripe dark berry fruits, dried black cherry, cassis, smoke, toast, chocolate and cinnamon. Doppiozeta has a dense mouth feel and excellent potential for bottle ageing. Monica Larner of The Wine Advocate has already awarded it 92 points fulsomely describing its flavours, ‘Candied cherry and rum cake appear on the bouquet. Beyond those dark fruit layers is a savory presence of exotic spice, leather and moist chewing tobacco.’ It is priced at £140 per case of six, making it an exceptional wine for just £30 per bottle including duty and VAT. Doppiozeta is capable of ageing for 20 years, but will drink beautifully now.
Finally, we are also pleased to offer Azisa Bianco, from the same winery. It is assembled from the two famous white grapes of the island Grillo and Catarrato in equal measure. The wine embodies all of the superb profiles these two grapes can produce when they are farmed with small yields and with great care. It immediately transports you to a terrace in Sicily, expressing floral notes of white flowers, hibiscus and magnolia, citrus fruits, lemon, tangerines and lime. The palate also has some orange peel, beautiful acidity and minerality and a stunning freshness. It is perfect for pasta, seafood, or grilled vegetables. It is a stunning aperitif or a glass to be enjoyed on its own. It offers superb value at £65 for a case of six bottles. Azisa, gives rise to the name Zisola meaning beautiful, which perfectly describes the wines characteristics. Azisa is the wonderful expression of Grillo and Catarratto and one of the finest whites from Sicily.
The vineyards at Zisola boast a wonderful combination of complex soils, predominating in calcareous matter, with a high mineral content adding a powerful backbone, structure and definition. The Estate comprises of 50 hectares, of which 21 have reverted to their original use of viticulture: the vines are planted ‘ad alberello’ (bushed trained) at a density of 5,500 vines per hectare, interspersed with olive, citrus and almond trees. The majority of the vineyards are planted with Nero d’Avola which constitutes 100% of Zisola, with some Cabernet Franc and Syrah added to the Doppiozeta: all grapes are hand-picked. The Mazzei family have invested heavily in the Estate and restored their two ‘baglio’ buildings, where the modern winery is now found.
The Zisola wines transport one to Sicily, conjuring the warm dry sun, the sea breeze, the wild yet beautiful surroundings and the towering Etna. As soon as we tasted the wine we immediately hankered for roasted meats, games, hard cheese and even pizza.
Mazzei Zisola Nero d’Avola 2015, 6×75 – £75 IB
Mazzei Zisola Doppiozeta Noto Rosso 2013, 6×75 – £140 IB
92 Points, Monica Larner, The Wine Advocate
Nero d’Avola is blended with Syrah to make the 2013 Noto Rosso Doppiozeta. The vines are alberello or bush-trained, planted in red soils. Candied cherry and rum cake appear on the bouquet. Beyond those dark fruit layers is a savory presence of exotic spice, leather and moist chewing tobacco. This is a plump, ripe and modern red from Sicily that offers generous abundance and juiciness.
Mazzei Zisola Azisa Bianco 2016, 6×75 – £65 IB
Special Offer: Buy a case of each for £270 IB
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