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Cheap Wine Find — This $26 Bottle From Sicily is a Real Steal

Drinking Knowledge

BY // 11.20.20

I recently sampled a bottle of wine that excited me, because I always appreciate “discovering” wines that retail for less than $30 and to my palate possess an outstanding quality-to-price ratio. The 2019 “Didyme” Salina IGT from Tenuta Capofaro is the bottle, and it has a suggested retail price of $26.

How much do you know about malvasia di Lipari the grape?

Well, according to Ian D’Agata’s Native Wine Grapes of Italy, it’s been produced since at least the first century B.C.E. The esteemed botanist Francesco Cupani (1657 to 1710) mentions it in 1696, using the word malvagia. Sicily is its domain, and Carlo Hauner Sr., a painter and designer, is credited with popularizing it for modern palates. Hauner, from Milan, maintained a second home on the Lipari islands — situated off the northern coast of Sicily — and began producing wine there. (The wine made from the grape is known as malvasia delle Lipari.)

“Malvasia di Lipari is immediately recognizable due to its very scrawny, elongated, cylindrical (rarely cylindrical-conical) grape bunch and small, round berries with thin skins,” D’Agata writes.

This is a grape, D’Agata continues, that buds early, is susceptible to spring frosts, and is sensitive to oidium. It is an irregular producer, and it is low-yielding. It loves volcanic soil, but is not that vigorous.

At one point, this grape was in danger of becoming extinct, but Hauner Sr. and his compatriots have done more than enough to save it. While it is not a household name in most wine-drinking parts of the world, it is available for purchase at a good numbers of retailers in the United States (inquire at your favorite wine merchant).

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Drink this wine with sautéed shrimp or a grilled fish.

To the bottle at hand we go. Tenuta Capofaro is owned by Tasca d’Almerita, and is located on Salina — the same island on which Hauner established his estate. Salina IGT is the appellation. Drink this slightly chilled — it was kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and I put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before uncorking.

The Didyme is slightly aromatic — apricot is evident — and I appreciate the way it expresses its volcanic terroir. Crisp, bright, marvelous acidity and pleasant citrus blossoms are notes that come to mind. You will detect herbal activity as well. . . acacia perhaps foremost. The grapes used here grow at 20 meters above sea level, and the wine is aged for four months in stainless steel. Alcohol is at 13.5 percent, and residual sugar comes in at 2 grams per liter.

If you are curious about food-pairing suggestions, I know that sautéed shrimp (olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes) go well with this wine, as would grilled fish or scallops. Drink now.

I am sampling other wines in the Tasca d’Almerita portfolio now — all of which are imported to the United States by Dalla Terra Winery Direct — and will be writing about them in the future.

For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out Mise en Place.

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