In the northern heart of Sicily, about 150 miles south of Palermo, sits Tenuta Regaleali, one of five wine-estates owned by the Tasca d’Almerita family. It’s an island oasis defined by six green hills that gently rise and fall from a peak of 2,500 feet, creating sloping vineyards and valley fields of olive trees and wheat.
Guiseppe Tasca D’Almerita first described the signature landmarks as the “blessed hills.” For centuries, going back to Regaleali’s founding in 1830, the hills have formed a protective barrier from northern Africa’s fierce scirocco winds and the Mediterranean’s potent storms.
Today, eight generations later, Tasca D’Almerita is one of Sicily’s largest wine producers and Regaleali remains its historic hub. It is here in the early 19th century that the original owners, brothers Lucio and Carmelo Mastrogiovanni Tasca, first introduced foreign grapes to southern Italy. Nearly 130 years later, in the 1960s, Regaleali produced Sicily’s first single-vineyard wine – the iconic Riserva del Conte (The Count’s Reserve) – a red blend of the island’s native Perricone and Nero D’Avola grapes. The rich, dense wine proved that Sicily could craft quality, age-worthy wines just like Italy’s famous northern regions.
Today, the wine is named Rosso del Conte and it’s only made in the best vintage years. Since 2004, the blend has included small amounts of Tasca’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The 2015 vintage (40,000 bottles) is selling online and at fine wine shops for $75 to $90. It’s a collector’s gem: Vinous reviewer Ian D’Agata gave it 93 points. Even more desirable is the 2010, 40th-year anniversary edition which earned 96 points.
Regaleali’s introductory wines are no less exciting and inexpensive. Here are three I’ve sampled. (Note: Gasbarro’s Liquors on Federal Hill in Providence, R.I., carries seven Regaleali wines, including Rosso del Conte.)
2017 Regaleali Bianco (SRP $15) – This is a pure taste of sunny Sicily, a white blend of Inzolia, Greciano and Cataratto native grapes along with a small amount of Chardonnay. Fermented in stainless steel vats, the yellow-gold colored wine is clean and sea-salt mineral crisp on the palate. It offers yellow apple, pear and grapefruit expressions of a Mediterranean orchard. It’s so refreshing and easy to drink, I had to restrain myself after two glasses so my wife and tasting partner could weigh in with her opinion. “Delicious” and “get more” were all she said.
2016 Regaleali Nero D’Avola (SRP $15) – Nero D’Avola is Sicily’s name to fame and Regaleali has harvested this “black” native grape 62 times since the 1950s. Perfection you ask? Nothing’s ever perfect but Regaleali’s given Nero D’Avola a lot of care and attention over the years. A 50-50 fermentation in steel tanks and Slavonian oak barrels preserves the ripe fruit character (cherry, raspberry, mulberry) while yielding soft tannins and a velvety mouthfeel.
2018 Regaleali Le Rose Terre Sicilane (SRP $15) – Nerello Mascalese is Sicily’s “noble” red grape, similar to sangiovese’s prestige in Tuscany and nebbiolo’s in the Piedmont. While it thrives in the volcanic soils of Mount Etna, the grape’s imposing personality breathes refinement in Regaleali’s clay-loam soils. Le Rose is classy and elegant. The color is deep salmon, the fragrance is fresh and flowery, and the taste is dry, lingering and red-cherry bright.
Wine deal of the week: For Amarone lovers, Allegrini’s 2014 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico is selling for $59.99 at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover. It was a hit at a recent tasting. Other retail shops, including N.H. state outlets, price this luscious beauty for $74.99 and up. Wine Spectator gave it 93 points.