By Rick Riozza
I guess we could have written the title in English, but it is good for the mind to practice a foreign language—if even just a few words. The title of this piece, translated more or less, is “Hermit Cellars Wind of the Sea”. And—it would both be good for the mind and the body to enjoy a tasty organic wine from Sicily at under $15 a bottle!
For those of you fortunate folks who’ve visited and traveled to Sicily, you already know the joys of the island’s cuisine which include the famous seafood, pastas, gelato, and wine.
The story of Ermes’s Winery has its roots in a recent past of destruction and reconstruction. During the night between the 14th and the 15th of January 1968, a devastating earthquake wiped out part of the small towns in Sicily’s Belice’s Valley which included such towns as such as Partanna, Salemi, Santa Margherita, Montevago and Sambuca of Sicilia. From that same land, where so much was taken away, a group of young grape growers decided to start over, embarking themselves onto a path of evolution. In 1998 a social and economic redemption was accomplished by founding Ermes’s Winery, whose headquarters are located in the heart of Belice’s Valley, on the west side of the island.
Nowadays, Ermes’s winery is one of the most important producers in Sicily, with its 2,000+ members and around 10.000 hectares of vineyards located amongst Trapani, Agrigento and Palermo’s district. In these areas, with passion and sacrifices, are grown the best selection of indigenous and international varietals.
In the heart of Sicily, with unique territory, characterized by different micro-climate and soils of different geological origins, the members take care of the environment. In some particular windswept areas, it is preferred the ancient method of “Head training farming” which protects the plants and its fruit throughout its production cycle.
The Ermes Cellars Co-op includes several wine portfolio line-ups. The Vento di Mare is their “entry-level” portfolio that include some of the best deals around town—or, rather, around the world! The two Vento di Mare Organic Wines that I’m discussing below is the white wine Grillo [GREE-loh] and the red Nerello Mascalese [Neh-REHL-loh MAHS-kah-LEH-zeh]
Perhaps ten years ago or so, most American wine quaffers would not have heard of these two grape varietals. Lately, however, they’ve been getting a little more press as the wine world becomes more educated. Indeed, I’d have to give some high-fives to Trader Joe’s Markets for, at least, giving the two grapes a little shelf space and a little recognition. Their stuff sells for pretty cheap—because it’s more on the bulk-wine side.
But for those who really appreciate and enjoy Italian wines—if you haven’t already, you’ll wish to spend just a few bucks more and step up to the “wind of the sea” wines from Cantine Ermes.
Again, those familiar with Italian white wines can always differentiate them from California or New World whites. Like the Vermentino, Arneis, Falaghina, the Grillo grape will always show the Italianesque flavors that include an “herby” note throughout the palate and a touch “bitter” note on the finish; thus, Italian whites are rarely cloying.
The 2019 Vento di Mare Grillo Organic ($11) is golden in color, light bodied, clear and bright. Chilled up, you’ll find general flavors of melon and pineapple. But as one would expect, as it warms, there’s some yellow peach and a whiff of grapefruit alongside zesty acidity. It’s a treat for the summer with a good alcohol content of 12.5%.
(Bonus points for those who already knew the Grillo grape is one of the predominant varietals used to produce Sicily’s world-famous Marsala wine.)
Nerello Mascalese is an indigenous grape of Sicily that typically grows on the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna. The 2019 Vento di Mare Organic Nerello Mascalese ($12), however, is sourced from organic vineyards in the sandy soils of western Sicily. This wine is so much more complex than the Mt. Etna bulk wine sold at Trader Joe’s. It’s one of the best tasting red wines to come out of Sicily at any price!
It’s got a great garnet color with a nose of cherries, black cherries, a touch of smoke, and a slight herby note. On the palate, it carries black fruits of all sorts and underlying pepper and char. Excellent acidity and a long finish. It’s been described as “a mythical blend of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. This wine is medium bodied with a 13.5 alcohol level that works so well with pasta, seared tuna, grilled meat and roasted vegetables. It’s a real winner at such a great price. Ask your wine merchant to order some—subito! Saluti!