Years ago, when I went into a wine store in Chicago where I lived and asked for a Sicilian red wine, I was handed Nero d’Avola. The same thing happened in Northern California some time later, and now in Bordeaux, we get the same. While I enjoy wine made from this grape, I am less of a mainstream person, preferring to search for less known grapes and smaller wineries like Fuedo Santa Tresa; they make wines from Frappato.
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2023 is the year the foodies, wine lovers, and travel geeks in the Italian Food, Wine and Travel group (#ItalianFWT) work Italy from the bottom up. We start in the southernmost area on the island of Sicily with Culinary Cam hosting. You will also find blog articles from the group at the bottom of my post with many recipes this month.
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Say it fast ten times – Frappato!
An indigenous Italian grape that deserves to be better know is Frappato. In addition to producing lighter colored wines with medium to lighter-bodies, lower tannins, and fruity-spicy aromas and flavors, it has a preference for dry and warm conditions, making it a viable grape as the weather continues to warm.
Italy grows 752 Frappato hectares (1,858 acres), of which 85% are in Sicily. The rest grows mostly in the Puglia region. I don’t believe you can find it in other countries to date, although a winemaker in Northern California investigated the grape.
In Sicily though, the historic norm was blending Frappato with Nero d’Avolo to soften harder edges of that grape and add fruitiness. Still done today, the result is a stunning wine graced with the ‘Cerasuola di Vittoria DOCG’ designation.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the Sicily’s only DOCG. Wines are always a blend of Nero d’Avola (50 to 70%) and Frappato (30 to 50%).
But these days, several producers are allowing Frappato to shine solo, including the winery I feature today – Santa Tresa.
Owned by the sister and brother team Marina and Stefano Girelli, they purchased the property and moved from Trentino (northern Italy) in 2001.
- Location: SE Sicily in Vittoria at 24 meters (79 feet) above sea level.
- Property size: 59 hectares total (123.5 acres) with 29 (72 acres) planted to grape vines.
Being environmentally conscious, the Girelli team converted to organic viticulture, implemented several biodiverse practices, and use minimal intervention in winemaking.
“Agricultural practices are carried out in such a way to minimise the effect on the local environment, protecting ecosystems and enabling species to move between natural habitats through so-called “ecological corridors”. Stefano Girelli
One practice includes growing fava beans, referred to as favino locally, to use for fertilizer and fixing nitrogen in the soil. They also allow vegetation to grow between vine rows, and sparingly use water in their vineyards – it comes from a nearby lake filled only by rainwater.
This biodiversity extends to a small experimental vineyard dedicated to rediscovering indigenous, Sicilian wine grape varieties. The focus is Albanello and Orisi, yet they also have other cultivars growing.
Their actions show their seriousness, having been one of the first Sicilian wineries to get organic certification. And subsequently, they obtained the Equalitas winery stamp! (For more about Equalitas, see my article here.)
Now that we know about Frappato and Santa Tresa, let us taste the wines!
Disclosure: The wines below were provided as media samples. This review, all discussions contained in this blog article, and all opinions are my own. No other compensation was involved.
Santa Tresa Rina Russa Frappato 2019 – Terre Sicilian IGP
Frappato has a “huge amount of intravarietal variability”, according to Ian D’Agata in his Native Wine Grapes of Italy book. 100% Frappato grapes for this wine are from clones developed at Santa Tresa’s estate on red sandy-calcarious soil, a soil it prefers.
The wine fermented then aged 4- to 6-months in stainless tanks.
In my glass: Translucent, red cherry. Opened with vibrant crushed red cherry and raspberry aromas lightly wrapped in violet floral notes. Palate has a medium-body with bright acidity, soft tannins and a finish that trails on. Cherry and herby pine-like flavors make it a great food wine. Alcohol: 13.5%. Price: 12€ / $15.
Santa Tresa Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2018
40% Frappato, 60% Nero d’Avola
I gave in to Nero d’Avola (NdA) here! In fact, Sicily’s native red grape varieties are dominated by NdA and in a bottle with Frappato, well, magic happens!
First, 15% of the NdA is left on the vine to lightly dry (appassimento) which, according to the winery, adds depth and richness. Santa Tresa ferments the NdA in Slavonian oak barrels while the Frappato ferments in stainless steel, after which time blending occurs then barrel aging for about one year.
In my glass: This wine explodes with dark cherry wrapped in violets and raspberry, then dusted lightly with pepper. The palate is mouth-filling, fruity and fresh with excellent structural balance, rounded medium tannins and a long finish hinting of leather and spice. What a value at 15€ ($18) and a joy to sip by itself or with a variety of foods. Alcohol: 13.5%.
Santa Tresa Il Frappato Sparkling Brut (non-vintage) – Terre Sicilian IGP
This 50% Frappato, 50% Nero d’Avola is made in the charmat method where the second fermentation takes place in a pressurized stainless tank.
In my glass: Salmon pink with fine, consistent perlage. Pomegranate, strawberry and grapefruit aromas. Medium-bodied with crystalline acidity, faint tannins and tongue-tickling medium-length. Fresh citrus and rose hips flavors. Alcohol: 13.5%. Price: 12€ / $15.
History on a Label
On this intricate label, you see different timelines with different artwork. The colorful art represents Sicily’s history and associated cultures, spanning a spiral of 3,000 years.
Santa Tresa wines are available in the UK, the US via VIAS Wines (NY, NJ, CA), the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Italy, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Malta and Norway.
Additional information and sources include Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG Consorsium and Wines of Sicily.
Articles by the Italian Food Wine Travel Group
Aeris Etna Bianco Superiore + Seafood Pasta by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
A Journey Across Sicily with Donnafugata by Vino Travels
An Enchanting Sweet Wine: Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria DOC Sicilia by Grape Experiences
An Intro to Five of Sicily’s Native Grapes and Its Unique Cuisine Inspires Island Dreams by Wine Predator…Gwendolyn Alley
Capodanno: Ending 2022 with an Indigenous Sicilian Grape + Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare by Culinary Cam (you’re here)
Cortese – Organic Wines from Sicily Championing Biodiversity by Crushed Grape Chronicles
Easy Air Fryer Salmon with Chardonnay from Sicily by Cooking Chat
Famiglia Tasca shares its love for Nero d’Avola by My Full Wine Glass
Frappato and Biodiversity at Santa Tresa Winery by Savor the Harvest
Sicilian Stuffed Artichokes and an Organic Grillo Wine by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Sicily, in a Single Glass by Life at Table
Sicily’s Frappato, a Good Match With Seafood and Pasta Pomodoro by The Wine Chef
Tasca- A Sicilian Icon by Avvinare
I tried a Frappato ahead of this event, too, and didn’t like it. Boo. But I am definitely going to try to track down another bottle to try.
I love the label for this winery and all the wines sound wonderful Lynn. Great QPR too!
Wow! I’m going to search and find out whether I can get any of those wines. So impressed by the seriousness of the producers’ commitment to biodiversity. Thanks for sharing, Lynn!
Hi Lynn. I’m going to try and find the Santa Tresa wines. The labels are gorgeous, but more importantly, I admire their use of organic farming and their focus on biodiversity in the vineyards. Thanks for sharing!
My pleasure Lisa! You should be able to find them there.
I so enjoyed the Girelli’s Cortese wines and read briefly about their Santa Tresa estate. I love that their label shows reference to Sicilian history! I didn’t realize that!
Frapatto certainly sounds delicious. I need to keep my eyes open for this wine! It seems to not be available currently in my area, but I do see it distributed in the US, so I will keep searching!
I discovered their Cirtes label vis your article! They appear to be imported but NY and NJ… perhaps you can order?
I had not heard of Frappato but now I can’t wait to try it.
A tasty, fruity wine, definitely worthy of a try Wendy!