The nostaligia of Tasca family winery in central Sicily
PUBLISHED: 16:50 24 August 2016
Taking the long and nostalgic road to the vineyards at the heart of Central Sicily
A journey from hell? Not exactly, but it did take a very long time, and we got lost at least twice.
My immediate need on arrival was a loo dash – to a bathroom encased in marble and bigger than my own London living room. Certainly not a normal winery facility. So where was I?
The answer: deep in the hilly landscape of central Sicily, visiting an estate whose wines I already respected and wanted to learn more about.
It wasn’t all so posh, however. We had lunch in the kitchen, pasta with baby broad beans, under the blaring television.
The noble Tasca family has been making wine for 200 years and is one of the initiators of the island’s progress into fine wines. There’s a delightful historic thread running through into today’s bottles, wines whose names evoke such events as family diamond and golden weddings or a visit by Wagner.
I was taken back there, though only in the glass, earlier this summer, when Majestic ran a tasting in a pleasant but rather less evocative setting alongside the canal in King’s Cross.
In the line-up was Tasca Regaleali Bianco di Sicilia 2015, a cool blend of local island varieties inzolia, greciano and catarratto, with a touch of chardonnay – lovely.
The experience prompted thoughts of other wine and holiday combinations, and of how much knowing the place where a wine originates adds to its enjoyment.
Take something as simple and pleasurable as the fresh, aromatic whites from Gascony, or easy, juicy, best-served-cool gamay reds from central France.
I’ve spent several happy holidays in a gîte whose owners produce classic examples of the former, as well as making many visits to the area’s excellent co-operative winery, a champion of heritage grape varieties.
The gamay lands of Beaujolais and, rather off the beaten wine track, the Auvergne are other places I’d willingly revisit.
The wines below are only a tiny list on this theme, which could grow like Topsy if space allowed.
If their locations are not on your present or past holiday routes, share the pleasure of my memories.
Refreshing wines to sample
Regaleali Bianco di Sicilia is £8 in Majestic’s mix-six deal (£1 more otherwise) and packs a lot of herby, stone and citrus fruit character and length for its price – a great wine, even without the memories. Lots more Tasca wines are available at winedirect.co.uk.
Domaine de Millet Côtes de Gascogne colombard-ugni blanc 2015 is £9.75 at yapp.co.uk, and wines from the Plaimont co-operative are available in most supermarkets and many other retailers – try Gers 2015 or Saint Mont 2014, both M&S, £5.50 and £8.50.
Great gamays abound, especially from the very good 2015 vintage. The Wine Society is a well-priced source: for example Côtes d’Auvergne Saint-Verny, £7.95, or The Society’s Exhibition Côte de Brouilly (one of the Beaujolais crus), £8.95.
My time in Australia was before wine-drinking age, but it’s reason enough to include here a very unusual and appealing sauvignon blanc, lean, discreet and refreshing, with grassy rather than tropical notes: Tyrrell’s Lost Block 2013, winedirect.co.uk, £13.50.
Finally, a special-occasion wine from a keenly green-minded champagne grower (the visit was pretty special, too): Vilmart Grand Cellier d’Or 2011, laywheeler.com, £53, collection possible from Majestic stores.