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We bet you haven’t had an Insolia before, but then there is a first time for everything. First and foremost, the 2004 Cusumano Insolia is one tasty white wine, but please put aside all preconceived notions because Insolia is not like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or any other white wine you may have tasted in the last month … or year. The 2004 Cusumano Insolia is a bright, festive wine that sports a slight golden hue that reminds us of Sicily and the formidable light that illuminates the alluring, often exotic, islands that inhabit the Mediterranean Sea. One whiff of the 2004 Cusumano Insolia, with its soft ripe fruit and enticing waft of spice, reminds us of an Oriental bazaar. Ripe lush fruit becomes entwined with anise and nutmeg and beckons the taster forward as if inviting an intrepid traveler into a trader’s tent. A beautiful combination of creamy ripe fruit, cinnamon, and much more fill the mouth, but the wine never appears insipid. What a unique, refreshing white wine this is that begs only to be drunk and enjoyed! We suggest serving the exuberant 2004 Cusumano Insolia well chilled (35°-40° F). Salute!
A party would be a splendid accompaniment to the 2004 Cusumano Insolia, but the hosts beware; they may risk their lives when they run out. This is one feel good party wine. However, the Cusumano Insolia also provides the perfect pairing with several Sicilian favorites, including Shrimp Fra Diavolo and Pasta Arrabiata. The Cusumano Insolia not only mitigates the heat of those dishes, it blends perfectly with the spiciness, without ever going over the top. In fact, most pasta dishes that feature vegetables, lightly grilled chicken, or fish pair splendidly with this wine, too. And let’s not forget soy based stir-fries and fish based soups such as bouillabaisse and cioppino, which fare almost as well as a classic Shrimp Fra Diavolo. In short, this is a wine made with good old-fashioned enjoyment in mind, so just enjoy it!
Cusumano is a family owned and run winery that was born again in 2001, when brothers, Alberto and Diego, took over the management of the concern from their father Francesco. Since that time the estate has doubled in size and the quality of its wines has skyrocketed. We have been following the meteoric success of this family for the last four years and believe the Cusumano brothers are, indeed, on to something special. In short, they have been performing magical feats with a variety of classic and indigenous varietals from more than half a dozen vineyards they own throughout Sicily.
With a passion for terroir and the production of authentic expressions of Sicily’s rich viticultural heritage, the Cusumano brothers have set about acquiring numerous vineyards in the western and southern regions of the Mediterranean’s largest island in order to offer the world a glimpse of what this great land has to offer. The brothers have also reconstructed a 19th century family farmstead to handle modern wine production. This handsome new facility, which was completed only in 2003, houses everything from the winery’s offices to a new underground barrique cellar for aging wine – a novel undertaking in Sicily.
Presently, Cusumano fashions a myriad of wines that center around the elegant and distinctive Insolia, an indigenous white Sicilian varietal; Chardonnay; Nero d’Avola, a spicy mouth filling red grape; Merlot; Syrah; and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cusumano’s most recent examples of Insolia as well as their limited offerings of proprietary reds constitute some of the very finest Sicilian wines we have had the pleasure to taste.
Sicily: More a Continent Than an Island
Sicily is a large and varied land that wears as many faces as a circus harlequin. Its land and people are as diverse as any earthly realm. At the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Sicily possesses a history and personality all its own. The Greeks called Sicily and nearby southern Italy Enotria, land of the vine, a description that is as apt today as it was 2,800 years ago. However, like its geography and people, viticulture in Sicily is an immensely varied proposition.
In terms of wine, Sicily is, indeed, more a continent than an island. Its sheer variety of grapes, autochonous and otherwise, set it apart from the rest of Europe. In addition, Sicily’s grape harvest is the longest in Europe. Harvest begins the first days of August in the island’s western provinces and doesn’t end until the vine-covered slopes of Mt. Etna have been picked in November. Due to the proliferation of mountains, the surrounding sea, Sirocco winds, and extreme temperatures, more climates and zones exist in Sicily than in any other single wine producing region on earth, and this doesn’t even take into account what are popularly referred to as microclimates. And then there are the island’s soils, a countless array of colors and textures that are capable of imparting infinite variations to the wines they render.
Today as always, Sicily remains an exciting passionate place. From a wine grower’s perspective, it remains a kin to an artist’s palette or a blank canvas. Both canvas and palette speak forever of infinite potential and variety, they whisper the promise of greatness, and occasionally they give birth to a masterpiece for which a thirsty world is grateful.
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