Malcolm Jolley finds a bargain Italian white at Vintages…

Alberto Cusumano and Mayra Bina at Sicilia En Primeur, Siracusa, May 2019.

Among my list of petty corona virus complaints is a cancelled trip to Sicily in May. I had planned to attend this year’s Sicilia En Primeur where the producers on the island(s) showcase the wines they have released for the year. There are always treats to be found, rare and expensive wines I might not otherwise taste. And there’s also a lot of really good, well made wines of terrific value. Sicilian wines, despite the rave reviews, and climbing prices of Nerello Mascalese from Mount Etna, are still generally underappreciated… but not at GFR.

The 2018 Cusumano Insolia ($12.95 – LCBO# 173336) is a champion of a crisp white wine that I would love to slip into a blind tasting against other whites in this style (think unoaked Chardonnay) that run for twice the price. It’s 100% Insolia from the winery’s ‘home’ vineyards near Palermo, and is left on the lees for four months in stainless steel. It’s lean with mouth-watering acidity balanced by big citrus fruit and a good weight on the palate that means it can hold it’s own as an aperitivo or take you through dinner.

I met Alberto Cusumano, who created the modern Cusumano winery with his brother Diego, last year at the Sicilia En Primeur along with their Marketing Manager Mayra Bina. Cusumano has been very much one of the key players that have elevated Sicilian wines over the last 20 odd years, as the island shifted from growing grapes to be sent to Northern Italy for blending to making estate wines. While a lot of the success of Cusumano has come from their blends of indigenous and “international” grapes, like Syrah and Chardonnay, tasting through the wines at the Cusumano table Alberto told me the winery was investing in indigenous grape varieties and single variety wines. He was referring specifically to Carricante, the white grape of Mout Etna, but I hope he meant the more humble Insolia too. I would have liked to tell him myself this May, but I guess I’ll have to wait until next year or learn how to use Zoom.

At $12.95 the 2018 Cusumano Insolia is certainly worth a try. Click here to find it at the LCBO.