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Inexpensive everyday wines from Sicily


      One of the great joys of travel is visiting vineyards in exotic places. The ancient, narrow caves of Tokaji in Hungary, the parched plains of Spain's sherry region, the neat lines of vines reaching down to the Columbia River in Washington on the route Lewis and Clark took to the Pacific. A quick e-mail to make an appointment, a warm welcome at the winery gate.
   For a while, sadly, wine travel may have to take a back seat to paying the mortgage and putting food on the table. But we can still do it vicariously. Call this a virtual mini-tour:
   • Sicily: Wine was made here centuries before Christ, long before it caught on in the mainland of Italy. But only in the past five years have Sicilian wines made an impact in America. The island's searing summer heat and low rainfall, plus cool nights in vineyards up to 3,000 feet in elevation, make it ideal for several varieties.
  Sicily makes such international varietals as chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, even the finicky pinot noir. To our good fortune, it also perseveres in two ancient indigenous varieties -- grillo, the white grape often used in making marsala cooking wine, and the sturdy red nero d'avola.
    State-of-the-art wineries, such as the solar-powered Fuedo Arancio, by Gruppo Mezzacorona, are springing up. We'll be seeing a lot more of these well-priced wines.
   • France's Languedoc Region: Even if we could travel, we'd find the Languedoc hard to visit. Nestled between the Mediterranean and the Massif Central mountains in the far south of France, it's spread out and lacks the glamorous chateaux of Burgundy, Bordeaux or the Loire.
   What it does have is lots of new vineyards, planted mostly in such international varieties as cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and syrah. And its relative obscurity has an advantage: very nice prices.
   A new line of such wines is Petit Bistro, imported by Palm Bay International.
  Both Sicily and France's Languedoc are rushing to provide just what we need today: good, inexpensive, everyday wines. Next year, with any luck, we'll be drinking Chateau Margaux.


   • Nonvintage Fuedo Arancio
Grillo, Sicilia IGT: aromas of herbs
and tea; flavors of limes; crisp and
minerally; $9.

   • Nonvintage Fuedo Arancio
Nero d'Avola, Sicilia IGT: aromas
and flavors of black cherries and
espresso; sturdy tannins; $9.

   • Nonvintage Fuedo Arancio
Pinot Noir, Sicilia IGT: spicy cassis
flavors; full-bodied and smooth; $10.

   • 2006 Petit Bistro Cabernet
Sauvignon, Languedoc, France: pow-
erful cassis flavors; big, rich, smooth
and soft; $10.

   • 2006 Petit Bistro Chardon-
nay, Languedoc, France: aromas and
flavors of ripe Golden Delicious
apples; big, rich and soft; $10.

   • 2006 Petit Bistro Merlot, Lan-
guedoc, France: black cherry and
black coffee aromas and flavors; ripe
and soft; $10.

   • 2006 Petit Bistro Pinot Noir, Languedoc, France:
black raspberry and blueberry aromas and flavors; rich
and soft; $10.

   • 2006 Petit Bistro Rosé (cinsault, grenache and
syrah grapes), Languedoc, France: strawberry and cherry
aromas and flavors; medium-sweet; rich, ripe and soft;

   • 2006 Petit Bistro Syrah, Languedoc, France:
black cherries and licorice; rich and soft; $10.


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Languedoc - hard to visit ?

Actually, it has both fast road and rail routes following the coast with connections up into each valley. The coast highway (A9) takes about 2 hrs from the river Rhone to the Spanish border.

Photos of the area : http://www.the-languedoc-page.com/photos/languedoc-photo-index.htm


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