Italy (Rome & Sicily) Tastings from an Italian Wine Novice

Long time lurker, first time poster. I went on a trip to Italy with my family and had two wine-related experiences worth sharing. Before getting to that, I wanted to sincerely thank this board for directing me to such incredible experiences after searching through all the informative posts about trips to Italy.

Rome: Rimessa Roscioli
Many recommendations on here for Rimessa in Rome so my wife and I made a reservation to Taste the Legends. Since we are mostly new to Italian wine, we thought why not start with some of the best. Got there and the head sommelier introduced herself and said she’d be there with us throughout the tasting giving us details about each wine and food pairing. One of the owners also stopped by and chatted with us once she found out we’re both from the same area in Michigan and talked about some of the wineries in Northern Michigan.

  • We started with NV Waris Hubert Lilyale Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Brut Zero which was refreshing and a great way to start paired with three small bites: buffalo ricotta with raw shrimp, buffalo mozzarella with anchovies, and burrata topped with bottarga. I thought the bright citrus paired best with the salty anchovy.
  • Next, was 2017 Mastroberardino Stilema Greco and it was paired with another set of three small bites: roasted scallop, smoked eel, and octopus and handmade pesto. The octopus and pesto on its own was the best octopus and pesto I’d ever had. I thought the wine itself paired best with the smoked eel - something about the smokiness brought out something new and delicious in the wine.
  • Then we tasted 2017 Biondi-Santi, 2014 Catello dei Rampolla, and 2017 Ornellaia together with some cured meats. I didn’t know much about these going in but enjoyed the Biondi-Santi the most, I think because it was the newest to me, being 100% sangiovese. The Ornellaia was quite smooth and refined but tasted much like other Napa wine I’d tried.
  • Back to single wine-food pairings, we had a 2015 Mastroberardino Taurasi Naturalis Historia paired with a “Genovese style plin” that was like little stuffed ravioli I’d never seen before. The pasta was delicious but I didn’t think the pairing elevated either.
  • Then 2021 Marco Falcone “Diogene”, which was something the restaurant partnered with the winery to make, with Cacio e Pepe. I was really starting to get full at this point so all I remember was that the two went nicely together.
  • The best pairing of the night for me, a 2000 Sella e Mosca Marchese di Villamarina with a roman meatball. I don’t know what it was, but these two together were magic and even though I was full, I had to finish it all.
  • Another set of three wines, this time with some cheeses: 2019 Castello Conti Boca, 2015 Simone Scaletta Barolo Bussia, 2016 Rizzi Barbaresco Riserva Boito. I enjoyed the Barbaresco best, my wife the Barolo, though both plenty powerful and delicious.
  • Finally, two deserts of buffalo ricotta, peaches, vanilla and a tiramisu paired with a 2020 Calabresa Moscato al governo di saracena peppina. The Tiramisu was only lightly coffee flavored and yet the best I’d ever had.

The food and wine were truly outstanding and I highly encourage anyone in the area to make a stop here if you can.

Sicily: Le Casematte
Thanks to a glowing review in a post somewhere, we booked a tour with Helen at Bespoke Wine Tours Sicily and had a fantastic time learning about and tasting Sicilian wine. All were grape types I’d never heard of before but certainly enjoyed. We started at Le Casematte in the Faro region of Siciliy. The owner greeted us, took us on a walk through the vineyards and we saw the namesake “Casemattes” built during WWII. The wines were excellent and the owner, Gianfranco, a wonderful host that had us laughing and enjoying the experience.

  • Peloro Bianco: A combination of Crillo and Caricante grapes, it was light and refreshing, with vibrant citrus and peach
  • Pharis*: 100% Grillo, citrus and peach present, but was a little more complex with the french oak influence noticeable. My favorite of the day.
  • Rosematte: 100% Nerello Mascalese, this was another refreshing and light drink, with notes of strawberry
  • Nanuci: 100% Nocera, reminded me a bit of a grenache with it’s red fruit a pepper notes
  • Peloro Rosso: Nerello Mascalese and Nocera grapes,
  • Faro: The flagship, blend of Nerello Mascalese 55%, Nerello Cappuccio 25%, Nocera 10%, Nero d’avola 10%, darker red fruit, some more complexity, and a nice peppery note

Sicily: Bonavita
Then we went next door to Bonavita and met husband and wife duo, Giovanni and Sanny, where they took us on a ride to a little house for lunch. Incredible homemade food with an unbeatable view overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

  • Rosato: Much darker, with more body and juicyness than the rosé from the other winery. Just as delicious but very different styles.
  • Served two reds, Il No’ and Faro: I honestly can’t remember specifics at this point between the many glasses of wine, delicious food, gorgeous views, and conversation, but I certainly enjoyed both of these wines.
  • Last wine was 2022 Halara Bianco, a collaboration between Giovanni and multiple other winemakers coming from the Marsala region. I don’t even know how to describe it but it was a fantastic white to finish the day overlooking the sea and chatting.

Our group of 8 really had a fantastic time tasting in Sicily thanks to Helen and couldn’t speak more highly of her and the experiences she put together for us. If I ever make it back to Sicily, I’d be planning multiple days of tasting with her around the whole island.

Thanks again to everyone here for sharing and recommending such great experiences! Hope this helps inform anyone planning their own trip to these areas in the future.

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Sounds like a great trip.

I visited with Conti Boca around 2012 or 2013. All in Italian so I didn’t catch every word but I believe they were either going eliminating sulfur additions altogether or greatly reducing them. The wines tasted clean but, unsurprisingly, didn’t seem as clenched as vintages that were just prior. Good wines. I was a little surprised to hear Rosenthal picked them up shortly after that given the zero sulfur aspect if that is accurate.

Also visited Rizzii around that time. Nice, fairly easy drinking, wines that probably deserve a little more recognition than they get.

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that’s a good spread of different wines in the Rimessa tasting. Some famous, some much less so. We sometimes get a bit too hung up on the most famous wine regions.

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So true. I was excited to try the big names I’d seen discussed (Ornellia and Biondi-Santi in particular, which were undoubtedly great) in the Rimessa tasting but they didn’t end up being my favorites of the night. And in Sicily, I’d originally wanted to visit some more well known names around Mt Etna but I’m so glad I got to explore the Faro region and learn more about Sicilian wine in general.

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I think Italy in particular still has so much really good wine that gets very little attention. Much is not even exported. The majority of it isn’t the pinnacle of wine but it’s awfully good and often not very expensive.

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I’m certainly finding that out the hard way! As soon as the winery visits were over, I looked for ways to get their wines online but the few European sites I found with the wines had a small selection and didn’t ship to the US anyway.

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I used to be in the habit of asking them during the visit. Partly it’s a good conversation piece where by asking the question, I’m part prepared for what the answers might be (I prefer to try speaking in Italian); partly as a way of showing interest / intent, as there are few bottles I can carry home on the plane (and even better, research beforehand, so you maybe know the US importer - that looks like you’re very serious); partly to get the up-to-date info.

We’re lucky in the UK (to a degree, brexit having significantly curtailed this), in having some European shops that will ship to us, so I’ve been able to indulge my interest in somewhat off the beaten track Italian wines.