Perricone is a red grape native to the Italian island of Sicily. On the western side of Sicily, around Palermo and Trapani, it is known as Pignatello. This name is believed to be the result of the red soils of Trapani called pignatidare. Perricone has been misidentified many times over the years, being mistaken for such grapes as Sangiovese, Barbera, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Perricone, while being somewhat rare, is commonly used as a blending grape with Nero d’Avola and it can also be made into a varietal wine. When it’s made into a varietal wine, the result is a wine with rich red color, high alcohol content, and grippy tannins. In order to make the tannins less astringent, wines undergo an extended period of aging. Perricone used to be more abundant prior to phylloxera (a microscopic louse) infecting the vines in the late 19th century. After this infestation, many of the plantings were replaced with Nero d’Avola, the current day most widely planted red grape variety in Sicily. According to the 2008 data, there were under 1000 hectares of Perricone planted.
The wine I drank this week was a 2016 Il Censo ‘Njuro’ from IGT Terre Siciliane Rosso made with 100% Perricone. This wine is a deep, opaque purple at the center with ruby highlights at the rim. It coated the bowl of the glass with viscous pale ruby legs when I swirled it around. When I stuck my nose in, I could feel the warmth of the alcohol evaporating off the surface. The fumes carried the aromas of dried red cherries, red plums, very ripe blackberries and black cherries, anise, potpourri, and vanilla. The first thought that came to mind was fruit roll ups from my childhood. The freshness of the bouquet definitely indicated this wine had undergone significant aging. It was dry, with heavy tannin, high alcohol (despite it being labeled as a medium level of alcohol) and full bodied. The elevated level of acid helped maintain balance between the textural components. It is common for wine labels to be conservative in their alcohol content listing. The most common reason is the higher the alcohol content, the greater the tax rate. Rule of thumb is to round up by 1% (but can vary up to 1.5% depending on the laws of the exporting and importing countries). This is especially true for wines listing high levels of alcohol already. Not every producer engages in this practice but it many do. On the palate, it exhibited dried red apples, dried plums and cherries, baking spices (nutmeg), dark chocolate, volcanic rock, raspberry bramble and dried tobacco leaves. This wine was quite complex and lingered for a prolonged period. It would be a great alternative for carnivorous meals classically paired with robust wines such as Australian Shiraz or Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.