FRAPPATO, SICILY’S BEST KEPT SECRET

FRAPPATO, SICILY’S BEST KEPT SECRET image

By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 19 February 2022

 

If you like your reds fragrant with mouthwateringly juicy cranberry fruit, tangy acidity, flinty and minerally with a lick of silky smooth tannins on the finish, you will love Sicily’s best-kept secret - the Frappato grape.

This Sicilian gem is usually swallowed up in big blends alongside Nero d’Avola or Nerello Mascalese, but now Frappato is beginning to make more of an appearance as a single varietal superstar.  Several examples I have tasted so far have reminded me of the fresh succulent fruits of Pinot Noir or Gamay with a splash of black tea or herbs in the mix.

The name comes either from ‘fruttato’ meaning fruitful or the French term ‘frapper’ referring to the jagged leaves.  According to grower Marilena Barbera of Cantine Barbera in Menfi, Frappato is more likely to derive from ‘rapatu’ – a Sicilian term for ‘many clusters’ referring to the vine’s compact winged bunch.

Sicily Frappato

Frappato’s origins are uncertain.  It is most probably a native grape of Vittoria in Ragusa province in the southeast corner of Sicily, first mentioned in 1760 - with various theories as to whether it was brought here by the C6 Greek colonisation or even the Spanish. 

Recent DNA has shown Frappato to be part of the Nerello family, as in Nerello Mascalese of Mount Etna fame.  According to grape geneticist Jose Vouillamoz: “DNA studies suggested a parent-offspring relationship between Frappato and the famous Sangiovese (the main grape of Chianti)…and Frappato is a likely sibling of Gaglioppo grape in Calabria”. 

Today Frappato plantings are still small at 846 hectares, so there is not much to go around.  85% is grown in Sicily, either in Ragusa where it flourishes on local coastal loose red sandy soils on the peninsula or in Trapani further west, with a little on mainland Italy, in Puglia. 

It is perhaps best known as an important component with Nero d’Avola in the island’s only DOCG Cerasuolo di Vittoria – adding a juicy approachable texturally soft element to the blend.

Stefano Girelli winemaker Sicily

Stefano Girelli (pictured above), who owns Cortese and Feudi di Santa Tresa in Ragusa, has 10 hectares of Frappato in his vineyards and is enthusiastic about the grape’s future:

“Frappato is the indigenous grape of Vittoria and really speaks of its provenance – with great potential to suit today’s demand for lighter reds.  In the winery we find it so versatile, it lends itself to red and rose wines – including sparkling – which we now make at Santa Tresa”, he says.

Biago Distefano of COS winery (pictured below), who also grow 10 hectares of Frappato, believes the grape changes flavour and characteristics depending on the site.  “In the historical part of Vittoria with thin layer of sand over pure limestone, the wines have great finesse, low alcohol and aromatic intensity – whereas further up the hill with heavier clay over limestone Frappato tends to have darker fruit, more robust and tannic”. 

COS winery Sicily

Most Frappatos are drunk young, but Distefano claims that Frappato can develop interesting meaty smoky flavours with age in good vintages.

With its medium body and moderate alcohol, the youthful style of Frappato makes a brilliantly versatile ‘all-seasons’ wine making it ideal as a spring or summer red – ideally served fridge cold.  Frappato is what the locals drink in Ragusa – usually served alongside rich textured fish dishes like tuna or swordfish – but it would make a perfect match with vegetarian dishes like aubergine lasagna or anchovy-based pizza.

 

FRAPPATO TASTE TEST

Mandrarossa Frappato SicilyMANDAROSSA FRAPPATO IGT TERRE SICILIANE 2020 (13%)
£8.95 reduced from £9.95 The Wine Society
Unoaked fresh floral with crunchy cranberry fruit notes, slight sour cherry flavours, light spice and soft smooth finish – easy to drink on its own.

W/O ORGANIC FRAPPATO IGT TERRE SICILIANE 2020 Cantina Colomba Bianca (13.5%)  ***GOOD VALUE***
£9.99 / £11.99 Laithwaites
Good depth of colour, black cherry fruits, very soft succulent fruit-forward with a silky textural finish – bottled in a dumpy tawny port-style ‘wild-glass’ 100% recyclable bottle.  Good value at mixed case price.

FRAPPATO IGT TERRE SICILIANE 2019 Santa Tresa (13.5%)
£10-£10.99 Ocado; House of Townend
Fragrant, light redcurrant and strawberry fruits with soft rounded palate – made from a special Frappato clone grown a few kilometres from the sea.

FRAPPATO DOC VITTORIA 2019 Planeta (12%)
£16.79 Valvona & Crolla
From Planeta’s Dorilli winery in Acate; hints of rosepetals, hints of balsamic and herbs, soft mid-weight palate with beautifully smooth finish.

COS Frappato SicilyFRAPPATO IGP TERRE SICILIANE 2019 COS (12%)  ***STAR BUY***
£19-£22 Les Caves de Pyrene, Bottle Apostle, Noble Green Wines, Buon Vino
Beautifully fresh, bright and floral with a dash of white pepper and herb – made by the outstandingly good COS winery from wild yeast fermentation and ageing in cement tanks.

FRAPPATO BELL’ASSAI DOC VITTORIA 2019 Donnafugata (12.5%)
£23 Fine Wine Musselburgh, Edinburgh; Eusebi Deli, Glasgow
Donnafugata own 15 hectares of Frappato and use three plots in Biddine Soprana, Sottana and Isola Cavaliere to create this fragrant floral fresh unoaked example, strawberry fruits with a slightly flinty undertone and smooth soft tannins – attractive label.


‘Furmint February’ Wine Tasting in Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh hosted by Wines of Hungary on 23 February 6pm-8.30pm: tickets only £20pp with discount offer from www.rosemurraybrown.com