Looking for a light-bodied red to sip by the pool, or to have with an antipasto on a hot summer’s eve? How about a red that works with fish? I have just the wine. Frappato is an Italian varietal (both the name of the grape, as well as the name of the wine), grown primarily in Sicily. It produces a dry light-bodied wine, a lovely choice for summer imbibing. Never heard of it. That's not unusual, as until recently Frappato was not seen much outside of Italy.
Frappato is now becoming more popular in the U.S. As sommeliers seek out new varietals for sophisticated consumers who are tiring of the “same old thing,” this one ticks all the boxes for an interesting summer red. I was recently surprised to see it on the well-chosen wine list of one of my favorite Italian restaurants in San Francisco, Sociale. My well-traveled dining companion had never heard of the varietal, so it was a must choose…and it didn’t disappoint. The Frappato paired beautifully with our fish as well as a wild mushroom pasta.
The Frappato grape, indigenous to Sicily, can be vinified soley. The best zone for the single varietal Frappato is southeastern Sicily. In this zone Frapatto is given a DOC status denoting a special geographical area. Frapatto is also part of the island’s famous blended wine Cerasuolo di Vittoria. This wine is the only one in Sicily that has been awarded the coveted DOCG, Italy’s top wine pedigree. Cerasulo’s blend is typically 40% Frappato and 60% of Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s hallmark red grape.
DNA studies show that Frappato has a close genetic relationship with Sangiovese. Somewhere in the past, Sangiovese crossed with some other grape and created what we now know as Frappato. Its Sangiovese heritage contributes profiles of red cherries and plenty of acidity to pair with food, however, there are other elements that cannot be linked to Sangiovese. For example, Sangiovese typically has few aromatics, but Frappato offers a great nose of cherries and raspberries, often along with elements of red licorice and herbs. Moreover, while Sangiovese is tannic, Frappato’s tannins are much more moderate and approachable.
Valle dell’Acate is a great producer of Frappato. Gulfi makes a wonderful rendition of the blended version, Cerasuolo di Vitteria. If you’re coming to Sicily this fall with Wine-Knows you’ll not only be staying on the Gulfi wine estate for three days, but you will also be trying a variety of Frappatos including Valle dell’Acate.