The Fashionable South

Wine fashions change as often as the proverbial hemlines of yore, so it’s remarkable that southern Italy has been the wine vanguard’s darling for a solid three years. Critics love it because southern Italy is still widely planted with ancient, oddball, heirloom grape varieties (whereas wealthy northern Italian regions had the money to rip out ancient grapes and replace them with international stars like Cabernet Sauvignon). Sommeliers love southern Italian wine because it’s always food-friendly thanks to bright acids that go perfectly with everything from cheese and fresh tomatoes to mixed grills of meat and veggies.

Feudo di Santa Tresa, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily, 2007

Cherry-bright and mocha-deep, this rustic but lively Sicilian wine is made of Nero D’Avola and Frappato, unusual grapes that give the wine remarkable depth. Available: Lake Wine and Spirits, 404 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-354-7194, ($12)

Terre di Sava, Luccarelli, Salice Salentino, Puglia 2009

From Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, this deep dark wine is intense, but neither too bitter nor too ripe. Perfect for antipasto plates or drinking around a fire pit on which you’re grilling sausages. Available: Surdyk’s, 303 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-379-3232, ($12)

Morgante, Nero d’Avola, Sicily, 2009

Spicy, sensual, richly textured, and passionately scented with cedar and blackberry, this wine from southern Sicily tastes vivacious and alive. Drink it while imagining a thousand years of Sicilian fishermen, sailors, and shepherds knocking back glasses at celebratory feasts. Available: Mahtomedi Liquor Barrel, 3124 Century Ave. N., Mahtomedi, 651-770-0692, ($20)

Azienda Agricola Cos, Frappato, Sicily, 2009

Biodynamically grown and made in giant clay amphoras like those used in the time of Odysseus, this Frappato, a light red with a strawberry-and-cranberry spirit, is likely as close as you’re going to get to sampling a wine just like the ones poets Homer and Virgil drank. Pair it with oregano-marinated pork and your favorite epic poetry. Available: Solo Vino, 517 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-9515, ($33)