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Nocera - A Native Grape from Sicily

Nocera is a native grape from Sicily. It comes from the Messina province which is located in the northeast. Nocera is a quality red wine grape that is most known as a blender in the red wines of the Faro DOC. I had the opportunity to taste some pure versions (which according to Wine Searcher are rare) this week at a trade tasting held at Roma Restaurant in Houston.

Wine production in the region dates back to the 14th Century BC, however, phylloxera decimated the vineyard area in 1881 leaving it at a fraction of its original size. The area boasts a Mediterranean climate with sunny days and coastal breezes, moderate rainfall, and mild winters, all ideal for grape growing.

The Nocera grape is a bluish/black color and has a thick skin which allows for the production of structured wines with prominent tannins which are balanced by good acidity. High alcohol is common. Red wines produced from the grapes are an intense ruby color with purple highlights and aromas and flavors of dark fruits and spice.

Cambria started their Nocera project in 2005 in the Mastronicola Vineyard in the hillsides of the coastal town of Furnari. Here, they bring their traditions, terroir and new technology together to make pure Nocera wines rather than treating it like a second tier grape. This 10 Ha or almost 25 acre vineyard site sits 110-120 meters or about 360- 400 feet above sea level and has a medium textured soil with traces of limestone. The vines are trained in spurred cordon and are harvested by hand.

The Tasting:

All three wines are made by Cambria from 100% Nocera, each in a different style showcasing the versatility of the grape.

"Fin Che Venga" Nocera Rosé Metodo Classico Brut 2017 -  The grapes for this wine are cold macerated for 12 hours before a soft pressing for only 4-5 minutes before fermentation begins with selected yeasts. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 6 months undergoing a natural malolactic fermentation at the end of spring. Bottle fermentation follows for 2 and 1/2 months, followed by aging on the lees for 2 to 2 and 1/2 year, then remuage, disgorgement, and an added 4-5 grams per liter of dosage. 

In the glass, the wine is a cherry pink color with persistent bubbles, fruity aromas with orange blossom and bread crust, and a fresh, dry, mineral laced red grapefruit flavor with a pleasant note of pith in the finish. 

The winery recommends serving this wine as an aperitif or with fish dishes. 

Mastronicola Nocera 2014 - This wine is aged in French Oak barrels ranging in size from 225 liters up to 3000 liters for approximately 14 months followed by a 6 month bottle aging. 

In the glass, the wine is a deep ruby red color with aromas of blueberries, blackberries, and notes of earth and spice with a hint of smoke. The wine is well structured with noticeable yet soft tannins, a rounded feel, and a long finish. 

The winery recommends serving this wine with mature cheeses and red meat dishes like Texas brisket.

Kio Nocero Passito 2017 - The grapes for this wine are harvested two months after the previous wines and then are vinified in small stainless steel tanks for a month before arresting fermentation to age in French Oak barrels for 24 months followed by a 6 month bottle aging period. 

In the glass, this wine in ruby red with garnet reflections, intense notes of chocolate covered cherries and dried fruit with a light herbal, balsamic nuance. In the mouth, the wine is velvety, round, and warm with a long, sweet finish. 

We tasted this with dark chocolate but the wine would also work well with blue cheese. 


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