Review: Arianna Occhipinti ‘SP68’ Rosso 2016

Review: Arianna Occhipinti ‘SP68’ Rosso 2016

With such a wide variety of wines available in wine shops across the U.S., it’s hard to justify ever buying the same wine twice. Thousands of grape varieties are bottled in wines from every corner of the globe, creating neverending exploration possibilities.

There are a few bottles, though, that I have a hard time resisting whenever they’re offered. Case in point: the Arianna Occhipinti “SP68” Rosso from Sicily, a tangy, tasty, gluggable red that I clamor for upon release each year and sorely crave once the U.S. drinks up its allocation.

Although the Etna wine region surrounding the active Mount Etna volcano in eastern Sicily has been increasingly recognized since the 1980s, when a few pioneering producers refocused on quality wine from indigenous varieties, other Sicilian wine regions have seen an influx of excitement and energy in recent years as well. The Vittoria region sits along the southeastern coast of Sicily, a flatter agricultural region that largely remains under the radar when it comes to wine. Producers like Occhipinti have led the charge for terroir-driven, organic winemaking — something for which the region’s dry conditions are conducive — from local grapes like Nero d’Avola and Frappato, which are traditionally blended together.

Occhipinti has eschewed established notions of winemaking since launching her namesake winery at the age of 21. Whereas most Vittoria winemakers base their blended wines on Nero d’Avola, known for darker fruit and fuller body, Occhipinti focuses the “SP68” Rosso on Frappato. Think of Frappato as the tenor to Nero d’Avola’s bass, with bright acidity and fresh, fragrant floral aromas lifting the overall blend. Meant to be the winery’s entry-level wine, the unfiltered “SP68” Rosso is immediately likable upon first sniff, yet remains thought-provoking. Tart cranberry, strawberry, and cherry fruit mix with fragrant, happy spring flowers, giving a high-toned aromatic expression. Freshly turned earth and savory herbs come through as well, adding complexity and interest. The palate is quite similar to the nose — light, lip-smacking, and savory, like crushed berries rolled in dirt (it’s a good thing, I swear). Want a bottle that will put a smile on your face while simultaneously giving you serious wine geek cred? This one’s for you.

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