Sizzling Summer Sicilian Wine & Swordfish Recipe
Looking for a new wine to add a little sizzle to your summer? How about taking a trip and a sip out of your comfort zone and giving Sicilian wine a try? In the last 15 years, Sicily has been working hard revitalizing indigenous grapes and crafting exciting, sophisticated, and vibrant red and white wines.
Their single varietal Grillo (a white Italian wine grape variety, widely used in Sicilian wine-making and for making Marsala), Grillo Chardonnay blend, or the local Cataratto (a white Italian wine grape planted primarily in Sicily where it is the most widely planted grape) variety are perfect for this summer’s grill outs and pair well with many summer dishes.
Grillo is versatile and easy to drink. Characteristics range from fresher and more savory to more structured and mature. Vineyards across Sicily benefit from marine breezes and mineral-rich soil along the coast that lends a complex, fresh mineral note alongside tropical and fruity aromas.
Wine Pairing: herbed goat cheese salad, grilled shrimp, olives, or even a cold Thai noodle salad. Further inland along the hills of Sicily, where there is a wider temperature range, the wines carry notes of flowers and Mediterranean fruit that enhance the wine’s elegance and would accompany any grilled fish or vegetarian pasta.
Nero D’Avola, the King of Grapes – Sicily’s most widely planted red grape variety, Nero D’Avola surprises with its fruit, freshness and drinkability. Often compared to a Syrah, which is a grape that is often used as its pairing partner, Nero D’Avola hosts a range of flavors from raspberry and sour cherry to blackberry, plum and blackcurrant, spice herb and even licorice and cocoa depending on the soil and terrain and length and style of aging. With a stylistic range from elegant and fresh to ripe and jammy.
Wine Pairing: grilled meats, such as lamb or steak, salumi and mushroom dishes. A Nero D’Avola blended with Frappato, a native grape from the Ragusa, Siracusa, Vittoria or Etna regions, tastes similar to an elegant Pinot Noir – a lighter taste with hints of strawberry and cherry with elegant and silky tannins that would complement a Thanksgiving turkey or enhance any special occasion meal.
Antonio Rallo, President of Sicilia DOC
“When people think of Italian wine, they think of the classic Tuscan countryside. As an island, Sicily is abundant in natural resources, a diversity of landscapes and microclimates that yield a great variety of red and white wines both elegant and complex, approachable and bright.
There is an infectious energy in the wines and in the attitudes of the wine community right now that is getting us noticed by some American wine and food experts, chefs and sommeliers. Now is the time for Americans to explore wines from Sicily – and the wines from the 2014 vintage are a perfect example of why Sicily is a stand out in terms of consistency, quality and value.”
Grilled Swordfish with Sicilian-Style Relish
Pair a Grillo or Grillo Chardonnay Blend from one of Sicily’s inland regions, with notes of floral and Mediterranean fruit to balance the flavor burst that comes with a simple, briny, herbal relish that gets a spicy kick from pickled peppers and veggies.
2 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped
5 or black and green 6 olives, chopped (preferably a mix of oil-cured Sicilian black olives and Castelvetarno green olives)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley and chives, chopped
3 tablespoons whole almonds, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon pickled vegetables/peppers*
Extra virgin olive oil
4 swordfish steaks (5-6 ounces each)
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and add just enough extra virgin olive oil for the relish to come together.
Prepare the grill at medium-high heat. Brush the swordfish steaks with 2 tablespoons of olive oil plus salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the steaks until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (depending on thickness of steaks). Transfer the steaks to a place and top with the relish.
*Chop and cover a selection of vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, celery, spicy peppers) with salt water for approximately one day, rinse vegetables and add equal parts vinegar and extra virgin olive oil and refrigerate for 2 days (or use any jarred pickled vegetables in the gourmet or deli section of the grocery store)
Source: Recipe developed for Sicilia DOC by Victor Rallo, chef and wine critic and host of his public television show Eat! Drink! Italy! He owns and runs Birravino in Red Bank, NJ and Undici Taverna Rustica in Rumson, NJ. He has published two wine books, Napoleon Wasn’t Exiled and 21 Wines.