March 2021: Island Wines With Rania Zayyat | Eater Wine Club

Eater Wine Club

March 2021: Island Wines With Rania Zayyat

Portrait of Austin-based somm Rania Zayyat standing in front of a stone wall.


In March, we took things to the islands — not to tropical islands for piña coladas, but rather to the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, where rocky, volcanic islands like Sardinia and Sicily have long been rich lands for wine producing. 

Rania Zayyat, our expert of the month, curated wines that showcase the different effects the volcanic soil, high altitudes, and ocean air have on grapes and winemaking. As she explained at our virtual event, the altitude contributes to a large “diurnal shift,” as it’s called by wine experts, from day to night temperatures, which prolongs the season for grape ripening and harvest and adds to the complexity of the wine. The soil — deep from the topography and low in water retention from the volcanic rocks — also means the vines grow deeper and yield smaller berries, which ups the acidity on these wines and gives them that refreshing taste. 

A line-up of March's bottles, from left to right a light red wine, a hazy orange wine, a darker red, and a bottle of white.

And yet all islands — and the unique grapes that are grown there — are a little different. Here’s a rundown of our March wines, all hailing from unique locales: 

  • Garalis ‘Terra Ambera’ — This wine is made on the Greek island of Lemnos, with Muscat of Alexandria, an ancient grape variety thought to have originated in Alexandria, Egypt. Lemnos is actually famous for its sweet dessert wines made with Muscat, and this Terra Ambera does have a sort of creamy, dessert-y smell; but it’s actually dry with a touch of tannic bitterness and natural acidity, the result of the volcanic soils and limestone of the low, undulating hills of the Garalis winery. Five days of skin contact for the grapes is what yields the orange, copper color, and you may taste notes of orange marmalade, honeysuckle, and Meyer lemon along with that caramel creaminess.
  • Fuso ‘Cala’ Terre Siciliane — The primary red grape grown in Sicily is Nero D’Avolo, which is used here to dark and spicy effect thanks to the region’s limestone and clay soil, sunny exposure, and cool nights. Winemaker Dario Serrentino adds a dash of grillo, a native white variety that adds some fruitiness. This chillable red is very savory and tart, with a ton of black fruit — overall a really balanced wine.
  • Clos Marfisi ‘Grotta di Sole’ Blanc — The Marfisi siblings are some of my favorite winemakers in Corsica. This wine is made 100 percent of vermentino, a grape that’s often in Europe, especially in France and Italy. Mainland vermentino tends to be a little heavier and creamier, whereas with this vermentino, grown on limestone-heavy land with the ocean nearby, is vibrant, zippy, and refreshing with zesty citrus and salty minerality. 
  • Cardedu ‘Praja’Monica is a little-known grape grown only in Sardinia, and it’s often blended. But in this wine it’s used solo, showcasing its juicy, fruity flavors with a lightness you don’t often get with other boozier, richer Sardinia wines. This is a bright, low-alcohol red that’s perfect to drink on warmer days. 

Want to stock up on more of these island wines? We have a select number of bottles left for you to snap up.