2017 NeroBufaleffj from Gulfi - a Sicilian red that flirts with perfection

2017 NeroBufaleffj from Gulfi - a Sicilian red that flirts with perfection

2017 NeroBufaleffj from Gulfi

"A Sicilian red that flirts with perfection"

Sicily keeps surprising me with highly individual wines and this wine is truly outstanding. Qualitatively, it is an absolute bargain, so if you are looking for an interesting red off the beaten track with capacity for mid-term cellarage, you should take a look at this. After all, it is off the beaten track where the greatest value for money can be found.
The wine in question is made from Nero d’Avola – an indigenous Southern Italian grape variety that I would have doubted could hit such heights had I not tasted this wine. The name ‘NeroBufaleffj’ may remind me of a line of Scrabble letters before I have arranged them into something intelligible, but it is actually the name of a ‘contrada’ or Grand Cru. Many of the top Sicilian producers have focused their attention on producing single vineyard Nerello Mascalese, but Gulfi is at the forefront of championing single vineyard Nero d’Avola. There has been a dramatic rise in quality at Gulfi; Ian d’Agata, who is, for me, far and away the most experienced and knowledgeable critic on Southern Italian wines, commented in 2019 that ‘Gulfi has made some of its best wines ever these last two years’. Having tasted this 2017 yesterday, I have to agree – it is off the charts.
The variety
This indigenous Italian grape variety (Nero d’Avola) barely gets a mention in my old, dog-eared copy of Jancis Robinson’s Vines, Grapes and Wines, which possibly reveals how it had fallen out of favour in the 1980s. Fortunately, that has since changed and today there are a good range of hugely impressive examples from this often-overlooked variety that are being championed by clued-up critics. Its name, d’Avola, comes from the southern part of the province of Syracuse in Sicily, where it is highly regarded for producing age-worthy wines. However, it is also known as Calabrese, hinting at the fact that it is equally at home on the mainland, in Puglia and as its name suggests, the toe of Italy, Calabria.
The estate 
Gulfi was established in the 1970s by Raffaele Catania; his son Vito took over the running of the estate in 1995, but today it is run by his sons Matteo and Raffaele. Their Nero d’Avola vineyards lie in south-eastern Sicily in an area known as Pachino, within the much larger Noto region. In fact, the Catania family has been fighting for years to get this subzone recognised, as it is capable of far higher quality than the rest of the district. As you might expect of such an estate, they have Nerello Mascalese vines on the slopes of Mount Etna too, but it is their Nero d’Avola that is the principal focus. The curiously named Bufaleffj vineyard is in Pachino, close to the coast at just 50 metres above sea level. The vineyard possesses a complex base of black clay, white limestone and red sand.



2017 NeroBufaleffj, Gulfi
£195 per 6 bottle case in bond

My note: 
Having been aged for two years in large oak, the 2016 NeroBufaleffj is deep in the glass, purplish in hue. The nose is a captivating melange of juicy ripe fruits, notes of dark cherry, wild hedgerow fruits, something unmistakably Mediterranean too. It is fragrant and lifted with hints of exotic spice and a subtle sense of baked fruit. That sense of baked fruit is barely echoed on the palate, which shows terrific richness of fruit, mouth-filling and seamless but with a bright acidity underlying the gloriously presented fruit. This is truly outstanding; deep, dark fruits meld with lively red cherry nuances on an expansive palate that never loses its poise. The ability of Nero d’Avola to produce seamless wines that are so balanced yet rich is seldom showcased as well as this. Long and refined, this is absolutely stunning. If I scored wines by points, relative to its origins and the gamut of wines in Southern Italy, this would be flirting with perfection. Exceptional. Drink now - 2034 (SL)

95 points, Eric Guido, vinous.com
The 2017 NeroBufaleffj keeps you at the edge of the glass with a bouquet that mixes dark floral elegance with depths of intense fruit and an almost animalistic nature. Its rich velvety textures wash across the palate, finding contrast as masses of tart blackberries and cherries, minerals and wild herbs saturate deeply. Inner rose and violet notes hover above a blend of residual acids and gripping tannins, creating a push and pull of tension, as this finishes structured and incredibly long. Lose this tamed beast of a Nero d’Avola in the cellar for at least a few years. The Bufaleffj vineyard is just a stone's throw away from Baronj, yet its mix of black and red clay, iron and limestone delivers completely different results. Drink 2022-2030
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All the best


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