Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This month, come with us to Sicily! Emilia and I were there in March visiting producers with Kevin McKenna from Louis/Dressner and it was, well, downright revelatory.

Mt. Etna from an I Vigneri Vineyard

Salvo Foti has revived a 15th Century Mt. Etna winegrowers’ guild, I Vigneri di Salvo Foti. The wines I Vigneri make are truly representative of this special place. Salvo has also been a consulting winemaker for some of the best wineries in the area.
The I Vigneri team share a passion, a fervor, for what they do. Their aim is ”to avoid the damage that over-reaching ambition and egoism can cause.” They are hands-on, work organically in both the vineyard and the cellar, use non-invasive methods and systems, and have a deep respect for the local traditions. For them, it’s all about the pleasure of work well done, being in harmony with their environment, and patiently working a one-of-a-kind terroir that's been deeply marked and shaped by the active volcano that is Mt. Etna.
Their vineyards are heterogeneous, with young vines living alongside the not-so-young and the rather ancient. Different varieties and variants of the same variety thrive together, each bringing something valuable to the creation of a unique yet typical wine. Shunning easy answers like biotechnological superyeasts and superenzymes, they make wine the way it should be made: just grapes!
I Vigneri di Salvo Foti, Sicilia IGT Rosato Vinudilice 2009
Vinudilice is a rosé that's produced from their Bosco vineyard, which is one of the highest in Europe (1,300 meters or 4,265 feet above sea level). It’s nestled in a vast forest of holly oaks in the territory of Bronte -- the Sicilian name of the holly oak, ilice, gives the wine its name. The wine is made from the indigenous grape varietals Alicante, Grecanico, Minnella, and a small quantity of other even more obscure local varietals.

The Bosco vineyard is tiny, 0.35 hectares (0.86 acres), and more than a century old. It’s planted using an Etnean alberello (bush-training) system in a 1 meter by 1 meter scheme, equivalent to 10,000 vines per hectare, and is cultivated by hand, with more than a little help from their mule. The wine is vinified in wooden vats without refrigeration or added yeasts or filtration. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon.

Vinudilice is normally a still wine but the 2009 vintage of this wine had a happy accident: a second fermentation in the bottle that’s created a simply lovely sparkling rosè. It pairs great with spaghetti with a spicy tomato sauce.

Arianna Occhipinti & Kevin McKenna

At 29, Arianna Occhipinti is a rising star. It’s truly amazing how much she’s already accomplished at such a young age. When we tasted through several vintages of hers with her at her home, it was frankly astounding how well some of the first wines she made, her 2004s, have aged. And her future looks even brighter.

Because she was feeling cramped at her current winery, Arianna jumped at the chance to buy a beautiful but run-down property across and down the road that will allow her over the next several years to spread her wings even wider and fly even higher. Her boyfriend, an architect like her father, is helping her on the project.

Tami IGT Sicilia Bianco Grillo 2010
Tami is Arianna’s second label with and her aim with it is to make uncompromising but more affordable wines for everyday drinking. Her boyfriend also has a combination wine, book & design store called Tami in the ancient town of Siracusa. For her Tami wines, Arianna sources the grapes from neighbors. As with her other wines, it’s made using indigenous yeasts.

Grillo is a grape most closely identified with the production of another Sicilian wine: Marsala. Here, however, it’s rendered in a dynamic, fresh, clean, fruity style. Drink it with a simply grilled fish from Pura Vida at Saturday’s Fort Greene Farmers’ Market!

If these wines pique your interest, click here to sign up for our club at the $25, $50, or $100 level and we'll get you started.

No comments: