Sicily

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Azienda Al-Cantara: 37.877882, 14.950737
Azienda Agricola Pianogrillo: 37.044551, 14.635463
Azienda Agricola Elios: 37.978395, 12.968626

Whether growing in the shadow or on the slopes of Mount Etna in the East, in the mountains to the South or along the West Coast, Sicilian wines have been acclaimed for over 2500 years.  Lately, there’s been a concentrated focus on increasing quality, giving rise to some wonderful producers.

Vinotas Selections is happy to say we’ve found a few winemakers who are making fantastic wines.


Azienda Al-Cantàra

Azienda Al-Cantàra was founded in 2005 when the owner, Pucci Giuffrida, who worked in Catania, fell in love with the property.  Located high up (650 to 1200 meters) on the northwest slope of the volcano, they farm 20 hectares of land near the Cantara river.

The choice of the name “Al- Cantàra”, which in Arabic means “bridge”, aims to emphasize the link between the Sicilian terroir, art and poetry. For these reasons, all the names of the different wines are inspired by the poems of Sicilian authors interpreted, artistically, in their labels.

In the fields, the mostly old vines are densely-planted to volcanic soils, rich in pumice on the northern edges, and full of fluvial deposits on the southern side (near the river).  Aside from some experimental Pinot Noir vines, everything is focused on indigenous varieties:  Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Capuccio, Carricante, Grecanico.  The vines are trained on the espalier method, and everything is done by hand.  They are practicing Organic as keeping the land healthy is a prime imperative.  Grapes are hand-harvested, and wild yeasts are allowed to go, well, wild, fermenting in primarily stainless steel, with only some wines seeing (old) oak.

The wines that come from this are absolutely magnificent.  Bright, beautiful fruit is accentuated by strong notes of minerality and bracing acidity to cleanse the palate.  Despite the warm region, the high altitude and care taken in the vineyards keeps them light on their feet.

WINES

The Occhi di Ciumi is a blend of Grecanico and Caricante, grown on the flanks of Etna, in a densely-planted vineyard (6000 vines/hectare).  The soils here are volcanic, rich in minerals and fossils.  Vines are trained in the espalier method, with Guyot pruning.  Harvest is done by hand in small baskets, and the grapes are destemmed.  Fermentatation takes place in stainless steel, where the wine sits on its lees for 6 months before bottling.  After a light fining and filtering, the wine is ready to go.  This blend is  a crisp, medium bodied laser beam of white flowers, citrus, straw, green apples and pears, with noticeable minerality and a long, cleansing finish.

La Fata Galanti is a gorgeously supple red, grown on the north slope of the volcano at an altitude of 650 meters (2132 feet).  The vines are planted in volcanic soils rich in minerals and pumice.  Like all their vines, these are trained in the espalier method, hand-harvested in small baskets, and destemmed.  Fermentation and ageing takes place in stainless steel, where it sits on its lees for 9 months.  The end result is a wine that is full of bright red and black berries, with a earthy mineral backbone.  The notes carry through on the palate, ending in a long lingering finish.

Other Wines

  • Amuri di fimmina e Amuri di matri (Rosé, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese)
  • Lu Veru Piaciri (Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese)


Azienda Agricola Pianogrillo

Located at the southern tip of the island, Azienda Agricola Pianogrillo has been a working farm since before the Middle Ages, when a watchtower built on the high Pianogrillo hill warned of invading Saracens.  The current owner, Lorenzo Piccione, follows tradition and respects history by abiding by the most ancient and revered principles of winemaking: biodynamics in the field, hand- harvesting, natural yeasts, minimal intervention and almost no SO2.  In addition, he places great value in polyculture, so he grows olive trees to make his own olive oil and plants various trees in the fields to ensure the health of the vineyard.  And of course he makes his own cured meats and sausages.

Lorenzo’s vines are densely planted at relatively high altitudes (480 meters – 1574 feet) on chalky clay soils.  The vines have no wires for training, but are instead allowed to grow low and densely, an ancient Greek method called Albarelo.  Only native varieties are used: Grillo, Grecanico, Caricante for the whites; Nero d’Avola, Frappato for the reds.

WINES

The Pianogrillo Grillo is a gorgeous rendition of this oftentimes abused grape: grown on chalky soils, it is fermented with wild yeasts in stainless steel, unfined, unfiltered and barely sulfured.  The wine shows notes of bright citrus, bitter pith, with a medium body with similar aspects as well as Asian pear balanced by quartz-like minerality and a long, lip-smacking finish.

The Pianogrillo Curva Minore is a blend of 50/50 Frappato/Nero D’Avola, fermented in stainless then transferred to neutral barrels to age and come together.  At bottling it is unfined and unfiltered.  The result is wine that is full of dark, earthy red fruit with mineral accents, an elegant frame leading to a grippy, long finish.

In addition, Lorenzo’s gorgeous olive oil, tomato sauce and tomato paste can be found via his long-time partners at Gustiamo, purveyors of fine Italian ingredient.


Azienda Agricola Elios

In the rolling seaside hills just West of Palermo, one finds Azienda Agricola Elios, 12 hectares (29.65 acres) planted to olive trees, fruit, and of course, vines.  Grillo, Nero D’Avola and Zibbibo thrive on this fully functioning farm, where Nicola Adamo and his family have been making olive oil and wines naturally for years.

The vines here are planted around 300 meters up, on clay soils for the reds and more generous lands for the whites.  Here too everything is done by hand and with the utmost respect of Nature and tradition.  No chemicals or fertilizers are allowed, only Organic and Biodynamic treatments are used, with just a drop of SO2 to stabilize the wines.  While oak is not used, ancient chestnut barrels are.

WINES

The Modus Bibendi Nero D’Avola comes from 12 year old vines planted to heavy clay and chalky soils on hillsides.  Hand-harvested, it is wild yeast fermented in stainless then transferred to chestnut barrels to rest for around 9 months.  After a light filtration, the wine is bottled with a drop of sulfur for stability.  The wine is dark but fresh, with black cherry, smoke, hay, earthy notes, juicy on the palate with a lovely minerality balancing it off until it ends in a long chewy finish.

The Modus Bibendi Grillo is also from 12 year old vines in a 2.5 hectare parcel of clay and chalk rich soils, hand-picked then wild yeast fermented in stainless, where it’s allowed to sit on its lees for 8 months.  A light filtration, a drop of SO2, and the wine is ready.  It also shows fresh but smokey apple and pear notes backed by minerals on a medium fat frame with a hint of mint, a slightly waxy mouthfeel and a long, slightly grippy finish.