Three wineries, three completely different terroirs and approaches to winemaking. It may be surprising that these three neighbouring wineries have only one thing in common.
Or maybe two, because natural winemaking would be the second thing. The first is the fact that they live and work in a quite near neighbourhood around the village of Vittoria in Ragusa province in the southern corner of Sicily. Young appellation Vittoria DOC (established in 2005) counts with about 97 hectares. Main black varieties are Nero d’Avola, local Frappato. The most planted white grapes are Ansonica/Inzolia. You can find there also Zibibbo (also known as Malvasia), Grecanico (local synonym of Garganega) and very rare local Albanello. There are also some international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.
During our drive from Ragusa to Vittoria I noticed once again that Sicily is an island of contrasts. Before we reached clean and well managed organic and biodynamic vineyards, we had to drive along passages of garbage left forgotten and laying for literally kilometers along the roads. I wonder where is the source of this problem. In mentality of locals, or in sluggishness of local government? “The answer is blowing in the wind.”
OK, let’s leave all that dirt behind and enter the land of pure intentions. And wines. In the first chapter, we will visit a fan of classical music and an author of very elegant wines, Paolo Calí.
Paolos’ wines are like the music he likes. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about „classic” Sicilian wines like some Neros d’Avola with high alcohol and predominantly jammy flavours which come to most of the consumers’ minds. I’m talking about jazz, smooth vibes and classical music which I could easily compare to Calí’s wines and. Even Paolo himself likes to name his wines after music genres and music instruments: Jazz, Blues or Violino are the examples. I took with myself two bottles: Violino and Pruvenza, both from 2015 vintage.
The first, Violino, which is 100% Nero d’Avola, is all about wild roses – both flowers and fruits you can smell also some hint of black pepper. In the mouth, the wine is very elegant and rather light – at least as for Nero d’Avola. Racy acidity and nuance of rose fruit in the mouth comes along with fine grainy tannins making this wine suitable for ageing – vintage 2015 seems to be quite young.
The second wine, Pruvenza, is 100% Frappato, and is notably more mature and complex, supposedly thanks to maturation in French barriques for 20-24 months. Juicy, little overripe cherries enriched with something between conifer needles, cedarwood, eucalyptus leaves and menthol. Pruvenza is the name of the wind that blows in this part of Sicily. Definitely, this wine has a temper and big character.
Last but not least, If you’ll visit Paolo’s winery, you totally have to try his Grillos, especially Blues. I tasted 2016 vintage which is already almost out of stock. Will it make you feel blue? Absolutely not, because the wine is so deep, round, structured and fresh at the same time that you would like to enjoy it all night long. Just like a nice jam session. Flavours of juicy apricots, grapefruits and oranges with the strong hint of minerality. Excellent acidity plays well with the firm body and juicy pineapples and peaches.
Why Paolo’s wines are so elegant? Mostly it’s because of the light sandy soils – once this area was a bed of the see and certain part of Calí’s vineyard is the last place in this part of Sicily where we can find that kind of soils. He decided to grow Frappato and Grillo in that place. Another part of the estate is dominated by heavier clayey soils with bigger and smaller rocks which work perfectly for Nero d’Avola.
But these wines, besides elegance and finesse, have some particular energy, spiciness and depth. These features are characteristic to a great majority of natural and unfiltered wines I’ve already tasted. Also, Paolo’s wines aren’t stabilized during vinification which means that they don’t contain any additional sulphites. Maybe it should be the third thing that he and two other winemakers from my tale have in common. We will see. Stay tuned for Chapter Two of my own Sicilian story!