After my blog on Sunday, which was a brief introduction to the wine industry of Sicily, I will now walk you through my weeks experience over the next few blogs.
My group turned out to be a fantastic bunch of people from Italy, Germany, USA, Russia and of course me from the UK.
Woke up……. but to not to the sunshine of Sicily!
My itinerary on Monday didn’t actually start until that afternoon as there were still many people arriving. I had got talking with Andrew Catchpole (Editor – Harpers Wine & Spirits) we decided to go for a wander and check out the local area as we were right near the airport in Palermo and close to the sea…. I needed to explore and find the sea!
It was very overcast, BIG black clouds, bloody cold & blowing a gale but off we went and after about 20 minutes (ok it was 40 but we got lost so now working on Italian time = divide by 2) we got to the sea and was spectacular with the wind blowing in a large swell.
After our walk where we were blown to bits and covered in sand, and felt at times like we were being sand blasted, we headed back for lunch and our pre lunch cookery demo.
It was a demonstration from ” Le Signore della cucina Menfitana” which is an association of women only!
They were all mothers and Grandmothers who represented the community and territory on Menfi.
What I was about to find out was Menfi is a food lovers dream, its all about local produce, oil, wheat, vegetables, fruit and of course….WINE.
It was about gastronomic heritage, handed down generation after generation of mothers and grandmothers with simple ingredients making the most delicious dishes.
This is Tagghiarini with sardines and wild fennel, as you can see the pasta is made from scratch with organic DURUM wheat flour and the sauce is made with SELINUNTE sardines, pine nuts, raisins and crumbed atturta (toasted bread crumbs) and of course lashings of olive oil.
Also we had Pasta a “mezzu furnu” which is a mixture of organic durum wheat flour with ” Criscenti” (natural leavening) with olive oil and oregano.
They made 2 desserts ….. I only ate one as the first one, albeit i’m sure delicious, as everyone scoffed the lot.
Pignulata do mennuli, a sweet made from Atturrati (toasted almonds) honey and sugar.
Ovu ‘ncannulatu. this is a poor mans cake made with beaten eggs cooked in the pan and then rolled out, filled with ricotta and seasoned with sugar and grated lemon. OMG I am salivating now writing this, I LOVED THEM SO MUCH!
Ok its time for wine!!!! On the bus, its an hours travel….. that’s 1 Italian hour… haha
Arrivo Feudo Arancio.
Feudo Arancio have 2 vineyards along the Southern coast of Sicily, these are located in Sambuca di Sicilia (AG) and Acate (RG).
Seven hundred hectares mostly dedicated to vines so this is a pretty large estate. They cultivate both native and international grapes.
With Sicilian tradition and respecting the environment, the winery has been built as a traditional rural building surrounding a large courtyard known as the “baglio”.
This traditional rural building seamlessly meets a high tech winery. It’s equipped with lots of technology in a completely thermal-conditioned environment and a very cool vaulted barrel room. What’s funny is that I never get bored visiting barrel rooms, to me they are always like cathedrals of wine especailly this one at Arancio.
First, it’s off to the vineyard for a quick tour, it’s cold and blowing a gale but we were in for a really interesting talk.
So we start off with all the normal info, hectares, varieties, soil types which is very interesting however then the discussion started on their environmental position as a winery.
What was soon apparent was the emphasis was completely about sustainable farming.
They have introduced alternative techniques such as the use of copper and sulphur (allowed in organic farming) which dramatically reduces the need of traditional, harmful to the environment, chemical usage. Also the use of beneficial insects which basically involves adding insects that have no impact on the vines but like eating the bugs that do harm the vines.
However the most interesting part for me is the introduction of PHEROMONES into the vineyards…. this method is known as “reproductive confusion”!
This is a biological method to combat harmful insects by limiting their reproduction by using these (pheromones) “reproductive scents” which then prevent the harmful male insect from finding and fertilising the female.
They have grassed the land around the vines to protect from erosion and also planting plants rich in nitrogen which has reduced the need of fertilizers. Conservation of the local flora too with many orchids, some being extremely rare, which are now protected species on their property. A newly planted lemon grove inside a quarry thus rejuvenating previously damaged land.
Solar panels are installed for their hot water supply (used for cleaning wine cellar equipment) and photovoltaic panels for their electrical supply (400 kWp installed). This makes the winery two-thirds self sufficient.
The wine cellar is underground to ensure a correct temperature, therefore reducing the need for air conditioning and unnecessary electricity.
Water is a precious commodity in most of Sicily. Feudo Arancio has built seven artificial lakes which can hold over 900,000 m3 of water, the equivalent of 300 litres for each individual vine (this is approximately 10 uses of water per vine during periods of drought without needing to draw from any external water supplies).
This is delivered by computerised drip irrigation system which maximises the efficiency of water delivery to the vines and guarantees that the water is used only where necessary. To conserve the water supply the waste water is channelled and purified in an organic mud water purifier so that it can be put back into the reservoirs.
Back to the Winery to taste some wines!
So we start with Dalila 2017.
This is a Grillo but a Riserva which has 20% Viognier also in the blend.
The 20% Viognier is fermented for 8 months in 3 year old wooden barriques, and the Grillo is completely done in stainless steel. Grillo was originally grown to make Marsala in Sicily, this was because of its ease of oxidation. This is why now the Grillo is made in stainless steel tanks where no oxygen is present.
The wines are then blended in stainless steel for 4-5 months and then a further 4 months in the bottle before release.
Varieties: Grillo 80%, Viognier 20% – 13% Alcohol
Appearance: Soft yellow with a touch of green tinge on the rim
Nose: Very fragrant, orange blossom, jasmine & some underlying tropical fruit too.
Taste: Instant freshness and zesty character from the Grillo then apricots, peaches with a spatter of honey and touch of toasty vanilla from the oak.
This wine just won best white wine of Sicily in the show at Mundus Vini 2019.
Next was a big Riserva Red.
Hedonis 2015 Riserva 100% Nero D’Avola – 2015
Their explanation of the name below:
“Hedonis is a true interpretation of the Sicilian pursuit of pleasure, inherited from the ancient Greeks and now refined in our island paradise. It indulges the palate, captures the senses and warms the heart with its powerful and sensual character”.
This is a massively tannic red wine and their first release of this wine which will age for years.
Its made in 2 parts all from Nero D’Avola grapes. The first 50% are harvested as normal and but the remainder are left on the vines to over ripen Appassimento style but on the vines and not airdried on mats.
After both wines are pressed and in tank they are blended and then put in 50% French and 50% in US Oak barrels.
Varieties: 100% Nero D’avola – 14% Alcohol
Appearance: Dark Ruby red with violet edges
Nose: Dried red and black fruit and the power of this wine hits you straight away.
Taste: This wine will be a great, currently pretty tannic although its well structured with a balance of acidity to these tannins. You get spice, tobacco, some vanilla from the oak, with the black and red berry fruit being very prominent. I really want to try this wine in 5 or 10 years with a great big T-Bone steak. It sure has all the characteristics to make this a great wine.
The next 2 wines were brought to the table…. pre production unlaunched wines.
Both Organic, A Grillo and Nero D’Avola and just vineyard block numbers hand written on the bottles. These are for discussion another day as they were far from ready when we tasted them, although showing great promise for their new totally organic range.
Next was HEKATE, a “Passito” dessert wine
Let me tell you how this Passito is made.
Firstly they start by making a base wine at 14.5% alcohol with good acidity. Using, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Semillon & Viognier, they then take very ripe Zibibbo grapes (that have had long exposure to the sun and wind) and add into the base wine. When all of the base wine is absorbed by the Zibibbo grapes they then press.
The 3 key parts to these Passito wines are SUGAR (120g/l) ACIDITY 6.5ph and AROMA.
Varieties: Base Wine – Blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Semillon & Viognier, & then Zibibbo added.
Appearance: Golden AMBER
Nose: Rich & aromatic, with orange peel, apricots and floral hints.
Taste: For a dessert wine this is not cloying but it has a wonderful freshness. This rich amber nectar envelopes your palate with apricots, white fleshy peaches, honey and then a spicey touch…. just needed some Cantucci biscuits!
An absolute delight to finish on….. Or so we thought
The winemaker brought out some limoncello that they had made from their lemon grove which they had planted in the quarry. WOW, was super lemon blast of alcoholic greatness!
Check out Feudo Arancio
Below is a short video about them .
Salute Back soon for part 2.