Sicily – Part 6 – CENTOPASSI- The Mafia Lands

Hello again and so soon!

I guess in this current environment of lockdown it is an opportune time for me to catch up on belated blogs. What this unprecedented time has shown us is, that life is short and I need to make time outside of my normal (non wine life) to write lots more about my passion and what I love…. VINI!

So, Day 2, its 3:10pm, the third winery of the day. We drive through the mountains, through a very old rustic village, complete with locals on horseback… see below

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and arrive at the most beautiful setting.

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Centopassi is the winemaking entity of the “Libera Terra” a social co-operative that cultivates the lands seized from the MAFIA in Sicily.

 

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The vineyards are located in the Upper Belice Corleonese, and these valleys are stunning. For any of you that know the Godfather movies you will notice the name where these vineyards are….Corleone.

 

This co-op association has 1400 Hectares of land confiscated from many Mafia families. The Italian state now owns all the land however they are leased out for free. Centopassi have 90 Hectares of vines, and then Libera Terra has olives, pasta and jam production too.

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There are about 90 hectares of vines all organically farmed. The terroir ranges from 300-950m in altitude. Grown in the vineyards are 3 white grapes – Grillo, Catarratto, Trebbiano and 3 Red grapes – Nero D’Avola, Perricone & Syrah.

They have 11 vineyards and are currently producing 12 wines, below is the tasting we had of eight of the wines. They also had tubes next to the wines with a sample of the terroir for each wine, they have such a diverse terroir as you can see in the pictures below.

With a production of 500,000 bottles per year and worldwide sales account for 70,000 bottles. Across their 1400 Hectares they are creating huge employment in these countryside areas. They have large factories and production facilities for pasta and jams and the farming for olives and of course lets not forget the wines.  I have since seen these wines in quite a few independant wine merchants in the UK.

Sat in the tasting room, the vineyard manager, Vito tells us that their style of wine making is elegant, fresh and alive. Their focus is to make wine in the vineyard and not in the cellar…. THIS makes the grapes everything!

So to the wine tasting, we started with….

GIATTO 2018 DOC Sicilia Superiore. 

Grape varieties: Organic Grillo (60%) and Catarratto (40%). Alcohol: 13.14% Total acidity: 5.82 g/l pH: 3.27. Harvest: in boxes, late August – late September.  Vinification: soft crushing and fermentation in steel vats. Maturation: in steel vats for 6 months. Vintage production: Approx. 40,000 bottles Per year

Origin: Land Confiscated from Giuseppe Agrigento Brusca’s clan

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Straw yellow, the nose is super citrus and you feel the acidity even on the nose. On the palate this races over your tongue, lemon peel, citrus blast acidity that has a super mineral salinity to it. 2018 was a super tough vintage with 250mm of rain in August instead  of 30! Giatto is the name of the people that lived in this area in ancient times.

Rocce di Pietra Longa 2017 

Grape variety: Organic Grillo (100%).  Alcohol: 13.00% Total acidity: 6.68 g/l pH: 3.06. Harvest: in boxes, second half of August. Vinification: soft crushing and fermentation in steel vats. Maturation: on its own yeasts in steel vats for 9 months. Vintage production 2018: 16,000 bottles and 30 magnum.

Origin: Land Confiscated from Simonetti, Riina’s clan

They harvest Grillo in two batches, about a week apart, so some of the grapes become riper, these are then blended together. This is a single vineyard of about 4 Hectares where the vines are approx. 15yrs old.

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The Rock you see on the label stands proud on its own with no others around at all, quite an oddity of nature.

Very light in colour, platinum around the edges. On the nose its aromatic fresh lemon and touch grapefruit. Again, like the Giatto, on the palate its very citrus, a slight nuttiness like hazelnuts, a touch smoky with strong acidity and huge mineral finish once again.

Terre Rosse di Giabbascio 2017

Grape variety: Organic Catarratto (100%). Alcohol: 12.77% Total acidity: 6.41 g/l pH: 3.13. Harvest: in boxes, second ten days of September. Vinification: soft crushing and fermentation in steel vats. Maturation: on its own yeats in steel vats (90%) and clayver  (10%) for 9 months. Vintage production: Approx  10,000 bottles and 30 magnum.

Origin: Land Confiscated from Genovese, Brusca’s clan

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These vines are 30 years old and you can see are in very red clay soil, these grapes were originally planted to be sold in bulk to northern italian wineries.

Its Straw yellow in colour but brighter than above, quite soft on the palate with good acidity, quite herbaceous, quite vegetal too and a also pepperiness, has aromas of wild flower meadow and lemon pith.

Terre Rosse di Giabbascio R 14

Grape variety: Organic Catarratto (100%).  Alcohol: 13.57%. Total acidity: 5.92 g/l pH: 3.25 Harvest: in boxes, mid-September. Vinification: soft crushing and fermentation in steel vats. Maturation: in mostly used tonneaux (Taransaud) for 18 months and then in steel vats for a further 22 months.  Refinement: in bottle for 12 months. Vintage production 2014: 3,000 bottles and 30 magnuns

Origin: Land confiscated from Genovese, Brusca’s clan

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R14 is now five years old. This has now spent almost 2 years in 500 litre Tonneau barrels then a further 2 years in Stainless steel tanks, then finally resting in the bottle for the last 12 months and then launched 3 months ago in February.

What is interesting is that this is 2014 vintage, as many of you know one of the worst vintages in Tuscany for a long time. (lets be honest for most a complete DOG! however, don’t write off Tuscany for 2014 completely as I have had some really very good wines from lots of producers especially the smaller producers) In Sicily it was a great VINTAGE!. The spring was difficult as there was a load of rain, however going into summer it was near perfect conditions until the harvest, resulting in a very good vintage indeed.

So by far and away the best wine we had during the tasting. It is quite full on yellow in the glass, on the nose you can instantly tell that this wine has a big structure with many layers, with the primary being a toasty citrus beauty. On the palate it’s quite full bodied with honeydew melon, lemons and a hint of grapefruit. Still has a great acidity and that mineral backbone as in all their wines glides you down a long finish.

Giato Nero d’Avola-Perricone  2018

Grape varieties: Organic Nero d’Avola (70%) and Perricone (30%). Alcohol: 13.69%. Total acidity: 5.37 g/l pH: 3.52. Harvest: in boxes, from mid to late September. Vinification: destemming, 8-day maceration and fermentation in steel vat’s Maturation: in steel vats for 6 months. Average Vintage production: 40,000 bottles

Origin: Land confiscated from Giuseppe Agrigento Brusca’s clan

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Violet in colour with a deep garnet in the centre, your nostrils get a blast of big fruit, as it hits the palate a “EXPLOSION” of acidity slaps you round the face…. then loads of blueberry, raspberry and black currant laced in white peppery spice come forward to start to even things out. The tannins are not that big and it has a very dry finish.  As with most of the wines we are tasting on this trip they are the latest release vintages and will certainly benefit for some extra time to settle down.

Cimento di Perricone 2017

Grape variety: Organic Perricone (100%). Alcohol: 13.45% Total acidity: 5.53 g/l pH: 3.57. Harvest: in boxes, late September.  Vinification: destemming, 8-day maceration and fermentation in steel vats. Maturation: in used tonneaux (Taransaud) for 8 months. Refinement: in bottle for 2 months. Average Vintage production : 4,000 bottles and 10 magnuns.

Origin: Land confiscated from Giovanni Brusca

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So do you know the Perricone variety? It is grown in western and central Sicily (there may also be a smattering across other parts of southern Italy), It used to be grown in huge numbers pre Phylloxera, in fact an estimated 2000 hectares exsisted, as it was sold as bulk and used to bump up weaker red wines all over Italy. Yet today its a fraction of those hectares.  

WHY????

Because its an absolute bugger to cultivate as it’s subject to lots of illness… (illness they said, not my words!) I’m sure they mean’t pests and fungal issues etc) Whats even worse is even if you do get a good crop, as yields are very low, then its an absolute pig to vinify!.

After going to my trusty “Wine Grapes” book (worth every penny its an investment of unparalleled knowledge) it says the following. This grape variety is often confused with many other varieties – (such as Barbera, Mammolo, Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese, Nieddera and Sangiovese) in 2007 DNA profiling has provided evidence that they are not identical but there is a POSSIBLE…???? parent offspring relationship with Sangiovese.

For me it has nothing in common with Sangiovese on any level…. except its a grape…haha. and as most of you know I have had a few slurps of Sangiovese over the decades!.

What is Centopassi’s Perricone like…. Well its not elegant that’s for sure, its certainly quite a rustic style wine. Its so dark in the glass, almost black. This wine is rarely made on its own and usually Perricone is used in a blend with other Sicilian varieties. Well on the nose …. I’m trying long and hard to pick up on something positive…. boom….. there it is Sour cherry!, on the palate……  YEP a bitter cherry, herby, earthy…. oh then there is a touch of a cocoa note….. arggghhh its like super bitter dark chocolate. Then there are the tannins…. holy mother of god! like no other… its like the WORLD WIDE TANNIN FESTIVAL has decided to hold its annual shindig in your mouth!

So overall, it takes some getting used to for sure. Also can be labelled as PIGNATELLO…. so watch out for him too. HAHA

Argille di Tagghia Via di Sutta 2016

Grape variety: Organic Nero d’Avola (100%). Alcohol: 13.70%. Total acidity: 6.12 g/l pH: 3.33. Harvest: in boxes, first ten days of September. Vinification: destemming, 8-day maceration and fermentation in steel vats. Maturation: in steel vats for 6 months. Average Vintage production 2016: 10,000 bottles and 50 magnuns.

Origin: Land confiscated from Grizzafi, Riina’s clan.

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The 2016 vintage was very balanced and good overall, the vineyard is at 600mt Alt and the soil is full of red clay. There is a large Diurnal shift in this vineyard averaging 15c at night to (average) 35c throughout the summer.

In the glass it’s medium red with a bright raspberry edge. On the nose it was all Cherry, Black and maybe a hint of Morello, the longer you let this linger then wild herbs and ferns in the forest start to come out. On the palate its bright, fresh, red berry fruit with good acidity and tannin balance.

Pietre a Purtedda da Ginestra 2016

Grape varieties: Organic Nerello Mascalese (70%) and Nocera (30%).  Alcohol: 15.13%. Total acidity: 5.81 g/l pH: 3.50. Harvest: in boxes, first days of October. Vinification: destemming, 12-day maceration and fermentation in steel vats. Maturation: in new and used tonneaux (Taransaud)  for 18 months. Refinement: in bottle for 6 months. Vintage production 2016: 2,200 bottles and 30 magnum

Origin: Land confiscated from Bernardo Brusca

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This is quite an unusual blend to be seen in this central west area of Sicily, in fact the locals advised them to plant white grapes, however they decided because of the soil conditions to plant red. They planted the following, these grapes are usually found on Etna – Nerello Mascalese (70%) and – Nocera (30%) which is usually planted around the Messina area as far East of Sicily as you get.

Its very different to either of the above normal styles, as it hasn’t got its roots in a volcano, in fact they are in calcareous soil with many coarse rock fragments, having said that these vines are high up at 950mt altitude.

Dense red in the glass, very inviting aromas of bright red and summer fruit fill your nose, then on the palate its elegant, black cherry, strawberry, touch of damson plums. Minerality works well with fruit and tannins to give long finish.

My last question to them before we left was about the labels and where did the art inspiration come from. It turns out that they had a competition in all the local schools to design all their labels and the winners had their paintings stylised by a local artist.

CHECK OUT THEIR VIDEO BELOW.

Thanks again for taking the time to read.

Peter.

 

WEBSITE: Centopassi

Twitter: @LiberaTerra

Instagram: Terra_libera

General Contact information:

info@centopassisicilia.it

Tel:0039 91 8577655

2 Replies to “Sicily – Part 6 – CENTOPASSI- The Mafia Lands”

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