In my last blog, the last paragraph was…
By the way…. just before we left Renato said to the driver, “At the end of the drive turn LEFT as if you go right there is a landslide preventing you from getting to Palermo!” WHICH WAY DO YOU THINK HE WENT…. Find out soon!
You guessed it, he turned RIGHT, we said ….. NOOOOO the landslide, “don’t worry, I know how to get around it” was the reply. Well he didn’t and after 45 minutes we arrived at the landslide, had to turn around and ended up right back at the gates of Baglio di Pianetto 1.5hrs after we left!!. When we did go the right way we were in Palermo in 30 minutes, however it was bumper to bumper traffic and by the time we got to Monreale it was 12:15.
We had an hour and a half private tour organised at the Monreale Cathedral which was now closing for lunch in 15 mins! So a whirlwind tour we had. It is actually so amazing I went back in October to Palermo and spent half a day up at Monreale. The pictures below – inside the cathedral.
Time for the main event of the day, Monreale DOC tasting and lunch. This was also being filmed for US and German TV, hence there will be images of me in this blog….. SORRY!
What is a DOC in Italy?
DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) was introduced in Italy in 1963 for a quality standard of wine, it was modelled on the French (AOC) laws. DOC requires that a wine satisfy a defined quality standard, and be produced within a specified area. It has also been refined over the years inline with European legislation of protected branding.
Official notes for Monreale DOC.
The DOC Monreale is one of the largest protected denominations of origin in the province of Palermo. Its geographical area covers a large part of north-western Sicily, including a considerable portion of the municipality of Monreale and the municipality of Piana degli Albanesi, as well as the entire territory included in the municipalities of Camporeale, San Giuseppe Jato, SanCipirello, Santa Cristina Gela, Corleone and Roccamena.
These boundaries overlap with the geographical and socio-economic contours of the ancient and powerful Diocese of Monreale, which reached its maximum splendour in the Norman age. A rural and agricultural area where the vine – together with olives and wheat – have shaped the identity of the upper Belice Corleonese region and its local communities, expressions of a peasant culture touched by many important historical events: from the birth of the Sicilian Fascito the struggles for agrarian reform and the overcoming of the long-entrenched feudal model of land ownership. Transformations that allowed the birth of a dynamic system of small and medium farms. Today this productive fabric, centred as it is on viticulture, is a crucial element of the economic landscape of the Province of Palermo, having also enabled the valorisation DOC of Monreale area as an important oenotourism destination.
The undulating orography of the area, together with the favourable exposure, contribute to the definition of a ventilated, sun-drenched production environment with soils rich in moisture, particularly suited to the cultivation of the vine. The soil’s texture and chemical-physical structure -mainly clayey and sandy, placed at an average altitude of 300 to 600m – is essential to the achievement of the peculiar organoleptic qualities of all DOC Monreale wines, which are born from soils neither too humid nor too acidic or too alkaline, factors that influence and characterize the profile of the grapes that meet the criteria of the DOC’s production protocol.
The area’s climate is characterized by temperatures dependably above freezing level (even in winter) and by a hot-dry season typically extending over at least 5 months every year (May-September), with rainfall concentrated in the autumn and winter months: all elements that suit a coherent viticulture oriented towards the achievement of well identified and recognizable quality standards. The wines admitted in the production disciplinary, adopted in 2000 and modified in 2011, are mainly three: Bianco, also including Superiore and Vendemmia Tardiva (late harvest); Rosso, which includes Riserva and Novello; and a third: the Rosato. The grape varieties utilised in winemaking are: Ansonica (or Inzolia), Catarratto (or Lucido), Grillo, Chardonnay, Pinot bianco, Cabernet Sauvignon, Calabrese (or Nero d’Avola), Perricone, Syrah and Merlot.
The disciplinary protocol also regulates the minimum and maximum varietal percentages allowed for each of the aforementioned wines. All wines classified as Bianco or Rosso, must include a minimum of no less than 85% of the chosen grape, while Bianco Superiore and Late Harvest wines, must contain a minimum 50% of Catarratto and Ansonica (or Inzolia) but smaller percentages of the other varieties accepted by the denomination can also be included (with a 30 % cap on the use of Trebbiano Toscano).
For the Red, Riserva and Novello wines, the approved varieties are Calabrese (or Nero d’Avola) and Perricone – no less than 50%, with the possible addition of other red-skinned grapes accepted by the disciplinary protocol. The Rosé, on the other hand, is obtained from varieties such as Nerello Mascalese, Perricone and / or Sangiovese, a minimum 70% with the possible addition of other red-skinned grapes produced by local growers and suitable for cultivation in the Sicilian region. The difference between Bianco and Bianco Superiore is also in the ageing period, as Superiore must age for a minimum of six months starting from November 1st of the grapes’ year of production; as for the late harvest wines, the grapes are picked once they have begun to raisin on the vine and the wine must age for at least six months in wooden barrels with a maximum capacity of 500 litres. The Red and Reserve wines also differ in terms of refinement: the latter must age for no less than two years, again starting from November 1st of the grapes’ year of production.
The wineries which adhere to the Monreale DOC are: Alessandro di Camporeale, Cantina Sociale dell’Alto Belice, Azienda Agricola Case Alte, Baglio di Pianetto, De Gregorio, Feudo Disisa, Porta del Vento, Principe di Corleone, Sallier de la Tour and Tamburello, all committed to the safeguard of the particular soil-climate-variety interaction essential to theidentity of Monreale DOC wines. Today,the companies who vinify in compliance with the denomination – working towards raising quality standards for all the grapes produced in the territory – are about to submit a request to introduce a number of changes and updates to the disciplinary concerning the white and red varieties included, by restricting its number to the white-skinned Inzolia and Catarratto and to thereds Perricone and Syrah – the petition also includes a proposed revision of current varietal percentages allowed for all wines and blends.
Our tasting was lead by Maria Antonietta Pioppo, who is a journalist and President of Italian Sommelier Foundation for Western Sicily and Mario do Lorenzo the owner of Feudo Disisa winery.
We are to taste 8 wines, which are the most important varieties for the Monreale DOC. These are Insolia, Catarratto, Perricone (indeginous varieties) and Syrah (international variety) which is included within the regulations and planted widely within the DOC.
Our Wine List: (although some are older Vintages and not classified as Monreale DOC, they will be labelled so in the future as they meet the requirements).
- Baglio di Pianetto: Murriali, Doc Monreale Bianco 2018 Insolia
- Case Alte: 12 Filari, Catarratto Doc Sicilia 2018
- Cantina Sociale dell’Alto Belice: Trerrè, Catarratto 2016
- Principe di Corleone: Ridente, Syrah IGP Terre Siciliane 2018
- Alessandro di Camporeale: Syrah Vigna di Mandranova 2016
- Sallier de la Tour: La Monaca, Syrah Doc Monreale 2016
- Feudo Disisa: Granmassenti, Perricone Doc Monreale 2017
- Porta del Vento: Perricone, IGP Terre Siciliane 2015
Baglio di Pianetto: Murriali, Doc Monreale Bianco 2018 Insolia, Renato di Bartoli.
Link to my blog about them. https://pietrovini.com/2020/04/30/sicily-part-7-baglio-di-pianetto/comment-page-1/
This is their first vintage for this wine, Murriali was the name for Monreale a 100 years ago. Very pale yellow in the glass, floral and minerality on the nose. This is quite a full bodied wine with lots crisp citrus fruit, floral and mineral. High acidity, balanced by 13% alcohol and the full on fruit. Only bottled 2 months ago so this will be brilliant in a few months.
Case Alte: 12 Filari, Catarratto Doc Sicilia 2018 – Giuseppe Vaccaro.
This wine is from 500m alt. and it shows through the fresh mineral quality. Its very light yellow, bright platinum shining on the edges. Very expressive on the nose, fresh citrus – Lemon pith, lemon zest, floral white flowers. Same on the palate, super fresh, lovely acidity and mineral. A lovely tinge of rounded butteriness on the finish.
Cantina Sociale dell’Alto Belice: Trerrè, Catarratto 2016 – Salverio Abbate.
This is an old vineyard going back some 80 years with an altitude of 4-500m. Being 2 years older than the above Catarratto it shows straight away. In the glass its now straw yellow, no platinum notes. Visually you can see it has legs and much more structure. Floral & citrus and predominant on the nose still. Much more body on the palate, lovely rounded fruit still with big acidity. Mineral to the end for a long crisp finish.
Principe di Corleone: Ridente, Syrah IGP Terre Siciliane 2018 – Pietro Pollara.
These guys are based in Corleone. (If you watched the godfather you know this was the heartlands for the Mafia) Ridente in Italian means “SMILE” and it makes you do just that when you taste it. In the glass its Ruby red with bright violet edges. On the nose its Cherry fruit, liquorice, touch of caramel (only made in steel tanks) with a spicy notes. This wine is young, only just released and is somewhat tight on the palate, although beautiful fresh cherry fruit combined with light tannins make this an easy drinker.
Alessandro di Camporeale: Syrah Vigna di Mandranova 2016 – Benedetto Alessandro
Link to my Blog about them: https://pietrovini.com/2020/04/19/sicily-part-5-alessandro-camporeale/
You will note from my previous blog about Alessandro di Camporeale and their KAID Syrah, it blew me away. This is a much bigger wine style than the Ridente above. Its purple in the glass. Black fruits, spice with a smoky note on the nose. The tannins in this wine are much more evident, but the fruit, alcohol and acidity are all working together to balance it all out. Much more fruit forward than above with lovely peppery finish. This will age beautifully over the next couple of years.
Sallier de la Tour: La Monaca, Syrah Doc Monreale 2016 – Costanza Chirivino.
This is one of the oldest wineries in Sicily, since 2008 is now part of the Tasca D’Almerita vineyards. La Monaca is made from the oldest Syrah vineyard, La Monaca is the name of the hill on the estate which also has a natural spring that feeds the estate with water. It spends 12mths in French Tonneau and then a further 6mths in the bottle before release. Dark red, almost purple in the glass, On the nose forest fruit, balsamic, spice and that touch of smoke again. Forceful tannins on the palate, restrained by the acidity and the mineral fresh notes. A great Syrah which will age well.
Feudo Disisa: Granmassenti, Perricone Doc Monreale 2017 – Mario di Lorenzo
If you read my blog about Centopassi you will find out about how hard it is to grow, ripen, make wine with…. that PERRICONE is. . In 2009 there where only 5 people growing the grapes, now there are more than 20, this is Sicilys oldest red grape variety and people want it back. This historical estate used to grow these grapes 100 years ago supplying northern Italy and the south of France with bulk grapes, but it fell out of favour so it was all ripped out. This vineyard was only planted 6 years ago. These grapes even in the heat of Sicily are not ready to harvest until the 1st two weeks of October!. In the glass its dense dark purple, on the nose…. not so much fruit but earthy & vegetal notes. On the palate its a tannin festival, BUT…. here (now 2017 vintage) is cherry fruit, with an earthy tone. Very mineral super dry finish. I really want to try one 6-8 years old. My eyes are opening to Perricone!
Porta del Vento: Perricone, IGP Terre Siciliane 2015 – Marco Sferlazzo.
This vineyard is 600m alt, with red sand and sandstone rock (terre vecchia) that is 14million years old. These vines can get their roots deep into this soft rock to precious water deep below. This wine is fermented and the first aging is within concrete tanks, 2nd aging is in large format 2500 – 5000lt Slavonian oak barrels. Deep purple in the glass…almost black. On the nose this older Perricone is more expressive, balsamic notes, wild herbs, and earthy fruits. The palate is much the same but rosemary and thyme shine through the restrained fruit. Its still very tannic but certainly the most fresh style of this wine tried on the trip. I would like to try one of these aged wines with a big ribeye or fatty lamb chops…. I’m sure paired with the right food the tannins would subside a tad.
Well after all the thank you’s it was time to have lunch, so outside to a huge table in the courtyard to enjoy with many additional bottles that the wineries had brought with them. Already it had been a long day, we were ready for a great big lunch with a few glasses of great wine, as after lunch we are travelling on the bus for 3.5hrs to Ortigia.
Great food from Taverna Pavone and it has a great history too.
La Taverna del Pavone was born from the will of a man, creative and far-sighted who, living in a rich cultural and gastronomic environment like the Sicilian one, felt a strong desire to put his knowledge and his experience at the service of those who could appreciate good cuisine. The choice of the name and the place is not accidental. In fact, nowadays the “Trattoria del Pavone” is housed in a building which dates back to the end of the seventeenth century, where, in the 1800s, there was an inn that prepared simple meals for wayfarers and travellers and later, in more recent times (until the 60s), there was a tavern for the pouring of wine. Since 1979, the year in which the current activity began, the Taverna del Pavone is managed by the Pupella family with the same care and attention that animated its creation. The new generation today and the old one at first, have always performed with great professionalism, because their fundamental concern has always been the one of offering their customers a service without frills but at the same time warm and friendly. These specific characteristics have led to being the Trattoria del Pavone a point of reference, a crucial place in Monreale in the field of good restaurants and becoming one of the most renowned trattorias in Sicily thanks to the privilege of having been mentioned by the most important national magazines and tourist guides, both the domestic ones and those abroad.
Many thanks to all involved in putting on this great Monreale DOC tasting.
This Video was made for German/USA TV wine shows.