This article will talk about 6 wineries that can be thought of as expressions of southern terroir at #Vinitaly2017.
In fact, what I noted at this year’s edition, was that native grape varieties, especially from the southern regions, were in focus. Cathy Huyghe, a (wine) journalist at Forbes, has made a good synthesis of #Vinitaly2017 outlining five main trends, of which one being the attention to the heritage and “biodiversity” of grape varieties in Italy. See her article 5 Trends To Watch From Vinitaly International in Forbes.
My tasting tour at #Vinitaly2017 went from South to North and back. In this article, I will concentrate on the southern regions of Italy. Because let’s face it, I have a particular love for grape varieties and wines from central and southern Italy. Those of you who follow my writing probably know it by now. 😉
The short videos below are all in Italian, sorry for that.
Read on to learn more about my “new” southern wine discoveries …
A pleasant wine stroll through the Sicilian hall
Let’s start with this small winery on Etna which is a real gem. I discovered Cantine Eudes on Twitter some year ago, and since then this has also been one of the wineries I am curious about.
At #Vinitaly, I checked with the owner Giovanni Messina beforehand if he and his partner Laura Torrisi would be there. He confirmed and gave the number of their stand. This made me a bit confused to start with as it seemed to be the same stand as where Sonia Spadaro Mulone and her husband Riccardo from Santa Maria La Nave were. That is, at the stand of Cantina Benanti.
It is really great to see how the Benanti family are supporting and helping these two smaller wine producers on Etna who are also their friends. I stopped by their stand both last as well as this year, and it is always a fun experience. Both Sonia and Riccardo, as well as Giovanni and Laura, are dynamic people who are bursting with energy. The love for their vineyards and their wine production is clearly shining through.
Giovanni’s father, Salvatore Messina, bought a piece of land (6 hectares) on Mount Gorna in 1989 where there was an old abandoned vineyard. Giovanni is now the owner of the estate since a few years and the vineyard comprising 1,5 hectares, which is situated at an altitude of 700-800 m, has been replanted.
For the moment, they cultivate the grape varieties Carricante and Catarratto that they vinify in the cellar of Benanti winery. They produce two white wines: one Etna Bianco DOC made with (Carricante & Catarratto) which is matured in steel vats and one Etna Bianco DOC (Carricante & Catarratto) where the major part is matured in steel vats while a tiny part of the grapes is aged in barrique. This was the 2015 vintage which will be launched on the market this year.
— Katarina Andersson (@ricasoli99) April 12, 2017
Both wines are fresh and vibrant where you feel the Sicilian flavors and soil very clearly. The Etna Bianco DOC which has been aged in barrique has a light “smokey” note, more distinct and complex aromas, and is overall a more structured wine. Both wines are very interesting and clearly express the happy and dynamic character of Laura and Giovanni.
At one of our weekly aperitifs with friends some year ago, we tasted a bottle of Arcuria Etna Rosso DOC from Vini Calcagno at Le Volpi e l’Uva in Florence. I really enjoyed it and was intrigued to learn more about this winery.
At #Vinitaly this year, I passed by their stand to taste their other wines and have a chat. Vini Calcagno is a winery situated in the locality Passopisciaro (contrade Arcuria e Feudo di Mezzo) on Etna at 650 m.a.s.l. It is run by the two brothers Franco and Gianni and the vineyards have belonged to the family since the early 19th century.
They produce the wines Carricante Etna Bianco DOC, Arcuria Rosato Etna DOC (Nerello Mascalese with a small percentage of Nerello Cappuccio), Etna Rosso DOC (100% Nerello Mascalese), Arcuria Etna Rosso DOC (85% Nerello Mascalese and 15% Nerello Cappuccio), and Feudo di Mezzo Etna Rosso DOC (85% Nerello Mascalese and 15% Nerello Cappuccio).
These are wines with a lot of character. The Etna Rosso DOC which is produced with grapes from both contrade (districts), Arcuria and Feudo di Mezzo, have quite an edge with notes of red fruit and minerality.
The Arcuria Etna Rosso DOC is produced with grapes from a vineyard where the volcanic soil contains much more ashes, which gives it its special character. It is a smooth and elegant wine.
Feudo di Mezzo Etna Rosso DOC is more assertive as a wine. The terrain of these vineyards contains more rocks which give the wine a completely different character.
— Katarina Andersson (@ricasoli99) April 11, 2017
I am definitely a fan of all their wines and hope to be able to visit them soon.
Tenute Mannino di Plachi
Continuing my walk through the Sicilian hall at #Vinitaly2017, I passed by the stand of Tenute Mannino di Plachi. I had just some week before seen that Sorcha Holloway, from Away With Wine, had visited Tenuta del Gelso which is one of the three estates belonging to Tenute Mannino di Plachi. As I had still never tasted their wines, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to do so.
Starting with a short overview of the winery, it started out its more business-oriented activity in the early 19th century. Since then, it has evolved to today comprise also an agritourism and the organization of other side events relating to wine and food.
The company consists of three different estates: Podere di Pietra Marina where they produce the grapes for their Etna Rosso DOC wines, Tenuta Le Sciarelle where they produce Carricante and Catarratto for their Etna Bianco DOC wines, and the main Tenuta del Gelso where they cultivate citrus fruits, olives, and vegetables.
Returning to #Vinitaly, Federico who was manning their stand, dove right into explaining all their wines while I tasted and tried to manage to do live video at the same time. I started by tasting their Spumante Etna DOC Metodo Classico Millesimato “Caterina di Plachi” which is a 100% Nerello Mascalese sparkling wine. It matures for 38 months in the bottle which gives the wine its elegance, minerality, and complex mostly floral bouquet of aromas.
Then I continued to taste their white wines Etna Bianco DOC Tenute Mannino di Plachi (Carricante and small percentages of Catarratto and Minella) and IGP Carricante 2014 Terre Siciliane Tenuta del Gelso. The first is a mineral wine with distinct floral notes, for example, of Scotch broom. It is an elegant and structured wine. The second one, IGP Carricante, Federico defined as an easy going and enjoyable wine for a more general audience of wine lovers, where the floral notes are more direct and the minerality arrives in a second stage.
Heading over to the red wines, I tasted their Nerello Mascalese IGP Terre Siciliane Tenuta del Gelso and their Etna Rosso DOC Tenute Mannino di Plachi 2011 (a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio).
The first one, Nerello Mascalese, matures in steel vats only. It is a wine with fruity notes and smooth tannins that is very pleasant and drinkable. Just as the IGP Carricante 2014 it is thought for a more general audience and to be enjoyed both for aperitifs as well as with less structured dishes.
The second one, Etna Rosso DOC 2011, is a more complex and structured wine with much more distinct tannins. It is a very fresh and mineral wine with notes of, for example, ripe fruit, pepper, and licorice. Federico explained that they prefer to be patient and age this wine in order to not enter it on the market to soon. It is a wine that needs time to mature. It matures 6 months in inox steel vats, one year in already utilized barriques of French oak, and then it lays two years in the bottle.
— Katarina Andersson (@ricasoli99) April 25, 2017
I got a wonderful tour through all their lovely wines and Federico explained all the various estates and the differences between them.
Paolo Calì winery
Last year, I met Paolo Calì at the event Le Guide dell’Espresso where one of his wines had been awarded. He told me about his winery, its history, his philosophy, and, of course, the wines he produces. I was very curious about tasting the wines but unfortunately, it was not possible at that event.
At #Vinitaly this year, I had marked it in my schedule to pass by his stand to finally be able to taste his different wines.
Paolo Calì started out his winemaking activity in 2004, recuperating vineyards belonging to the family already since before. He is, actually, originally a pharmacist and continues to still run a family pharmacy together with his sister (I believe) in Vittoria in the province of Ragusa.
The vineyards comprise 15 hectares (37 acres) and are situated at an altitude of 180 m.a.s.l. within the denomination Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG. There Paolo cultivates the grape varieties Grillo, Frappato, and Nero d’Avola.
He produces seven different wines, namely Blues Grillo IGT Terre Siciliane (100% Grillo), Osa! Frappato Rosato IGT Terre Siciliane, Jazz Frappato – Nero d’Avola IGT Terre Siciliane (55% Frappato and 45% Nero d’Avola), Manene Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG (60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato), Mandragola Frappato Vittoria DOC (100% Frappato), Violino Nero d’Avola Vittoria DOC (100% Nero d’Avola), and…the cru Forfice Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG Classico (a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato).
The soil in the vineyards of Paolo Calì used to be sea dunes and thus still has a high concentration of sand, which, as he writes on his website, contributes to the complex aromas and flavors in his wines. In fact, when sipping on his wines you feel the combination of fruity and floral notes as well as the sapidity but also the presence of the Sicilian sea and its terroir. It is like tasting a piece of Sicily and feeling like you are there smack in the middle of its climate and culture.
A Quick Stop in Basilicata
In the Basilicata hall, I just had time to pass by one winery on my way to another appointment so I actually just randomly chose a stand. I know this might not be very well researched and strategic, but then I found it very refreshing. I enjoyed tasting the wines of Tenute d’Auria.
This winery is situated in between the villages Barile and Rapolla in the province of Potenza in Basilicata. This is close to Mount Vulture and thus the soil is volcanic which gives the wines their typical identikit. It is a fairly new winery with the aim to produce wines of excellence with the traditional grape varieties Aglianico and Malvasia.
I tasted their Cupido Rosso Basilicata IGT, Canto di Afrodite Rosso Basilicata IGT, Donnasara Aglianico del Vulture DOC, Quercia di Annibale Aglianico del Vulture DOC, and Stapellum Aglianico del Vulture DOC. They are all 100% Aglianico del Vulture wines.
The Cupido is a young, fresh, and slightly fizzy red wine with notes of fruit while the Canto di Afrodite rosé wine has more floral notes. They are invigorating and perfect for an aperitif on a spring or summer day.
If we now head over to the red wines, Donnasara is a young and drinkable wine which is matured for 6 months in steel vats followed by 2 months in the bottle. Quercia di Annibale is a smooth wine with more defined aromas of fruit and spices. It matures for one year in steel vats and 6 months in the bottle which brings out the essence of the Aglianico and makes it enjoyable.
Stapellum is a wine which not only is fermented in steel vats but then also aged for one year in used (2nd and 3rd passage) barriques and 8 months in the bottle. This gives a more full-bodied and structured wine with lovely notes of bush fruit combined with richer chocolate-like and vanilla notes.
Let’s return to Calabria
So, of course, I passed by my producer friends in the Calabria hall to say hello and taste some wines. It is always nice to see them all and I hope to be able to pass by Calabria this summer too for some beach time and wine.
Anyway, as I wanted to taste something new I asked them to recommend a producer I had not yet tried. They all mentioned Fezzigna Vini. It is a small organic winery situated in the locality Caraconessa between Umbriatico and Cirò Marina in Calabria. This is in the area of the DOC Melissa denomination.
According to the regulation, white DOC Melissa wines shall be made with min. 80% and max. 95% Greco bianco and the remaining 5-20% can be of Trebbiano toscano and/or Malvasia Bianca. The red DOC Melissa wines need to contain 75-95% Gaglioppo and 5-25% can be of Greco nero, Greco bianco, Trebbiano toscano and/or Malvasia Bianca.
These wines are very interesting and a bit different in character than the ones in the immediate area surrounding Cirò, even if they are so close. Well, it is indeed already within another DOC denomination so it should not come as a surprise. The Euria IGT Calabria Bianco is a white wine made with 80% Greco bianco and 20% of Malvasia Bianca, Moscato, and Zibibbo. It is a fresh and fruity wine where the small addition of Moscato and Zibibbo contributes with a more aromatic and particular profile.
Romido IGT Calabria Rosato is a mix of the grape varieties Gaglioppo, Greco nero, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nero d’Avola. The blend of these grapes makes it into an interesting fresh and fruity rosé wine where you also feel the presence of the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Just as the rosé, the red Milò IGT Calabria Rosso is made with a mix of Gaglioppo, Greco nero, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nero d’Avola. It is only matured in steel vats and you feel the aromas from all these four grape varieties with their own character coming out. The end result is a smooth and pleasant wine with non-intrusive tannins.
Their DOC Melissa wine is the Caraconessa which, I believe (I apologize for not being a 100% sure here, I was distracted. I will verify as soon as possible) is a blend of Gaglioppo and Greco nero. It is a smooth and more full-bodied wine with fine tannins where you really can see the places, the soil, the terroir in front of you while sipping on it. I am definitely looking forward to tasting more vintages from this winery and to follow its development.
A Summary of the South at #Vinitaly2017
From Basilicata to Calabria and Sicily, it was interesting to do these tasting experiences with the wines from Cantine Eudes, Vini Calcagno Tenute Mannino di Plachi, Paolo Calì, Tenute d’Auria, and Fezzigna Vini. The four Sicilian wineries above each showed the biodiversity of this island. Even the three wineries on Etna, each has their own profile based on their location and position on Etna. When it comes to Basilicata and Calabria it is hard to make any conclusions as I only talk about one winery from each region here.
Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed this article even though it turned out to be very long.