Sicilia, the Land of Wine
Feudi del Pisciotto
A native of Toscana, Paolo Panerai publishes more than 15 financial and lifestyle magazines and newspapers. But he is also one of Italy’s top wine producers. At the end of the 1970s, he established Castellare in Castelina in Chianti Classico and more recently Rocca di Frassinello in the Maremma in partnership with Baron Rothschild-Lafite. Both of these Tuscan wineries produce highly acclaimed wines. His latest project is the stunning Sicilian winery, Feudi del Pisciotto, a remarkably beautiful edifice on a hill in the countryside near Niscemi, approximately seven kilometers from the sea. The Feudo, or feudal manor house, dates back to the 1700s and at the time of its construction was one of the largest in Sicily. It is currently being fully restored.
The vineyards surrounding the winery now consist of 50 planted hectares of vines out of a total 150 hectares in planning stages, including the noble red of Sicily Nero d’Avola and the indigenous Frappato grape. The estate also includes the international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot along with several white varieties, both indigenous and international. Dr. Alessandro Cellai is the winemaking director for all three estates, but locally at the Pisciotto property, Dr. Salvo di Maggio, a native of Palermo, is responsible for winemaking and viticulture. The first vintage was harvested in 2007, and since then the 2007 and 2008 Versace Nero d’Avola have both received Gambero Rosso’s distinguished Tre Bicchierri award.
Paolo Panerai invited top Italian designers to create labels for the Pisciotto wines, and part of the proceeds from their sale will be donated to the restoration of works of art, chosen from among the island’s great wealth of treasures. Eterno, Giacomo Serpotta’s series of stucco sculptures in Palermo, is the first restoration project now in progress. Feudi del Pisciotto wines include Versace Nero d’Avola, Missoni Cabernet Sauvignon, Valentino Merlot, Carolina Marengo Frappato, Carolina Marengo Grillo, and Alberta Ferretti Chardonnay. The Baglio del Sole label designates the winery’s main production and was inspired by the 18th Century baglio farm house on the property that is being totally renovated.
Feudo di Santa Tresa
Feudo di Santa Tresa (the Sicilian short version of Teresa) includes around 50 hectares of organically farmed vineyards that are awaiting certification. Its Purato wines are made with grapes that are harvested from a part of the estate that has already obtained the certification. Owners Massimo Maggio and Stefano and Marina Girelli protect against pests with a limited use of sulfur and pheromone traps, which generate sexual confusion and prevent reproduction. Located in Southern Sicily in the Vittoria region, the estate is eight kilometers from the sea. So abundant wind and scarce rainfall naturally protect against pests and other infestations. The owners have implemented under-soil irrigation to maximize water efficiency and prevent evaporation.
The Purato wines are closed with screw caps, and I’d like to go on record as disliking them for various reasons. The first is that because of the cork industry, thousands of acres of oak forest throughout Europe are economically viable and provide habitat for endangered species. These areas would otherwise be paved over with roads and housing tracks. Corks created from oak bark are bio-degradable and made from a renewable source whereas aluminum is not. It seems contradictory that a winery should respect the environment enough to farm organically yet does not close its bottles with cork.
Massimo Maggio and Stefano and Marina Girelli cultivate the traditional red grapes of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG zone, Nero d’Avola and Frappato as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and the indigenous white grapes Catarratto and Isolio along with Pinot Grigio from northeastern Italy. The winemaker is Stefano Chioccioli.
Italian Wines of the Month
Santa Tresa – 2010 Purato Nero d’Avola
This delicious wine is made from organically farmed Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most important native grape variety from its intense purple color to its unmistakable character. The nose is a rush of black fruits and spices, and the palate is round and complete with a completely natural and effortless balance of tannin and acidity, structure and length. Feudo Santa Tresa has extended its commitment to the environment by using eco-friendly products for the packaging, including recycled paper, pure vegetable ink for the label, 85% recycled glass for the bottle, and recycled cardboard for the cartons. Serve at cool room temperature and enjoy with pasta with dried mushroom sauce.
Santa Tresa – 2010 Purato Catarrato/Pinot Grigio
A delicious blend of 60% Catarratto and 40% Pinot Grigio, the wine displays lemon zest, stone fruit, and a hint of dried herb character on the nose. The palate is beautifully weighted with fine texture, balanced acidity, and a lingering finish. The family who grows the grapes for this zesty white has been farming for generations and follows simple, all natural organic methods, such as cover crops, organic manure, and natural herbicides. The vineyards are inspected by and receive their certification from Bioagricert, one of the top organic certification bodies in Europe. Serve chilled and enjoy as an aperitif with appetizers and with pasta and fish first and main courses.
Feudo di Santa Tresa – 2007 Cerasuolo di Vittoria
The 2007 Cerasuolo is a classic blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato, both indigenous varietals of Sicily that received the DOCG designation in 2005. Santa Tresa’s winemaking philosophy seeks to make as few interventions in the winemaking process as possible so that the characteristics of these varietals can shine. To that end, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria blend is not aged in oak barrels, which would influence the pure taste of the fruit. Instead, the wine is aged in cement tanks in order to craft a wine that showcases the elegant profile of the blend. The wine is an intense ruby red with a bouquet of dark fruit. The wine is soft, well-rounded, and full of elegance and finesse. Serve at cool room temperature with chicken roasted with rosemary, flavorful fish such as tuna, or pasta with wild mushrooms.
Feudo di Santa Tresa – 2007 Nivuro
Nivuro, nero or black in Sicilian, is a blend of 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, harvested by hand in order to select only grapes at the height of their ripeness. Nero d’Avola normally ripens in mid September while the Cabernet is harvested in late September or early October. The wine is a deep, opaque purple-red, and the bouquet is incredibly intense, featuring black pepper and spice. The taste is powerful on the palate with bursts of warm, dark berry fruit. Dictated by the Cabernet fruit, the Nivuro is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. The wine has excellent balance with a soft, long finish. Serve at cool room temperature with pasta tossed with sundried tomato sauce or roasted meats.
Feudi del Pisciotto – 2008 Versace Nero d’Avolo
Awarded the highest Tre Bicchierri honor, wine journal Gamber Rosso describes the wine as follows: Three Glasses [Tre Bicchierri] went to the extraordinary Nero d’Avola Versace 2008, an elegant wine with real character, which marries complex notes of blackcurrant and plum with hints of balsam, followed by tight-knit texture and admirable balance in the mouth.” The wine is of course 100% Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s noble grape. This 2008 Versace Nero d’Avola was aged in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% used for 10 months, so oak flavors are restrained and fruit flavors shine unadulterated. Serve at cool room temperature.
Feudi del Pisciotto – 2008 Missoni Cabernet Sauvignon
Sicily is a region in which many varieties give their best, with Cabernet acquiring an absolutely unique personality. Devoid of the vegetable notes which can create undesirable characteristics of this variety, Cabernet in Sicily nevertheless produces excellent structure and is appropriate for long ageing. The 2008 Missoni Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% used for 10 months. Unlike Bordeaux, its cooler place of origin, Cabernet fully ripens in the Sicilian sun so that it does not require extended time in barrel to soften its tannins. Serve at cool room temperature with meat courses and mature cheeses.