Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Santa Tresa

Feudo di Santa Tresa’s 35 hectares (86 acres) of vineyards spread out within the heart of a triangle outlined by the village of Roccazzo and the towns of Acate and Vittoria. Massimo Maggio, also enologist at Vittoria’s Maggio Vini winery, and Stefano Girelli, a wine entrepreneur from Northern Italy, began this project in 2001.  The soil is classic terra rossa, sandy red ferrous soil covering limestone rock.  Comprising a villa built in 1697, a one hundred year-old palmento, and a well dedicated to Saint Teresa (shortened in Sicilian to Santa Tresa), this biologically farmed vineyard produces delicate and elegant red and white wines.  The 2008 Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the most important appellation wine of the Vittoria area, that I tasted recently was pale reddish-brown in color with a delicate nose of red fruits and underbrush. Astringency, bitterness, and sourness danced with delicacy and finesse on the palate. The wine was fully mature, yet remained refreshing, the kind of wine that invites rather than challenges, that stays in the background of a meal rather than dominates it. Enjoy it with a delicate morsel of roast chicken and even meaty fish.

As is the case with most Cerasuolo di Vittoria wines, it is 60% to 70% Nero d’Avola filled out with Frappato, a red grape native to the area.  What makes this wine so delicate and easy-to-drink? Frappato makes a paler, less dense in the mouth, and faster-to-mature wine than Nero d’Avola.  The sandy soil of the area reduces the pigmentation and tannic structure of the mature grape skins. Furthermore, after the fermentation, Massimo Maggio matured the wine in neutral containers rather than new oak barrels where it could pick up wood aromas and more astringency and bitterness. 

If you want to learn more about Feudo di Santa Tresa, visit the winery website, www.santatresa.it.  It is one of my favorites. With Sicilian folksongs and the sunlit countryside in the background, Girelli, speaking in easy-to-understand English, and Maggio, in Sicilian with English subtitles, form a duet. In tones, words and phrases, that evoke the balance and humility of their Cerasuolo di Vittoria, they tell the story of the estate, how the grapes are grown, and how the wine is made.

Massimo Maggio observing roots of Favino plant, used to fix nitrogen in soil

Monday, May 27, 2013

Spreading The Good Word

Since the launch of our book in the Sicilia pavilion at Vinitaly in Verona in early April we have been privileged to present our work at Boston University, Chambers Street Wines and the 92YTribeca in New York City, and last week at The Butcher Shop and Stir in Boston's South End.  What a delight to share our adventures on the Sicilian wine road with with fellow explorers and Sicily appassionati!  To all of our readers, we extend our heartfelt appreciation for your interest and support.  Thank you for helping us to spread the good word.  Mille Grazie.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sicilian Bread and Wine

This quintessential food and wine pairing was served at Margherita Platania’s Cavaliere estate on the southwest flank of Mount Etna, about 1,000 meters (mille metri) above sea level.   Margherita and her husband Saro brought us in the morning to a piccolo bakery (literally, a hole-in-the-wall) in Santa Maria di Licodia on our way up to their mountain vineyards.  Round loaves were being pulled from the brick oven as we entered through the unmarked portal.  An older mother and daughter manned the oven like the chief and second engineers in the engine room of a vintage steamship.  By the time we finished our walk-through of the walled vineyards (planted all in alberello), we were eager to sample the old-vine Nerello Mascalese Etna Rosso, Don Blasco, and that heavenly pane.  It was a match made on Etna!  Fresh salami from the Nebrodi Mountains and Ragusano cheese with black pepper complemented the bread and wine.  Both the Don Blasco and the Etna Rosso called Millemetri (which is made from younger vines) show the potential of this high-elevation property.  The Cavaliere estate was prized as a vineyard site in the late 19th century – as chronicled in Federico De Roberto's The Viceroys, an incisive novel about Catania's aristocratic families of that period.  Margherita and Saro are restoring this storied land with both heart and head.