Saturday, August 10, 2013

Marzamemi Memories

The ninth edition of an annual wine fair called Calici di Stelle (Star-Filled Goblets) takes place this evening in the picturesque seaside town of Marzamemi near Sicily’s southeastern tip.  Wine producers from the eastern half of the Val di Noto – including the Eloro, Noto, and Syracuse appellations – will be presenting wines made from both indigenous and international vine varieties.  In addition to the well-ripened Nero d’Avola wines from Pachino, there will be fresh and passito (dried) versions of the Moscato di Noto and Moscato di Sircasusa dessert wines and an elegant dry white wine from the Cantine Gulino estate made from 100% of a rare native variety called Albanello.

On our first trip to Sicily together in June 2008 we were welcomed to the Val di Noto by Salvatore Marino, a talented young winemaker who now is the enologist of the Marabino estate near Pachino.  At the end of our day together Salvatore took us off the wine road to explore Marzamemi.  He showed us the ex-tunny works (tonnara) that had first been established during the period of Muslim rule beginning in the ninth century A.D.   There was a fancifully painted boat docked in the harbor.  It had what appeared to be Arabic words and images decorating its hull – echoes of those distant Saracen rulers.

At the end of our visit, Salvatore brought us to a bar/gelateria next to the tonnara to try the black mulberry (gelso nero) and pistachio granite.  This was not your grandfather’s Italian ice!  It was a local version of whipped granita called cremolata.  Unlike gelato which is made with milk or cream, the cremolata is made with only fruit, water, and sugar.  The pistachio and mulberry flavors were as vibrant and intense as the Sicilian sun which blazed that late June afternoon.  This is a flavor memory!

Tonight we toast Salvatore Marino and the other winegrowers of the Val di Noto who will be sharing the flavors of their wines in the restored Palazzo Villadorata (the ex-tunny works) in the heart of Marzamemi.  Grazie for the memories.

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