Quality not Quantity from Sicily

Vinzia and Salvatore Di Gaetano, owners of Firriato Winery in Sicily, chose the perfect setting to introduce their wines — the Leopard at Café des Artistes.  Not only is it one of New York’s most beautiful and historic restaurants, it also serves some of the city’s finest Italian food.  

Mural at The Leopard at Cafe des Artistes

At lunch the other day, Vinzia said that Trapani has more grapes planted than any other place in Italy.  However, at Firriato, they are interested in quality not the quantity of their wines.  Above all, they love Sicily and Sicilian grape varieties.

Firriato is comprised of 7 estates, four of which are near Trapani:  Baglio Soria, Burgo Guanini — the largest with over 140 hectares of vineyards, Pianoro Cuddia and the Dagala Borromeo. On the east coast near Mount Etna is the Cavanera estate that has 11 hectares of wines.  Off the coast of Trapani are the Egadi Islands.  The Calamoni estate is on the island of Favigana.

Vinzia Firriiato

Asked how it is possible to keep quality control with so many different estates, Vinzia replied that each one is operated independently with its own enologist. They also employ two agronomists who take care of all of the vineyards.

She said that wood is not used for their white wines since it hides the character of the wines and is the reason why so many wines taste alike. I could not agree more.

She said that wood is not used for their white wines since it hides the character of the wines and is the reason why so many wines taste alike. I could not agree more.

There were nine wines at the tasting, four white and four red.  I will write about the red wines another time.
Chiaramonte IGT Sicilia 2011 100% Inzolia from the Tenuta Dagala Borromeo estate in the Trapani countryside. The soil is of medium mixture, mostly clay and the vineyards have a southwesterly exposure and are at 310 meters. The training is cordon spur pruned/guyot and there are 5,000/5,500 vines per hectare. The grapes are picked by hand during the first two weeks of September. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and fermentation takes place at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. The wine spends 3 months on the lees with daily shaking and two months in bottle before release. This is a fresh fruity wine with aromas of pineapple and lime with a hint of almond. $ 18
Etna Bianco Etna DOC 2011 60% Carricante and 40% Catarratto. The grapes come from the territory of Castiglione di Sicily (Catania). The soil is loamy sand of volcano origin, with good drainage. The exposure is the northeastern side of Etna, 500/600 meters. The vine training is freestanding espalier with permanent bilateral rod and spur pruning (cordon de Royat, 5 spurs of two buds each). There are 4,000/4,500 vines per hectare and the harvest is the second week of October. Vinification is the same as the wine above. This is a fragrant wine with fresh fruit scents and hints of white peaches, pears and a touch of lime, with nice acidity. $ 20
These were served with a tender grilled octopus and this was an excellent match.  

Favinina “La Muciara” 2011 IGT Sicily. Made from Grillo, Catarratto and Zibibbo.  The grapes were grown on the Island of Favignana off the west coast of Sicily. They are grown at the Tenuta Calamoni estate which is two meters from the sea. The training system for the vines is alberello and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand during the first week in September and the grapes are placed in small baskets. In the winery soft pressing is followed by fermentation for 20 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for 6 months in stainless steel and for 2 more months in bottle before release. This is the first vintage of this wine and it has to be one of the best white wines of Sicily. Vinzia said that they had to break up the surface soil to bring up the rich soil below. The heat during the day and the ocean breeze make for a wine with a mineral character and good acidity. The vineyards are five years old and Vinzia said that she feels as if she “grew up with them.”

Bucatini alle Sarde

Bucatini alle Sarde was matched with this wine and the combination could not have been better. I noticed my glass was empty and asked the waiter to pour me some more; I like this wine a lot!

Passito IGT Sicily “L’ECRÙ” 2008
Moscato and a small amount of Malmsey From the Tenuta Borgo estate in the Trapani countryside. The soil here is of medium texture; mostly clay and the vineyards have a north-south exposure at 250/400 meters. There are 5,500 vines per hectare and the training is cordon spur pruned/guyot.

The harvest takes place the first week of September and the most mature grapes are hand harvested.  The rest remain on the vines until they reach full maturity. Soft pressing of the grapes and the fermentation at controlled temperature lasts for 4 weeks. The wine is aged in bottle for 4 months before release. This is a very elegant dessert wine with aromas of candied orange peels, dried figs and dates. It has a clean but long finish and wonderful aftertaste.

4 Comments

Filed under Favinina, Firriato, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Sicily

4 responses to “Quality not Quantity from Sicily

  1. michele colline

    Malmsey?…please explain..

  2. Ciao Michele- I believe that Malmsey is her translation of Malvasia
    I just e-mailed the winery to find out. I will let you know.
    Charles

  3. michele colline

    Just wanted to make sure since there is a passito liquoroso as well as a straight passito. With Malmsey added(which would have had alcohol added to it)this would have made it a liquoroso instead of a ‘normale’ passito perhaps. Thanks for the response……….

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