Category Archives: Firriato

Tasting Sicily and Firriato Wine at Norma Gastronomia

I have a long history with the wines of Firriato from Siciily, and Salvatore Fraterrigo, chef/owner of Norma Gastronomia Siciliana. I first tasted Firriato wines when I was the wine director for I Trulli restaurant in NYC, and shortly after, Salvatore became the restaurant’s chef.

When Michele and I went to Sicily, we visited the Firriato estate near Trapani. We were treated to a typical Sicilian lunch paired with their wines and learned to appreciate them even more.

Salvatore with a cuscus bowl

Both Salvatore, known as Toto, and I are Sicilian and we became friends. He would come to our apartment to cook and we traveled in Sicily with him. Salvatore once had owned a restaurant in Trapani and he told me that he had the Firriato wines on his wine list. He even knew the owners of the winery Salvatore and Vinzia Di Gaetano.

When Daniela Pugliesi asked me to host a lunch for journalists with the wines of Firriato I suggested we hold it a Norma Gastronomia Siciliana, Salvatore’s restaurant. I knew we would have Sicilian food like we had in Sicily.

Federico

The speaker for the event was Federico Lombardo di Monte, the COO of the winery. He said that Firriato is a family run business. The president is Salvatore Di Gaetano and the CEO is Vinzia Novara Di Gaetano. Irene Di Gaetano Lombardo di Monte Iato is the Chairman.

Federico said that Firriato is comprised of 6 estates, four of which are near Trapani: Baglio Soria, Borgo 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 vines. The Calamoni estate is on the island of Favignana, one of the Egadi Islands off the coast of Trapani.

Glasses of Gaudensius NV Blanc des Noirs Metodo Classico Brut Etna DOC greeted the guests as they entered the restaurant. It is made from 100% Nerello Mascalese from the Northeastern slopes of Mt. Etna at 650 meters. The soil is sandy with good drainage. There are 3,500 plants per hectare and they are cordon Royat trained. Harvest is by hand the last week of September.There is a soft pressing of whole grapes and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The second fermentation (Classic Method) is in the bottle. The juice is in contact with the yeast for 32 months with frequent “Coup de poignet” to enhance the complexity of the bouquet and taste. Sugar is 8g/l on average. This is an elegant and complex spumante with hints of berries, brioche and currants with a long finish and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste.

One of the journalists, Ed Mc Carthy, author of Champagne for Dummies praised this wine so much he was given a bottle to take home.

The Firriato wines that I will discuss in this post are those that I did not write about in a previous post. For more information see:https://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/firriato-sicilian-wine-at-its-best/

Le Sabbie dell’ Etna Bianco DOC 2016 made from Carricanti and Catarrato. 

This wine was an accompaniment to Arancina Al Nero Di Seppia – Deep-fried squid ink risotto rice balls filled with spicy shrimp ragu. These were moist and flavorful inside with a crusty brown breadcrumb coating.

Altavilla DOC Sicilia 2016 made from 100% Grillo from the Trapani countryside at the Borgo Guarini estate. The soil is of medium mixture mostly clay. The exposure is westerly and at 250 meters. The vines are cordon trained and spur pruned/guyot and there are 4,500 to 5,000 vines per hectare. Fermentation lasts for 15 to 18 days at a controlled temperature. The grapes are soft pressed and remain on the lees for 3 months with daily shaking. The wine remains in the bottle for two months before release. The wine has hints of tangerine, grapefruit, melon and sage and a touch of almond.

Crocchette di Baccala Con Salsa Ali-Oli — Salt cod coquettes in sesame crust were served with aioli sauce. The cod filling was creamy and delicate and the sesame seeds made a crisp coating, perfect for dunking in the aioli.

Jasmin IGT Terre Sicilane 2016 made from 100% Zibibbo from the Trapani countryside at the Borgo Guarini Estate. The soil is mid-mixed, mostly clay. The exposure is west at 300 meters and there are 4,500 to 5,000 vines per hectare. The vines are cordon trained, spur pruned/guyot. Harvest is by hand the last week of August.Fermentation lasts for 20 days at a controlled temperature. The grapes are soft pressed and then spend 3 months on the lees in stainless steel tanks with daily shaking. The wine remains in the bottle for 2 months before release. This is a highly aromatic and dry wine with hints of citrus, both yellow and red fruit, jasmine and a touch white flowers.

Federico pointed out that zibbibo usually is grown in Pantelleria and used to make sweet wines. This version is dry and the grapes were grown in Trapani. This is the first time I had a dry version and was very impressed by it.

Cus-Cus Trapanese Ai Frutti Di Mare – Salvatore makes the cus cus grains from scratch from semolina that he brings in from Sicily. It is a painstaking process and the results are quite different from the quick cooking variety you find elsewhere. He cooked the cus cus in a delicious sea food broth that contained clams, squid, mussels and several types of fish in a lightly spiced broth.

Le Sabbie dell’ Etna Rosso DOD 2015 made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio

Caponata Palermitana Con Panelle, Caprino E Mandorle – Salvatore’s sweet and sour eggplant stew is cooked “Palermo style” and served with chick pea fritters, goat cheese, and toasted almonds.

Chiaramonte Terre Siciliane 2015 IGT 100% Nerod’Avola

Pizza “Rianata” This spicy pizza is a specialty of Sicily for lovers the flavors of garlic, anchovies, cherry tomatoes, and oregano.

Santagostino Rosso, “Baglio Soria” Terre Siciliane IGT 2012 made from Nero d’Avola and Syrah

Pasta Alla “Norma”– Salvatore uses imported durum paccheri, a large tubular pasta, and sauces it with fresh tomatoes, eggplant, basil, ricotta salata cheese.

Ribeca DOC Sicily 2013 made from 100% Perricone

Anelletti Alla Palermitana in Casseruola – Tiny ring shaped baked pasta are baked in a casserole with beef & pork ragu, green peas, Italian ham, eggplant, primo sale and ricotta salata cheeses, and basil.

Harmonium Sicily DOC 2013 100% Nero d’Avola

Involitini Di Arista Alla Siciliana – Pork loin slices stuffed with a mixture of cured meat, smoked mozzarella and roasted tomato and roasted.

“L’Ecrù” Passito IGT Sicily 2008 made from Moscato and a small amount of Malmsey.

Cannoli – House made cannoli are filled with sheep milk ricotta and pistachios.

I was very pleased by the food and wine combinations chosen by Salvatore and Federico. The pairings were perfect and it was like eating and drinking in Sicily.

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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.

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