Many associate Sicily, the island west of Italy’s mainland, with the Corleone family and Cinema Paradiso, but more and more, Sicily is having a resurgence due to its unique and high-quality wines. This month, we decided to share the diversity of Siciliy’s wines and showcase some producers who are dedicated to preserving the island’s rich viticultural history.
For the Naturalist selections, we’re featuring wines from two producers who are committed to preserving traditional agricultural and winemaking methods.
The 2015 Marco de Bartoli “Rosso di Marco” comes from the Trapani area of Sicily, from the de Bartoli family, who has been making wine for generations. Marco, the current head of the family business, was determined to remain committed to using native grape varieties.
The Rosso di Marco is made from the indigenous Pignatello grape (also known as Perricone); its name evolved from the word pignatte, a typical clay cooking pot made from the local red pignatiddare soil. The vines are organically farmed and hand harvested. In the winery, the fruit is destemmed, macerated in stainless steel tanks, and fermented with indigenous yeasts with occasional punchdowns and pumpovers.The wine is aged for 1 year in 10-hectoliter French oak foudres and 6 months in bottle before release.
The second Naturalist bottle for the month is the 2015 Etnella Attia made by Davide Bentivegna. Davide started making wine in 2008 with the aim of recovering vineyards and land, and preserving working methods handed down over generations. His terraced vineyards are located on the north and north-eastern sides of Etna at altitudes ranging from 1,500 to 3,300 feet above sea level. His wines utilize indigenous yeasts, and are non filtered and completely additive free. The Etnella Attia is made from 70-year Chasselas vines located at 2,500 feet above sea level. This is a skin-contact wine, but the skins only macerate with the juice for 1 day, and then stored in steel tanks.
Gastronomists will be delighted with two red wines that showcase indigenous grapes: Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio.
The first bottle is the 2015 Nero di Lupo from COS that is made from 100% Nero d’Avola. Given that COS (an acronym sourced from the first letters of the founders’ last names) adheres to minimal-intervention methods, including spontaneous fermentation, the use of indigenous yeasts, and non-oaked aging; this could be a Naturalist wine, but the Nero di Lupo is a true expression of the Nero d’Avola grape, and would be perfect for the Gastronomists. The Nero di Lupo is aged 12-18 months in cement tanks and bottles. This wine is medium-bodied but still has good acidity, and would be great with grilled vegetables or meats, which is appropriate, considering the long-awaited warm weather.
The second wine is 2015 I Custodi “Pistus” Etna Rosso. This young-vine Etna Rosso is a blend of Nerello Mascalese (80%) and Nerello Cappuccio (20%)–two of Etna’s most important varieties. The vines are located on the northern face of Mt. Etna, about 2,100 feet above sea level. I Custodi, literally meaning the guardians, clearly demonstrates the estate’s commitment to perpetuating time-honored winemaking. The grapes are hand harvested and matured in concrete vats for about 9 months before bottling.
This month we feature the intriguing Jura winemaker Valentin Morel (for Naturalist Club members), and two different expressions of Gamay from Philippe and Catherine Jambon’s collaboration with winemaker Gerard Belaid (for Gastronomists). We decided to showcase two producers because of their extreme dedication to integrous winemaking; from improving the soil health of the vineyards, to meticulous cellarwork, and everything in between.
On the Gastronomist side, we have two different expressions of non-interventionist Gamay. We are so lucky to get Gerard’s wines in considering how limited his production is. In fact, these wines wouldn’t even be on the market if not for Gerard’s neighbors, renowned natural Beaujolais producers Philippe and Catherine Jambon (hence the pig on the bottles). Philippe follows traditional Beaujolais vinification methods: 7-8 days of skin maceration, no added sulfur or sugar, and natural yeast. Une Tranche Régnié comes from Belaid’s 80-acre parcel from the Régnié appellation, and is lighter while also being well structured. Une Tranche de Paradis is a Vin de France; light and delicate with an acidic finish. Their tannins are soft, the fruit juicy, and the acidity vibrant.
We should note that the vinification techniques of all the “Tranche” wines would qualify them for inclusion in the Naturalist branch of the wine club, but they also really capture the essence of Beaujolais and are unmistakably typical of the region. Along with their food-friendliness (try them out with a cheeseburger!) this makes them perfect for Gastronomists.
Naturalist Club members will receive two bottles of the Jura producer Valentin Morel. In 2014, Valentin Morel took over 5 hectares of his father’s original 10 hectare estate, and was determined to convert it towards simplified cultivation techniques (CTS), including large-scale cover cropping with legumes and radishes to avoid plowing,that allow for the ecosystem to flourish. Both wines are produced with minimal intervention: grapes are hand harvested and the juice is fermented using indigenous yeasts.
The first is the Cote du Jura Chardonnay Champ d’Aubert, which is a single vineyard Chardonnay from 35-year old vines. The grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, skin-macerated and fermented for 12 days in stainless steel tanks, then moved to demi-muids for malolactic fermentation. Because of the skin contact and time in the large barrels, this wine can hold its own against meat in cream sauce. The Pinot Noir Les Trouillots also comes from 35-year old vines, planted on Trouillot Marl terroir. The grapes are hand harvested and destemmed, and put into steel tanks for a 12-day maceration. This bottle would be a welcome complement to your next hankering for stinky cheese.
This month we feature one of the most interesting Oregon wineries (for Naturalist club members) as well as a tribute to the versatile grape variety Grenache (for Gastronomist).
On the Gastronomist side we’ve got two very different expressions of Grenache. The Tribute to Grace Grenache comes from Santa Barbara County and its slightly savory tones match well with green summery pestos and fire-grilled pizzas. The Hobo Grenache from Alexander Valley has a bigger, fruitier personality that pairs nicely with Chinese bbq pork.
Our Naturalist club members will receive two bottles from Minimus Wines of Oregon. The first is a skin-fermented Pinot Gris (think pink!) that should definitely be opened during your next cheese binge. The second is a wacky blend of red and white grapes that you might chill and open at your nearest taco truck.
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