Well it has been a trip of extremes. Three days in the Langhe, followed by a day in Calabria and the last three days in Sicily. I love Sicily. There is something about Sicily that draws me to this land and it’s wines.
Five years ago I started with Passopisciaro from Mount Etna. Not because I thought I had the market for it, but because I loved the wines. The decision to import these wines were made with my heart not my head. And sometimes in wine and love you should follow your heart and not your head. These wines now have a massive following in Australia and it makes me quite proud to be representing this great estate in Australia.
The purpose of the visit to Etna this year was to go to the ‘Le contrada dell’ Etna’ tasting which organised by Passopisciaro and other wineries to showcase the 2014 vintage from Mount Etna. By going to this tasting, it gave me a great feel for the vintage which will be one of the great Etna vintages. The wines are tight and structured, with fantastic acidity and purity of fruit.
Before today, we spent time at our other Sicilian producer: Lamoresca. The wines of Lamoresca have had a cult following since the first day we imported these wines in Australia via Mondo Imports. Normally these wines sell out in 48 hours which is good and bad, as I would like to realistically have them available in the market for 2-3 months.
Lamoresca’s vineyards are situated right in the heart of Sicily and it is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. His vineyards are a mix of clay and sand and depending on the variety, it is planted on corresponding soil type. Filippo works the land in an organic way and his wines see minimal oak and sulphur.
If your lucky to see Filippo’s wines in Australia, do yourself a favour a buy a bottle. It is a wine that will hook you in on the first glass.
When my freight forwarder sends me this pictures it always puts a smile on my face. I know the wines have left Italy, packed into a refrigerated container and are on the way to Oz.
ETA on the new wines and vintages from Lamoresca in Sicily (think 13 Bianco, more 12 Rosso and the 13 Nerocapitano Frappato) should be around the 20th of June. I can’t wait for these wines to arrive and Filippo will most likely come to Australia next February for Rootstock which will be even better! I love Sicily and their wines, at the moment they are making some of the most exciting wine in Italy.
Mount Etna: a place that makes magical and mythical wines that convey this in the structure and taste of their wines. They are light in colour and strong in flavour and tannin. They are some of the most complex wines I have tried from any grape variety. The fact that the once obscure and unknown grape variety, Nerello Mascalese is being such amazing wines sums up Etna in so many ways.
It was this beauty that drew me to the wines of Passopisciaro all those years ago. Back then, only one or two producers from Etna made their way to Australia which meant that I basically had the pick of the mountain, to decide which winery to import to Australia.
Back then I was tossing up between Graci and Passopisciaro and decided to go with my heart and start with Passopisciaro. Well fast forward and the wines have found a strong following by wine lovers all around Australia.
This week, the standard 2011 Etna Rosso (the single cru’s should arrive in the first week of July) was reviewed by Gary Walsh on The Wine Front and within 24 hours our whole allocation was sold.
Another shipment of the 2011 Etna Rosso will arrive along with the Cru’s in the first week of July and be available via @mondoimports Together with these wines and the wines of Lamoresca, we think we have captured the magic of Etna and Sicily with these amazing wines. Forza Passopisciaro. Forza Etna. Forza Sicily.
My trip to Sicily with my family in July was special. Special to be able to spend over a week on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Everything about our visit was great and I am itching to return to Sicily in the near future.
Whilst I have love Sicilian reds, especially those around Etna (we have imported Passopisciaro for the last few years) it was a dinner in Siracusa that left me in awe of just how good Nero and Frappato are together.
I have drunk lots of wines like Cos Cerasuolo Di Vittoria in Australia, it was a meal at Ristorante Porta Marina in Siracusa that showed how great this wine can be when matched with the right foods. Over the course of our stay, we drank likes of Cos and also Lamoresca which is now available in Australia via our company Mondo Imports.
Since it’s arrival last week, I have tried the 2011 Rosso, 2012 Bianco (both now sold out) and 2012 Rosso. These wines are not only delicious, but highly complex and I can’t wait to see how they develop with 4-5 years in the cellar.
Lamoresca Filippo Rizzo and his wife Nancy met over a decade ago while Filippo owned and operated a small restaurant in Belgium. At that time Filippo was among the first to be talking about and serving natural wines anywhere outside of Paris. His family had ties to Sicily and he was truly passionate about the preservation of the land and the importance of additive free wine. After years in restaurants and retail Filippo decided to get back to the land the best way he knew how, become a winemaker. With a scant 11 hectare farm, 4 of which are under vine, Filippo and Nancy have built the tiny Lamoresca estate from the ground up. While reviving his own olive groves and vines, Filippo spent several vintages with his comrade and fellow winemaker Frank Cornelissen making wine high on the slopes of Mt. Etna. La Moresca is the only winery for roughly 50 square km’s and Filippo and his farm hand Gaetano work the land endlessly by hand.
Lamoresca is located in the southern most corner of the province of Catania, between Etna and Gela on the southern coast, at ~450 meters above sea level. The area has a combination of deeply compressed sandstone soils mixed with calcium and iron rich clay. The old vines are a mixture of nero d’avola, grenache and nerocapitano (frappato) for the reds, and the extremely rare vermentino corso and some roussanne for the white; all of which are worked without the aid of any chemical or pesticide. The wines are naturally fermented without temperature control and no sulfur is used at all throughout the process. courtesy of Selection Natural
I have always thought of Sicily as a very special place especially for growing vines but a trip back in July took that love to a whole new level. We spent a magical week driving around Sicily with the volcano (Mount Etna) always in the background. During this time, we drank and ate like kings and when I got back I could not stop drinking the likes of Cos and Passopisciaro.
One of the wines that I drank in Sicily and had ready about were those of Lamoresca and these artisan wines made by Filippo Rizzo and his wife were the exact reason why I think Sicily is such a amazing place. These magical wines are made in minuscule quantities, with 15,000 bottle in total produced each year.
Well the good news is that these wines will be available via Mondo Imports from the middle of November and whilst quantities are tiny (84 bottles of the 2012 Bianco, 400 bottles of the 2012 Rosso and 84 bottles of the 2011 Rosso) they will be well worth seeking out.
Last month I spent close to a month in Southern Italy on vacation. No work, just plenty of time relaxing with my family, drinking and eating the best the south has to offer. If we focus on the wines we drank during the trip, there was one constant: it was the wines we drank were grown on volcanic soils. It seems on every horizon, there was the glimmer of a volcano in the distance.
No more was this obvious than in Sicily. I love Sicily. I love the scenery. I love the food. I especially love the wine. When it comes to wine in Sicily, Etna reigns supreme. However it was not that long ago that the wines of Etna were not considered to be one of the finest in Italy. In fact, in regards to quality wines from Sicily, Etna barely got a run in. First it was Nero d’Avola and then it seems international varieties were seen to be one of the ‘bright’ stars of Sicily.
Well fast forward to today and it is great to see the spot firmly placed on Mount Etna and specifically Nerello Mascalese. This ancient variety is capable of producing magical wines that are now seen to rival Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. In fact, in great years like 2010, Nerello Mascalese has ethereal complexity mixed with power that makes the much published ‘Burgundy meets Barolo’ the perfect descriptor of this amazing grape variety.
The thing about Etna is that it so diverse. Depending on the age of the vine, the lava flow that it is grown on, the altitude and the growing season, Etna can be vastly different. Over the next twenty years, we are going to see some amazing wines out of Etna as each producer better understands what they are playing with. Like Etna erupting those many thousand years ago for the first time 170,000 years ago, we are going to see the birth of one of Italy’s truly great wine regions that will vie with Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello in the very near future.
This week I have working on a newsletter on the wines of Sicily. Looking back at my photo’s made me remember just how much I loved Sicily. What an amazing place. Next year I will return their in June with my family and I cannot wait.
For those who have been to Italy but not to Sicily, one tip: go. It is an experience that you will never forget. The island is such a vibrant mix of culture and architecture and it is an obvious reminder that not that long ago, Italy was a mix of different cultures with Sicily being the most different.
The photo above was taken on my trip to Sicily in 2011 and the quality of the fruit and vegetables grown on volcanic soils beneath Mount Etna was the best I have ever eaten. When matched with the amazing quality and array of wines produced from this amazing island, it is easy to see why so many people fall in love with Sicily.
Like these mix of cultures, the wines that they grow on Sicily are all quite different. From the rich and full flavours of Nero d’Avola, to the almost Burgundian Nerello Mascalese grown on Mount Etna, their wines showcase just how different soils, alititudes and of course grape varities can be on this amazing Island.
Every year I head back to Italy and on each visit, I either spend my time solely in the north or south of Italy. This year I visited Italy in March (where I spent three weeks in the north of Italy) and June (where I spent two weeks in the south of Italy) and for me personally, I do not have a preference and find both the north and south captivating.
When I think of the wines of Sicily my mind always heads straight to Nero d’Avola which has been for centuries been seen as the workhouse of the region. this rich, robust red is full bodied yet light on it’s feet. Due to the volcanic soil that it is grown on, it has amazing minerality and complexity that makes it fantastic drinking for under $20 a bottle. If you want to get serious about Sicilian wine, then I you need to head to Mount Etna and the amazing old vine Nerello Mascalese grown at high altitude and on differing lava flows.
This week we have had a number of containers of Italian reds, all from the south of Italy. Wines from Puglia, Basilicata and Sicily have all landed with some new wines from my trip to Italy in March.
One of the wines I have been waiting for the most, is a Nerello Mascalese from Sicily. My family are the agents for Passopisciaro from My Etna and their 2009 Etna Rosso is off the charts. It has developed a real cult following and gives you a great insight into Nerello Mascalese.
Well this week we have landed another Nerello Mascalese but from a different part of Sicily. The estate was set up by Valentino Sciotti (the man behind Gran Sasso and Pipoli) and like Gran Sasso, he has crafted some amazing wines from the young estate.
This wine sell for $20 a bottle and will give people a great insight into just how good Sicily and Nerello can be. Like with all Valentino’s estates from the south of Italy (for example Pipoli from Basilicata and Lucarrelli from Puglia) it gives a great snapshot of this indigenous grape variety.
Anthony D'Anna: Italian wine importer and merchant in Australia