Touring Sicily’s vineyards…

Written for the Circle Update, Circle of Wine Writers

estate

Tasca d’Almerita

“You are home!” Conrad Maurigi said as we arrived. “If only!” would have been my response, not from being tired on last stop of the week but because Tasca d’Almerita is a place of sublime beauty. Lolloping hillsides striped with green vines and studded with white sheep set the scene for this beautiful large farmhouse in the center of Sicily. If my home was like this I don’t think I’d leave, not even to pop out for milk.

And actually popping out for milk on Tasca d’Almerita isn’t necessary because the whopping 500 hectare estate encompasses not only 55 wine varieties in the vineyards, but also orchards, vegetable patches, a thick forest and flocks upon flocks of sheep. At dinner we reaped the rewards of their sustainable farmyard approach with divine homemade ricotta, delicious lamb and stuffed aubergine with lashings of estate-produced olive oil. Yes, life is ‘dolce’ in Sicily…

In a perfect aristocratic fairytale, the estate is owned by a family of Counts and two brothers who still run the show with their 200 staff members spread across five vineyards. The largest vineyard is the Regaleali estate (where we were in Valledolmo) and they produce a wide variety of native and international varieties; on Salina island they produce Malvasia in a nice floral and peppery dry wine and a sweet passito version; from an island on the coast of Tipani they produce a Grillo; from the central region of Monreal they produce a range of varieties; and finally in their portfolio they have an Etna wine too, a Nerello Mascalese. The crown is the Regaleali estate though, where we were staying the evening and where they have a cooking school as well as seven family rooms for guests to stay overnight.

A delicious dinner, vineyard tour and extensive tasting in the morning all flew by and before you knew it we were back on the coach with the sad realization that Tasca Conti d’Almerita wasn’t our home… It was for one night though, and that was certainly a highlight of the trip.

Written for the Circle Update, Circle of Wine Writers

tenuta

Tenuta dell’Etna

As one of the older wine regions in the world, Sicily is entrenched in history. Visiting the wineries of the island (or ‘continent’ as some Sicilian marketing bods like to exaggeratedly call it) you expect to see a fair bit of history and tradition sprinkled among the hillsides. Firriato’s Tenuta dell’Etna is one of those wineries where you can get a feel for the long history of winemaking combined with modernity.

A historic farmhouse and wine press is encased in a modern shell and preserves the story of traditional winemaking while also telling the tale of modern, commercial winemaking. Snuggled into a hillside on the slopes of Etna volcano, we visited the winery in time for lunch and were greeting with an impressive spread of Sicilian antipasti: caponata; marinated local mushrooms; lemon infused artichokes; and local cheeses and cured meats to mention a few.

A breezy afternoon (typical of Etna, and ideal for cooling off the vineyards and volcanic soil) was perfect for lunch under the mature trees with a glass or two of their bubbly produced on the other side of the island. After a tour in the vines looking at the soil profiles, we moved into the new/old winery for an extensive tasting of their native varieties and international varieties from both Etna and their other vineyards in the Trapani region. It was a diverse tasting with some vertical line ups and a great overview of what this island has traditionally made over the centuries, and what it will continue to make in the future. Tenuta dell’Etna is an insight into exciting dichotomy of Sicily: the old and historical native to the island with the new and international outlook, harmonizing in the present.

Written for the Circle Update, Circle of Wine Writers

canikeepitPhoto left: Me at Tasca d’Almerita… Can I keep it?!

Top photo: Tasca d’Almerita, sheer loveliness

2nd photo: A true Sicilian welcome from Tenuta… with a spread of food and booze!

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3 thoughts on “Touring Sicily’s vineyards…

  1. Thank you for an engaging tour of a wine region that I’d love to get to soon. I recently picked up some 2009 Azienda Agricola Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG at auction and it’s a gorgeous wine for it’s price point. A blend of two interesting Sicilian grapes, Frappato 40%, Nero d’Avola 60%.

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