The Wine: Palmento Vino Rosso 2020
Anna Marten’s Palmento Rosso is a, no pun intended, a volcanic and endlessly expressive red natural wine born on the Northern slopes of fiery Mount Etna. “Palmento” refers to Sicily’s traditional stone basins, usually carved from black lava rock, utilized for fermentation of the must. It was one of these basins that Anna lovingly restored once she acquired the farm. This is 90% Nerello Mascalese, the most typical and ancient Etna variety, with small parts of Nerello Cappuccio and Alicante, along with white grapes Grecanico, Minella Bianca, and Catarratto. The grapes ferment spontaneously, partially in whole bunches, for a short 4-5 days and are then pressed into old barrels and Georgian qvevris. After blending the wine is bottled with no fining, filtration, or added SO2. Light and airy yet focused and layered, it sings of smoked cherries, Autumn leaves, and arbutum berries.
The Producer: Vino di Anna
Vino di Anna, located in Sicily’s Mount Etna’s Northern slopes, is a small family-owned natural winery that has become something of a cult object in recent years, and with plenty of good reasons for it. Originally from Australia, Anna Martens worked in several prestigious wineries before first visiting the mighty volcano in 2005 and immediately falling in love with its centenary vineyards. Along with her husband Eric Nairoo, founder of famed UK natural wine importer Les Caves de Pyrenes, she bottled her first vintage in 2008, following with determination and inspiration her pure concept of natural wine. All wines come from venerable old vines farmed organically and biodynamically, ferment wildly, and see no winemaking additives, nor usage of fining, filtration, and added SO2. These are wines that manage to lovingly sublimate the spirit of “a muntagna”, as locals call the volcano, and speak directly to the heart.
The Region: Sicily
Sicily is Italy’s biggest island and also its biggest region. It’s separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina (Stretto di Messina). The capital of Sicily is Palermo, a majestically decadent multicultural city offering one of the richest culinary traditions in Italy.
Sicily’s history and culture are fascinating, to say the least. Their complexity is manifest in the diverse architecture of its cities. All over the region and particularly in Palermo we can find Arab, Greek, Roman, and Spanish influences in the layout of the city as well as in the food and local language.
Sicily is the third biggest producing country in Italy, behind Veneto and Tuscany. The quality of Sicilian wines has increased steadily over the past 30 years. Some international grape varietals - mainly chardonnay and syrah - have found a place in Sicilian viticulture, traditionally dominated by native varietals such as Nero d’Avola, Catarratto, Grillo, and Inzolia.
The Terroir of Sicily
Sicily's proximity to Northern Africa and position right at the center of the Mediterranean reflect deeply on its climate. Endless sunshine, moderate rainfalls, and good aeration characterize pretty much the whole region with minor seasonal variations. Palm trees and other tropical plants and fruits are a fairly common sight in Sicily all year round.
Among the several benefits of this climate one stands out: in Sicily, grapes can grow without being imperiled by mildew, rot, or any other disease brought by too much humidity. Sicilian grapes are generally speaking naturally healthy, hence the substantial number of certified organic or biodynamic wineries.
The Red Wines of Sicily
The most widely planted red grape varietal in Sicily is Nero d'Avola, which accounts for about 20% of the total regional wine production. Frappato is another prominent red varietal, used to make the only DOCG wine in Sicily, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG.
Less common but typical of Sicily are Alicante, similar to Grenache, Nocera, and Perrone, often blended with Nero d'Avola. On the slopes of the active volcano Mount Etna, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio are key red grape varietals in the popular Etna DOC appellation.
The White Wines of Sicily
Marsala and Passito di Pantelleria are perhaps the most famous Sicilian white wines, although their popularity has been waning over the years in favor of dry and refreshing white wines made from native varietals Inzolia and Grillo are fairly easy to find in the United States and generally very good.
In a similar way to Umbria, the Central Italian region known for the red tannic wine Sagrantino di Montefalco, Chardonnay has found its place also in Sicily. Chardonnay from Sicily can vary in quality depending on the producer.
On Primal Wine we sell one of the few 100% Chardonnay vinified with extended skin contact in the style of an Orange Wine made by the excellent Marabino winery from organically farmed grapes.
Author: Melissa Norton ©
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