Wine, local cuisine, culture: we achieved our goals again with some great wines, a special lunch and travel through rural Sicily.
Our first visit was to the Rapitalà Winery, a part of the Gruppi Italiani Vini, one of the largest wine producers in Italy.From their 225 hectares of vineyards as well as purchased grapes, they produce 2.5 million bottles annually.
Rapitalà, like many Sicilians, is proud of its Arabic heritage which is reflected in the name of the winery, Arabic for ‘River from God.’
We learned that the horrendous earthquake of 1968 (8 on the Richter scale) destroyed 5 local towns. A Frenchman bought the winery and rebuilt it from scratch and actually was the first to bottle wines in Sicily in the 1970s. Because of the French connection, Rapitalà was the first winery to produce Chardonnay. They were also the only winery allowed to use the designation ‘Grand Cru’ for their Chardonnay.
Our first wine of the tasting was the Piano Maltese Terre Siciliane 2018, a blend of Grillo, Catarratto and Chardonnay (60/30/10). It had a delightful citrus aroma, pale yellow color, very aromatic, with a bracing acidity. Grillo adds fruitiness, Catarratto adds minerality, and the Chardonnay adds body and complexity.
Our 2nd wine was Casalj DOC Alcamo 2018, 100% Catarratto which is indigenous to this area. It has a more complex aroma of citrus fruit, peach and apricot with a rich texture. We learned that Casalj means House of God in Arabic.
Our 3rd wine was Alto Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia 2017, from grapes grown 500 meters above sea level. It had a deep ruby red color and tannins, due to the fact the grapes were harvested with a higher sugar level. The wine spends 1 year in small used oak barrels and was delightful to drink with its dark red fruit flavors and taste.
We ended with Nadir DOC Sicilia 2017, Arabic word for deep or the opposite of zenith. It is 100% Syrah . Nadir had a deep ruby red color with aromas of leather and licorice with tannins that grip the insides of your mouth.
After a ride on a tortuous road that begged for repairs, we arrived at Alessandro di Camporeale and were greeted by Anna Alessandro, who owns the winery along with her two cousins. Her ancestors were grape
growers for 4 generations and when the current generation took the reins in the 1980s, they replanted the entire vineyard and the first vintage was 2000.
The philosophy was not to blend grapes but rather to focus on individual varieties and terroir.
For the white wines, they use the utmost precaution to avoid contact with oxygen, whereas with the reds, they encourage contact with oxygen. We were there on October 10, which was the last day of their harvest which started in August.
All their wines are aged in stainless steel with only the Syrah aged 1 year in wood.
We enjoyed a delightful lunch prepared partially by Anna of local antipasti, fresh pasta with pumpkin and tomato sauce, rolled stuffed chicken with roasted peppers and dessert.
Our meal was paired with 5 wines: Catarratto 2018 (which we were told was awarded a 3 Glass Award from Gambero Rosso in the 2020 edition), a wine redolent of citrus and white flowers, jasmine, green apple, peach and spices and the aromas continue with the flavors, a true Mediterranean wine with excellent acidity; Grillo single vineyard Vigna di Mandranova 2018- Grillo is a cross between Zibbibo and Catarratto, grown originally to be made into Marsala, aromas of grapefruit and white flowers, great acidity, full body, with loads of minerality; Catarratto single vineyard Vigna di Mandronova 2018, this version had a fainter aroma with higher acidity; Kaid 2017, 100% Syrah, deep ruby red color, aromas of black pepper, black cherry, plums, chocolate, soft tannins, rich and complex- Kaid is Arabic for the chief or the boss; Kaid Late Harvest 2017 a dessert wine made from grapes picked 1 month after the normal Syrah harvest, so this year grapes will be picked November 15, aromas of cherries, ripe plums, jam,chocolate, a sweet taste balanced by good acidity, it was paired with homemade casatelli, fried ravioli stuffed with ricotta.
You can meet Anna in this video.
We ended our day with a visit to the nearby Cusumano winery, owned by the 2 Cusumano brothers who, similar to the Alessandro story, took over the family winery which only produced bulk wine and turned it into a modern winery with a production of 2.4 million bottles. Cusumano was the first winery in Italy to use the Vinolock glass cork in 2005. Incorporated into the estate is the original baglio or farmhouse. The terroir here is white sand which produces a completely different style of Nero d’Avola.
Our tasting consisted of 4 wines: Insolia 2018, The Insolia has a green apple aroma, medium body and lip smacking tartness in a positive sense, lingering after-taste, produced from grapes grown in the high altitude area of Ficuzza.
Angimbè Tenuta Ficuzza 2018, Insolia/Chardonnay blend 70/30, deeper yellow hue, much more fragrance, fruit forward lemon and green apple, full-bodied rich texture, balanced with just the right acidity.
Nero d’Avola 2018 Sicilia DOC, smokey aroma,soft, low intensity tannins, medium ruby red color.
Benuara Tenuta Presti e Pegni 2017 SiciliaDOC, Nero d’Avola and Syrah 70/30, grapes grown in Monreale, a bruiser with lots of tannin.