Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A visit with Vini Scirto (Passopisciaro, Mt Etna)

In my recent post on winemaking on Mt Etna, I mentioned the Vini Scirto winery as falling into the "comeback kid" category of winemakers. I provide more details on this winery herein.

Being an Etnaphile, I am always on the lookout for things emanating from the region. So it was with great interest that I discovered and followed a couple on Instagram who were making wine on the mountain and were continuously posting about their exploits. Winemakers posting on social media about making wine is not unusual. What was unusual about this couple -- Giuseppe and Valeria of Vini Scirto -- was the unabashed, almost innocent, manner in which they manifested love for each other, their land, their vines, and their wines. I reached out to Brandon Tokash, my resident Mt Etna friend, and asked him to set up visit with this couple when I was in for Contrada dell'Etna 2018.

That visit occurred on the afternoon of April 22, after a morning spent exploring the higher reaches of Mt. Etna. We met Giuseppe and Valeria at a pre-determined spot and, after all-around introductions, bundled back into our cars to go see a vineyard to which they had recently acquired farming rights. This vineyard plot -- located in Contrada Feudo in the village of Montelaguardia -- is 1.3 ha in size and is planted to Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappucchio, Carricante, and some other native varieties.  The soil is volcanic, very deep, and has very few stones. It has been on the official register since 1920 but has been in use for many years prior to the initiation of the registry.

The use contract covers 7 years. Vini Scirto expects to make a ready-to-drink, traditional Etna wine from the vineyard fruit but will also make an extended-maceration wine with a small portion of the fruit to evaluate the vineyard's overall potential.

Giuseppe and Valeria of Vini Scirto
Contrada Feudo vineyard
Parlo, Lidia, Valeria, Brandon with Wayne
Young off in the distance

We next paid a visit to the Vini Scirto cantina in Passopisciaro. It was a tight fit for the team. We found a new use for our smart phones when their was a brief, area-wide power outage. After looking around for a bit, we headed off to the Vini Scirto main vineyard in Contrada Feudo di Mezzo.

The farm house was set well back from the main road, nestled among olive and clementine trees. The property is comprised of 2.5 ha planted to olive trees and vines.

Vini Scirto within the context of the North slope landscape

The estate was most recently owned by Giuseppe's grandfather who had produced wine and olive oil and sold them off in bulk. During his childhood, Giuseppe had worked alongside his grandfather and had developed a love for the land and the products it yielded. But Giuseppe had not chosen winemaking as a career. Rather he was working in the Information Technology field when his grandfather died.

At that time, many estates were being sold off by family members upon the death of the patriarch. But Giuseppe and Valeria did not choose that road. Rather they opted to work the vineyard beginning in 2009. Giuseppe is not an agronomist nor an enologist but he applied himself according to the "natural" principles that his grandfather had taught him.

The estate uses no chemical fertilizers or pesticides in the vineyard and all treatments and harvesting are done manually. According to the duo, "We have completely banned chemistry from both the land and the winery ... The only chemistry we use is that of love." The first harvest was in 2010 and the first bottling of the Vini Scirto wines was in 2012.

We tasted the three wines shown below.

The 2016 Don Pippinu is a blend of Carricante, Catarratto, Minella Bianco, and Grecanico that has had 5 days of skin contact and then lightly pressed. It was aged for 10 months in steel and then bottled. Intense yellow color with dried fruits and minerality on nose  Fruit and mineral intensity on palate. Lengthy finish.

The red wines were primarily Nerello Mascalese which had been fermented in steel tanks, using natural yeasts, and aged in used oak barrels. Both wines showed varying intensities of red fruit, earth, cedar, and leather on the nose. Cherries and minerality on the palate. Balanced with silky tannins and lengthy finishes.

Excellent wines overall.

Refreshing people. Refreshing wines. Refreshing visit.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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