Julia tracks down a heart-winning, intense dry white from the Sicilian island of Lipari.
From €13, $22, £18.50, 3,300 yen, £72 (per 6 in bond)
The Aeolian island of Lipari on the north coast of Sicily is probably most often associated with its tiny production of sweet passito wines made from dried Malvasia delle Lipari grapes but, as Walter pointed out in A fine, dry future for Malvasia delle Lipari?, these islands also produce dry wines, and not just from Malvasia.
Tenuta di Castellaro do make an excellent passito but it was this dry white, Porticello 2017 IGT Terre Sicilane, made from 60% Carricante and 40% Moscato, that won my heart and palate. And as soon as I saw the photos, Lipari and the Aeolian islands shot to the top of my holiday-island wish list.
Moscato often gives wine a grapey aroma and flavour but here the balance between the varieties is perfect, the Moscato adding a delicate grapey character and the Carricante (pictured here) bringing flavours of grapefruit, tangy green fruits, mouth-watering acidity and a fine chalky texture, which is probably as much to do with the vineyard location and its volcanic sandy soils as with the variety.
The wine has terrific persistence and intensity, even with the very modest alcohol of 12%, plus a slight saltiness in the aftertaste. Although the Carricante spends three months on its yeast lees in big oak casks (30 hl), there is no perceptible oak flavour, just a richer texture.
As Walter notes in his profile of the estate in Aeolian Malvasia through producers’ eyes, the estate was founded in 2006 by Massimo Lentsch, a businessman from Bergamo, and his wife Stefania Frattolio.
They are members of the I Vigneri (as signalled by the gnarled old vine embossed on the bottle), a winegrowers' guild that dates back to 1435 but was resurrected by Lentsch's consultant Salvo Foti, the defender of the faith when it comes to high-density bush vines planted in the traditional quincunx formation, which you can see in the photo of the modern winery and surrounding vines below.
They explain: ‘Each plant is located at the top of a 1.2-metre equilateral triangle. Aesthetically harmonious, with total exposure to all atmospheric events, ideal organic exploitation for a homogeneous amount of soil for each individual plant and root system forced to push towards the deepest part of the soil rich in minerals.’ Each vine is treated ‘as if it were an individual and the vineyard like a community’.
Tenuta di Castellaro also grow Malvasia and the reds Nero d'Avola and Corinto (see the mapped vineyards below), the last producing an unusual and deliciously light-boded red from a grape that is traditionally dried for currants (though I see Walter wasn't quite so taken with it when he tasted it late last year). Their Bianco Pomice, a blend of Malvasia and Carricante, is excellent, with just a touch more oak influence but still wonderful freshness (hard to find outside Italy).
The Porticello is imported into the UK by Flint Wines and is available from their online retail arm Stannary St Wine Co and also from Bowland Forest Vintners and Uncorked. Stannary St charge £18.50 for a single bottle or £101.98 for a case of 6. According to the producer, the wine is available in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon and California as well as in Canada. They provided the following list of retailers in the US:
- Royal Wine Merchants, 13 South William Street, New York, NY 10004
- Forager's Wine Shop, 231 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011
- Joe Canal's, 3119 Fire Rd, Egg Harbor Townshop, NJ 08234
- Biondivino, 1415 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94109
- Enoteca La Storia, 320 W. St. John St., San Jose, CA 95110
- A16, 5356 College Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618
- Allora Wine Group, Liberty Avenue Unit Lot 2839, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
- Vinology Bottle Shop, 2314 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 77005
- 13 Celsius, 3000 Caroline St, Houston, TX 77004
And in Canada:
- Vine Arts Wine & Spirits, 1310 1 Street SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0V7
- Rocky Mountain Wine, 5-225 58 Avenue SE, Calgary, AB T2H 0N8
- Color de Vino, 9606 82 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6C 1A1
- Vin Papillon, 2591 Rue Notre Dame, Montréal, QC H3J 1N4
- Boucherie Lorrain, 145 Boul. Labelle, Rosemere, QC J7A 1B1