Sicily’s stickies have been favourites among sweet wine lovers for some time; a modest following of these low production labels from the island of Pantelleria, or the towns of Noto and Siracusa has been gaining momentum for years now.
Consumers are attracted to the intensely rich aromas of orange peel, honey and citrus and the often luxuriously but naturally sweet palate of mango, lychee and candy.
Rarely though has this winemaking success translated into the courage to ferment the Muscat de Alexandria grape, or Zibibbo as it is known in western Sicily, to full dryness; creating a dry and structured white wine from this variety has always been seen as craziness.
Perhaps it is. But Marco de Bartoli’s ‘Pietranera’ however is one such example of the quality that can be achieved with a little risk and know how. Famous for producing one of Sicily’s truly magnificent sweet wines, (the Bukkuram Passito di Pantelleria), he has been working away at this wine since 1989.
Just 2500 bush vines per hectare are planted on three hectares in Contrada Cufurà on the island of Pantelleria and are now almost 60 years old. North facing so as to curb the risk of over ripening, Zibibo is hand harvested in the first half of September and destemmed before undergoing a cold maceration. Two thirds of the resulting wine is aged in steel tank while the remainder is aged in French oak to facilitate additional complexity.
Marrying the zesty character of the nose with a complex, mineral driven palate, this is a truly interesting wine. Aromas of concentrated lemon gushes from the glass while in the mouth, the distinctive aura of Pantelleria’s black volcanic soils comes through strongly. The wine is indeed dry, but nevertheless, quenching. One sip provokes contemplation, and then undoubtedly requires another.