April 2013
Discovery & authenticity
Michael Preis, VP of marketing at Palm
Bay International, based in Port Wash-
ington, NY, says: “Merchants and res-
taurateurs are always looking for some-
thing new, and so are consumers. Wines
like Feudi di San Gregario and Mastro-
beradino from Campania, and Planeta
from Sicily, and other great southern
Italian and Sicilian wines like them,
really fit this bill.”
Discovery is the order of the day at
Vino Fine Wines & Spirits, a New York
store that offers an in-depth collection
of Italian wines. Owner Adam Linet says
Vino customers are attracted to reds from
Puglia, Campania and Sicily, many from
obscure (at least to Americans) indig-
enous varieties. In his shop, wines such
as a 2009 Basalta from Patria in Sicily,
made from Nerello Mascalese and Ner-
ello Cappuccio grapes, at $18, and Poderi
Angelini’s 100% Susumaniello, an IGT
bottling priced at $21, are selling well. Linet
believes that customers simply love the ad-
venture of trying something “new and may-
be a little bit strange! Who ever heard of the
Susumaniello grape? Many clients come in
curious and ready to experiment.”
Alessio Planeta, co-owner of Sic-
ily’s boutique Planeta winery, whose
headquarters are in Menfi, in the island’s
Agrigento region, says indigenous variet-
ies like Frappatto and Nerello Mascalese
are back in vogue and here to stay. Pla-
neta boasts vineyard holdings situated
across six distinct wine regions totaling
nearly 1,000 acres; but he emphasizes
how Planeta and fellow winemakers
across the island and mainland are re-
turning to ancient varieties. The dif-
ference is the new generation is armed
with the latest viticultural technique
and winemaking technologies, all in or-
der to focus on authenticity and quality.
But the Planetas, like their counterparts
in southern Italy, are not afraid of in-
novation either, vinifying and blending
regional grapes with international vari-
eties from Merlot and Syrah to Cabernet
Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Camilo Ceballos of Omniwines,
a New York City wine importer who
hosted a tasting sponsored by a group of
Sicilian winemakers in 2012, notes that
even though Sicily has almost 700,000
acres alone under vine, “There’s been a
definite drive to quality combined with
a return to cultivating indigenous va-
rieties, including efforts from cutting-
edge proprietors like Bianchi and Mar-
co de Bartoli.”
It was not so long ago that Corvo
first put Sicily on the map—and it still
holds a strong presence here. Today,
however, retailers and chefs know that
many consumers want to focus more on
“discovery” wines from the Primitivo,
Negromaro (also spelled Negroamaro)
and Nerello grapes, while others gravi-
tate to innovative blends featuring Cab-
ernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/or Syrah.
New and old, it all adds up to southern
Italy’s newest wine renaissance, a wel-
come development in Mezzogiorno and
Sicily’s long winemaking history.
A new generAtion, Armed with
technology, is focusing on Ancient
grApes—but winemAkers Are not
AfrAid of creAtive blending either.
LEFT: The Planeta
family’s estate at
Sambuca di Sicilia;
the current generation
—Alessio, Francesca
and Santi Planeta—
have planted diverse
Sicilian soils with
both indigenous and
international grape
RIGHT: Feudi di San
Gregorio invested
$20 million into a
modernized facility
with the capacity to
house 5,000 barrels.
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