Sicilian "Natural Wines"

In Sicily, an increasing number of wine producers sharing a respectful and concerned approch to nature, have managed to translate this love for their land into excellent quality wines. This is why in our cookery tour, we only visit producers of organic wines who are using a combination of ancient and innovative techniques in the name of quality and sustainability, starting from the field up to the bottle.

This morning, I turned my laptop on and found that all my Sicilian wine loving friends on FB where talking about a video where a producer, Antonio Barraco, from the other part of Sicily near Marsala, is explaining his views on wine making and producing, what he calls, "Natural Wines".

The video is in Italian, but, as I found it really interesting, I decided to transcribe it in English. Below you can watch the video and read my translation. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Antonio Barraco e la Sicilia del vino new global.

"Natural wine" is the wine that does not make you feel sick, which means there are no chemicals in it and is made from organic grapes.
Traditional wine is the one your granpa made and you keep making it in the same way. "Natural wine" is a different story. You have to think about reduced yield, creating biodiversity in the field. The objective is not just cultivating vines anymore, but bringing life to your land, develop biodiversity planting other things, planting trees within the vineyards to attract animals back to the land, have birds eating grapes. It has to be a marriage between you and the terroir.

Is it always so windy here?

Yes, one of the characteristics that allow cataratto and grillo grapes to reach their best. During blooming time they need wind, these grapes are the "daughters" of wind.

You see, here they threw some weed-killer and here they did not. We are turning our land into a desert, this is the truth. We have to take responsibility and start producing in a healthier way.

When I started making wine I looked back at the history of my terroir, the history of Sicily and marsala in particular, and I realised there is no history of wine making in Sicily with the exception of Marsala wine. Sicily started making wine in the 1980s. My aim was to use local grape varieties and try making the kind of wines that where here before the English arrived in my area.
I chose the most representative grapes I had, making wine with Cataratto, Grillo and Zibibbo, which are the grapes my dad planted in the vineyard 10-15 years ago.
The method is simple, I use a 100kg per hour stalk-stripping and crushing machine. The grapes arrive, grape-stalks are removed and when they are pressed,, they go into fermentation vasks under controlled temperature, because here in Sicily we can have high temperatures and I prefer to have a cold initial fermentation phase. Consider that when grapes get here at 10-11 am they are already quite warm and we risk serious problems otherwise.

After 4 days for white wines and 12-15 days for red wines, I press them, fermentation for white wines continuous while for red wines it stops. I then let the malo-lactict fermentation do is course for both white and red wines, for this allows me not to use any sulfites. In this phase we have zero sulfites, even when the malo-lactic fermentation has ended.

To press, I use this vertical 50 years old press, which reflects our company's choice to combine the best past and modern times have to offer.

These wines are characterised by contrasts, I see them as people and, therefore, you have to be able to appreciate both their good a bad points. Referring to art, they are more like an abstract paintings which leave room to the imagination. Thinking of music, music with dissonant notes that create an interesting, charming sounds reaching the core of your emotions.

My Dad. I come from a family, where my great- grand father, grand father and father worked in the vineyards.
They had a strong link with vineyards, it is a very old technique that goes back thousand of years..

I have tried to combine my dad's knowledge with my interests. Year by year with got closer and closer, and hope to improve our research in the vineyard even further continuing to combine ma dad's experience to my ideas. It is an open dialogue that we try to perfect over time.

This f...king idea of making a "perfect wine" makes no sense.
When you find a special varietal with an interesting character and personality it is a sin to add 10% of another one.

Communication is important, our work has to be transparent, open to people who try our wines.....

Making "natural wines" is a matter of responsibility, you have to go further, you need to respect nature and the environment, you have to go beyond making a good wine...

People have to fall in love with "natural wines", because they are better than other wines; they have a wider aromatic profile, they have to be better in every aspect, with no "if" and no "but"!

Written on
May 25, 2010