This spring I was fortunate enough to be invited to Sicilia En Primeur, and had the option of arriving a day early to explore a wine region; I am sorry to be so slow in posting this, but this is not an easy year for us. Returning to the trip. I chose to visit Trapani, and enjoyed a wonderful evening in Enna, a town perched high above the salt pans Trapani is famed for; the day was brisk with beautiful blue skies that set everything into sharp relief, and after the sun fell the fog came in, wreathing all in shadowy mist — They told us we had been treated to both summer and winter weather.
The next morning we visited the salt pans of Trapani, and took a ferry to the island of Mozia, which was inhabited by the Carthaginians, and then went with Benedetta Poretti to Cantine Florio, which are every bit as impressive as I remembered them, and perhaps more so — they succeeded in convincing the health people that packed earth floors (which help maintain constant humidity and temperature) to not pose a threat, and were thus able to do away with the covering they had been forced to put down.
In the course of the tour Benedetta’s cellarmaster drew some Marsala from an older cask to be tasted with lunch, and then we began tasting, starting with Duca di Salaparuta, because in addition to having purchased Cantine Florio, the Poretti family has also bought Duca di Salaparuta, and they justly thought that Florio’s wines would work better after, rather than before Salaparuta.
Duca di Salaparuta Kados Risignolo 2010
This is a Grillo in Purezza from grapes grown by their suppliers in the Agrigentino. Delicate gold with golden reflections. The bouquet is intense, with citrus and gunflint mingled with some wet toast, which is due to the thickness of the skins, and slight oxidative accents as well. Quite elegant, and there is also a pleasing flinty underpinning. On the palate it’s full, with rich mineral fruit supported by flinty tannins from grapes, and by slight caramelized — not sweet — accents, while there is also quite a bit of sea breeze too, which carries into a long rather flinty finish. Quite pleasant, revolving more around minerality than acidity, and will drink very well with grilled or roasted fish, and also has quite enough backbone for white meats.
Duca di Salaparuta Passo delle Mula Sicilia IGT 2009
This is Nero D’Avola, from central Sicily, and is lightly oaked in large casks before aging further in bottle. Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim with slight hints of orange. The bouquet is fresh, with cherry fruit supported by berry fruit and bitter orange acidity, and by slight spicy sandalwood accents with some eucalyptus as well. Quite a bit going on in a fresh fruit driven key, and inviting. On the palate it’s medium bodied, with fairly rich cherry fruit supported by bitter orange acidity and by fairly light tannins that flow into a warm rather sour fruit finish that’s quite long, fading into orange notes. Quite pleasant, and versatile too; it will drink well with simple grilled meats or light stews, and also with white meats; it’s also soft enough that one could drink it by the glass, if you’re not put off by some tannins and some acidity.
Duca di Salaparuta Lavico Sicilia IGT 2008
This is Nerello Mascalese from Mount Etna; they have rented vineyards on the mountain, and this is their first vintage from the grapes that they handled — prior vintages were from bought grapes. Elegant crystalline ruby. The bouquet is rich, with floral accents mingled with some berry fruit and some spice with underlying oak and pleasing mentholated accents. Deft. On the palate it’s rich, with savory mineral laced sour berry fruit supported by some cedar and slight bitter orange acidity, and by tannins that are warm and smooth, with considerable flinty mineral accents that flow into a long savory finish. Quite pleasant, though a bit more demanding than the Passo delle Mula — it wants your attention — and will work very well with grilled meats; lamb chops or a well marbled steak would be nice. Expect it to age well for 5-8 years.
Baglio Florio Marsala Vergine DOC 1998
Tawny amber with slightly greenish leathery reflections and pale greenish brown rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with leather and walnut skin mingled with rancio and dried fruit, slight dates and figs, with pleasant underlying sweetish oatmeal. Young, and fresh. On the palate it’s ample, and still very young, with intense walnuts and some nut skins mingled with hardwood and quite a bit of alcohol that flows into a long walnut skin finish with savory accents and minerality. It’s pleasant, though I might have liked a little more acidity; the bitterness and nutty aspects carry the wine and do a fine job, but more acidity would have given more verve, Like all young Marsala, it needs time.
Donna Franca Marsala Superiore Riserva Semisecco
Tawny amber with apricot reflections and greenish brown rim. The bouquet is intense, with sweet dates and dried figs mingled with walnut skins and sweetness, and pleasant sea alt; there’s quite a bit going on and considerable depth. On the palate it’s full and rich, with powerful sweet dried fruit supported by very intense walnut skin butterness and savory accents with fairly rich minerality and leathery alcohol that continue at length into a bitter finish with walnut skins in abundance that lasts and lasts. Very fine, and most enjoyable to drink.
Florio Aegusa Marsala Superiore Riserva Semisecco 1964
Aegusa was a wine the Florio family made for themselves, selecting the best vintage of a given decade. The tradition continues, and this was the best vintage of the 60s, bottled in 2008. Tawny amber with brilliant apricot reflections and greenish brown rim. The bouquet is intense, with almonds and dried fruit supported by rancio and alcohol with some underlying sweetish accents with slight mentholated notes, also slight lacquer and some licorice root. Most impressive. On the palate it’s full, with powerful greenish apricot fruit supported by very bright acidity and by sweetness that balances beautifully with the acidity, and some almond skin bitterness, and it flows into a long sweet almond skin finish. A beautiful wine, vibrant and extremely elegant, and if you taste it you will find a great many other “dessert” wines rather boring thereafter. It is also still quite young.
Florio Marsala 1939
Moroccan leather with orange apricot reflections and brownish green rim. The bouquet is intense, with sweetness and dried figs mingled with walnut skins and bright savory candied bitter orange acidity, and also quite a bit of alcohol, and some quinine, and rhubarb, and one could go on and on because it has a great many facets. On the palate it’s astonishingly vibrant, with brilliant bitter orange fruit and acidity mingled with dried candied bitter oranges and supported by walnut skin bitterness and alcohol that flow into a very long savory bitter finish with underlying walnuts skins that lasts and lasts… Extraordinarily vital, and a wine that is the stuff of dreams. Beautiful, though it is a wine that requires a certain amount of experience to enjoy. If you have never had a Marsala it will simply bowl you over and have you wondering what happened. In short, something for purists.
Other wines, tasted at the Sicilia En Primeur presentation:
Duca di Salaparuta Corvo Bianco IGP Sicilia 2011
Inzolia and Grecanico.
Brassy white with slightly greenish golden reflections and white rim. The bouquet is moderately intense and rather pungent, with minerality more than fruit and some underlying bitter accents. On the palate it’s ample with moderate lemony fruit supported by some sea salt and minerality, and by moderate acidity that is sufficient to provide direction, and it flows into a clean citric finish with savory underpinning. It’s a simple up front wine, which doesn’t demand but will support what it’s served with, and will go quickly
Duca di Salaparuta Calanica IGP Sicilia 2011
Inzolia and Chardonnay.
Brassy greenish gold with brilliant greenish reflections and white rim. The bouquet is quite mineral, with some citric accents and slight savory notes. On the palate it’s bright, with lively lemony fruit supported by gunflint bitterness and some brambly bitter accents that flow into a fairly long savory sour lemon finish with underlying gunflint. Pleasant, and bright, and displays nice character, will drink well with foods and be quite versatile.
Duca di Salaparuta Corvo Rosso IGP Sicilia 2011
Nero D’Avola and Nerello Mascalese.
Black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with red berry fruit supported by some berry fruit acidity and slight vegetal notes; it’s clean and fresh, in a fairly direct key. On the palate it’s bright,with lively cherry fruit supported by sour cherry acidity and by tannins that have a warm slightly greenish burr, and flow into a clean slightly greenish cherry finish. Pleasant in a direct key, and quite fresh; it will drink very well with foods and also be quite versatile, working well with everything from hearty soups and pasta dishes through simple grilled meats and roasts. Expect it to go quickly.
Duca di Salaparuta Calanica IGP Sicilia 2011
Frappato and Syrah.
Deep cherry ruby with violet rim. The bouquet is bright and fresh, with lively strawberry cherry fruit supported by wild strawberry acidity; it’s quick to write but harmonious and pleasant to sniff in a lively fresh key. On the palate it’s fairly light, with lively juicy cherry raspberry fruit supported by wild strawberry raspberry acidity, and by tannins that are smooth and soft and have a slight burr, and flow into a bright fresh berry fruit finish. Quite direct, and very easy to drink, in a lively tart key; it will work well with simple grilled meats, including fattier cuts such as sausages, and also be a nice cookout wine. Expect it to go quickly in the proper setting.
Florio Aegusa Marsala Superiore Riserva Semisecco 1952
Tawny brownish Moroccan leather with greenish brown rim. The bouquet is rich, with powerful brown sugar mingled with walnut skins and dried tates, and supported by bright acidity, while there is also considerable alcoholic warmth, and with more swishing spice and almonds also emerge, as do dried figs and dried apricot acidity. Beautiful to sniff and with a great many facets. On the palate it’s full and rich, with sweet dried apricot fruit laced with dates and some fig on the first sip, which then give way to alcohol and warmth, with walnuts and nut skins that go on and on. Beautiful, captivating, and why we get excited about old Marsala.