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Tenuta Dei Fossi, Sicily:
My recent trip to Sicily included just one trip to a vineyard. And, I suspect I was not alone in losing concentration on the wine once I saw the feast of food provided for us as part of the wine tasting. This spread is just part of the first course! The food was rustic and filling – a real diversion!
For all that, our tour was a fascinating insight into wine making in an area that is further South than Tunisia. Wine has been made in Sicily for millennia. There is evidence that Mycenaean traders cultivated grapes as early at 1,500 BC and when the Greeks began to settle in Sicily in the 8th century BC, they introduced several varieties of vines. Tenuta Dei Fossi is a winery in the Pachino region (where the famous Pachino tomatoes come from) of south-eastern Sicily, a territory well rooted in winemaking tradition. It was established in 2001, when the current owner Angelo Paterno, bought the land formerly known as Poggio dei Fossi to build his own winery after having learnt his trade working for other Sicilian winemakers. The wines are all organic, grapes harvested by hand and fermented in large concrete vats that were built to enable the vineyard to operate through the extreme heats of Sicilian summer, a modern version of traditional Dolium
We were taken on a tour of the winery and the vines by the owner who explained he preferred to produce single grape variety wines and that in addition to producing traditional Sicilian grape varieties he also cultivates Syrah, Viognier, Merlot and Chardonnay. He explained a little about effect of the chalky soil, the extreme climate and the vine training system. Some of his vines are produced using alberello training – traditional in Sicily because of the temperatures in summer. That included both my favourites – the 100% Moscato wine, ‘Piaggia di Stella’ which is made using late harvested vine dried grapes and the Nero D’Avola ‘Ruversa’ which is produced with no filtering or refrigeration and is intended to be served at a relatively low temperature.
It’s an interesting challenge, to produce French grape varieties in a climate that is closer to that of Africa. And, for me at least, the most successful wines were Piaggia di Stelle, Ruversa and the other Sicilian grape variety wine, Sketta, a white Grecanico grape wine which really did taste like a Greek wine (in a good way), rather than the ‘International’ varieties, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and Viogner, which were pleasant enough but not exceptional.
I am not normally a fan of sweet wines, but this one really did work for me. And, I regret taking a smallish suitcase with absolutely no space to bring a bottle back.
We were charmed by the winemaker and his family – one daughter is already training to follow in his footsteps. And, I personally spent rather too long taking pictures of the little puppy sleeping in the grass by the winery