19 May New Wines at Planeta, Alessandro di Camporeale & Sant’ Anastasia in Sicily
(Posted by Dolce Tours, May 19, 2010)
One of the great things about running wine tours is being able to follow wineries as they develop and grow.
We’ve been coming to Sicily since 2002, so we’ve witnessed significant change. It’s ironic, given Sicily’s 2,500-year viticultural history. But despite this ancient wine culture, Sicily is one of Italy’s newest, hottest wine zones.
“How did you find me?” That was Antonino Alessandro’s first question when we rang his doorbell in 2002. Ithad taken a concerted effort. Marsala producer Marco de Bartoli had tipped us off about this brand-new winery—built in 2000 by a fourth generation grape-growing family. Driving into in the dusty village of Camporeale, we felt like strangers arriving in a Western cow town. All eyes were trained on us, sizing up the unfamiliar rental car, the ‘foreign’ Italian driver, the blonde navigator. A group of black-clad retirees provided directions to the tiny courtyard that de Bartoli had described, but every doorbell bore the name “Alessandro.” Ringing each one, we finally found Antonino Alessandro and were buzzed in.
By profession a geometra (something between an architect and a contractor), Antonino had an office lined with thick books that imparted an air of expertise. But he himself was an intimidating figure. Big and burly, with thick black eyebrows and a thicker Sicilian accent, his How did you find me? was reminiscent of too many mafia movies. But the question was perfectly legitimate. After all, he’d only built his winery two years earlier, and his first release coincided with our visit—a Syrah called Kaid, or “the boss” in Arabic. We dropped de Bartoli’s name, and he nodded, pleased, and instantly metamorphosed into the most gracious host, a proud father delighted to show off his new baby.
Eight years later, Alessandro di Camporeale’s production has grown from 60,000 to 160,000 bottles, and from a single Syrah to four labels. The latest is something truly unique: a red Sicilian dessert wine. Called Kaid Vendemmia Tardiva, or Late Harvest Kaid, this is another pure Syrah. Dried for one month on the vine (a method that involves pinching the stem while the bunch is still attached), this wine is difficult to produce, so only 5,000 bottles are made. We found it absolutely delectable, a seductive nectar with blackberry and blueberry flavors, and an ability to pair equally well with sweets like vanilla gelato, cheesecake, or dark chocolate, or with aged pecorino.