19 Apr Sicily – Part 5 Alessandro Camporeale
(Pubblicato su Pietrovini.com, 19 aprile 2020)
Well this press tour last May, Sicilia en Primeur 2019, had a super busy schedule and we got to visit so many fabulous vineyards in just a few days. After Rapitala (last blog Part 4) we are just down the road fifteen minutes to Alessandro Camporeale.
We arrived up a palm lined driveway set in a the most beautiful valley surrounded by mountains in the distance.
Alessandro Camporeale was started by 3 brothers, and now 3 of their children.
Camporeale is a small village between the Palermo and Trapani areas. It is about halfway (north to south Sicily) between Palermo and Menfi. We are quite high up here at about 450m above sea level. The vineyards of 45 Hectares range from 350-600metres above sea level. Its an unusual climate here as its surrounded almost 360° by mountains, which gives the area a high humidity, strong winds, a large diurnal temperature variation. (DIURNAL – Is difference between day and night temperatures). Its actually considered to be more of a continental rather than a Mediterranean climate.
They are in the middle of two DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) Alcomo and Monreale. They have now joined Monreale DOC (more about that in a few blogs time) but they currently classify their wines as Sicilia DOC.
They grow native varieties of Catarratto, Grillo and Nero D’Avola, then international varieties of Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.
The terroir is very diverse across their 45 hectares so they are able to match the perfect grapes to their preferred soil conditions. the SB, Grillo and Catarratto need sandy south facing plots where as the Nero D’Avola wants its roots in clay giving a big structure with smoother tannins. Oh and the Syrah wants the altitude!.
They are completely organic farmers, with only sulphur and copper used in the vineyards. to spray the crops. In fact they have been for years, although pre 2012 in Italy you could only have Organic grapes but not wine. In 2012 the new European standard allowed wines to be certified organic too. Following organic principles they utilise small but important measures including, Roses planted at the end of each line of vines, these actually are an early warning system for fungus attacks on the vines. Green manure is used to promote soil fertility and it protects the land from erosion. To support biodiversity, they plant hedges and shrubs near the rows to establish many precious organisms which combat parasites.
When it comes to the farming, more than 80% of their vines surround the vineyard, which allows them, at harvest time, using small two ton trucks to get the grapes picked and into the press in less than 2 hours. All their work in the vineyard is always done manually except the tilling of the land with a tractor. Their harvest starts mid August with Grillo and finishes with Catarratto at the end of September. They only harvest from daybreak for the first few hours to avoid the heat of the day stressing the grapes.
Now onto the winery, this is where Organic meets super high tech!. They built the winery in 2000 but we are in a new high tech part installed last year.
Sorry the next paragraph you may want to skip if you are not a WINE GEEK (but I suppose if you are not why are you reading this in the first place HAHA)
The white variety of grapes arrive at the winery within a maximum of 2 hours of picking, straight into the destemmer and crusher, it then goes into a heat exchanger unit cooling the grapes to 10-12°c. Straight onto the press with no skin contact or maceration, this is done to sustain the acidity and the freshness of their wines.
On the above photo you see AIR PRESS, when the grapes come through the heat exchanger into the press they are then introduced to Nitrogen. Their whole system is filled with Nitrogen to avoid oxygen getting into the grapes/wines making sure there is no oxidation. Once pressed it’s straight through an isolated pressure system to Nitrogen filled tanks. When the wines are ready for bottling then the pressurised system continues to the bottling line. The bottles go through the wash and then are prefilled with Nitrogen, when the wine goes in it expels the Nitrogen. In fact the first time these wines will see oxygen is when you pull out that cork of the bottle.
Its a very high tech and a bloody clever system that ensures the whites wines keep their characters, aromatics and are respectful of their origins. They can also use low levels sulphur too.
The reds are very much more traditional wine making in an open press. Then into Tonneau barrels for the Syrah, all in French oak, and stainless steel tanks for the Nero D’Avola. In 2014 they changed from smaller barrique barrels to twice the size, 500 litre tonneau. Light to medium toasting of the barrels only is used and they use various French manufacturers to add different tertiary notes to the wines allowing them to make the perfect blend of the same grapes.
Now its time for a Catarratto tasting, then lunch together with their amazing red wines too. Cataratto has 3 bio types, Comune, Lucido and Extra Lucido. Extra Lucido is not recognised under Italian regulations so its always classed as Lucido…… Comune and Lucido grow faster, are harvested earlier and have more characteristics of lemon and orange citrus, while Extra Lucido is more spicy and slow ripening giving a higher acidity.
We start the tasting with something I have never tasted, a sparkling Catarratto.
Catarratto Metodo Classico 2016 (EXTRA LUCIDO)
Whoa… This stopped me in my tracks as soon as I plonked my nose is this wine. Perlarge is HUGE and its spicy, white pepper, ginger, and herbs galore not what I was expecting at all. ( Interestingly after this had been in the glass throughout the tasting I went back to it and now a creaminess had evolved and it was much rounder too)
Ok…….. then we are told that this wine has been brought out especially for us and its from their first vintage. In fact so far it has only spent 24 months on the lees out of its minimum intended of 36mths. Its just been disgorged early for us and its zero dosage… hallelujah!
Its super bright and fresh with citrus and green apple on the palate although its only 2/3rds of its way through ageing and its acidity is bracing. I’m sure this will become a superb wine with another year to go. Brilliant and so unexpected. At this stage they have no idea if it will ever need a dosage…. they say even if it does it will me maximum 2-3g. I hope it needs none. 2016 was a cool dry summer which was perfect for Catarratto extra lucido.
The next two wines were Benedè 100% Catarratto 2017 and 2018 together for a comparison on vintages. They could not have been any different! BLACK AND WHITE different. Why? its simple, 2017 was a hot vintage with hardly any rain and more than ten days over 40°c, yet the 2018 was a much colder vintage and loads of rain. In fact there were five days in August when they had the same rainfall that they would expect in an average February.
2017 Straight away its full of fruit, lemon zest, grapefruit, white peach, some almonds and tropical notes in there too. Its still super fresh, bright and lively with acidity. It has so many layers of structure and so well balanced.
2018 While this has many of the characteristics of the 17? its skinnier, more refrained in every way, yet still elegant and a wonderful long dry finish. Much brighter in apperance compared to the much more straw yellow of the 2017 however I’m not sure if that’s just because of an extra year in the bottle or the vintage. (Note to self ask more questions!) Both these wines were vinified as discussed above and aged for five months on the lees in stainless steel before bottling. The Catarratto grapes for this wine are Comune & Lucido bio types from an altitude of 420m.
Next is the 2015 Vigna di Mandranova Catarratto 100% Lucido from 580m altitude.
Bright straw yellow with tinges of green around the rim. The nose is green apples, lemon peel, white flowers and much more floral than the Benedè. 2015 was a pretty good vintage in this area and quite hot but enough rain to balance the season.
The wine spends 10 months on the lees in stainless steel, and now has spent 3 years in the bottle. A wonderful wine, less fruit than the above but so rounded with a beautiful rich full mouthfeel. It has almonds, spice galore, minerality, rosemary, balsamic and the finish just never ends with flavours galore. (again going back to this wine later during lunch I found it had now developed a toasty buttered brioche note on the nose even though its never seen oak.
Interestingly in 2006 there was only about 20 producers of Catarrato in Sicily and nearly all of this was used for the production of Marsala wines. As of 2019 this is now the most cultivated grape in the whole of Italy except for Glera used for Prosecco.
LUNCH TIME and now for the REDS.
Steak tartare, Spaghetti with capers, and an amazing pork loin with patata al forno (ROASTIES!)
So the Reds:
We were privileged to be tasting from Magnum, always great as the more in the bottle the more expressive the wines become.
Kaid 2015 Magnum 100% Syrah
This is truly a wonderful wine, it’s dark ruby red with violet rim, heavenly on the nose. Black cherries, rich black currant syrup, cocoa, roasting coffee, cloves, peppery… in fact the longer I had my nose in the glass I could probably add another fifteen to the above.
Instant seduction the moment it hits your lips. Powerful, velvety, with a full bodied structure. The fruit is incredible so luscious in your mouth, together with acidity and a silky well balance tannin. I absolutely loved this wine and I have to say one of the best wines I had the pleasure of on this press week. (and that’s out of 500+ wines)
Next was Donnatà 100% Nero d’Avola 2017
Fermented for 7 days in Stainless steel (SS) tanks with 12 days maceration in a temperature controlled environment. Malolactic fermentation in SS followed by six months in SS tanks. Also a small part of the mass remains in big oak cask. 10 Months bottle ageing before release.
Ruby red with bright edges in the glass, very aromatic on the nose, with Cherry, Blackberry, cocoa and wonderful waft of Mediterranean herbs.
Its Blackberries, then cherries that shine through, its intense but elegant, soft tannins and a sheer joy. Very much more elegant than most Nero D, due to the cool climate and altitude of the vines.
So we are about to finish, as our guide needs us to move on to the next winery!!, when they bring out one more wine. The Grillo.
Grillo is in fact the son of Catarratto and Zibibbo. Originally created in the 19th century for the use in the production of Marsala wines. Its the perfect grape for Marsala because even in poor vintages it ripens easily and provides lots of sugar if wanted.
Grillo 2018 Vigna di Mandranova
2018 was a cold and rainy summer. So this vintage is quite different to normal Grillo. Usually you have an explosion of tropical zesty notes but this wine is much greener in style. Not so expressive although its still super fresh with a mineral backbone that’s a delight.
Grazie Amici, Salute
You can visit the winery if you are in Sicliy – WHEN WE ARE ALLOWED TO TRAVEL AGAIN!
Email Anna – firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out their website Alessandro Camporeale
Facebook: Alessandro Camporeale
In the UK their wines are distributed by Alivini.com which reminds me I must order some!
Their wines are distributed all over the world and great value too, so check out Mr Google. If you are struggling and want their wines please email Benedetto email@example.com