The names we give our children are thought about long and hard: will that be who they are; will it define them; will it hinder them; is it who I am, am I the mother of a Zachary or a Jack? The names chosen by Angelo and Marilina Paterno for their wines show the same focus, and they tell an important story about the wines and the father and daughter team who make them.
Currivu: stubborn, does their own thing; Ruversa: different from what is expected; Sketta: an independent single woman. These wines were born of Angelo’s desire to make organic wines in exactly the way he wanted. Having put in his time in a large, conventional winery, he knew what he didn’t want, and was able to experiment with alternative, natural winemaking methods before buying his own vineyard.
Angelo and winemaker Assia Giolli make wines that are very much Sicilian. Closer to Africa than to most of Italy, their grapes and wines reflect their terroir and location, and their farming and harvesting are all in tune with their surroundings. This is reflected in their recent award of sustainability certification. Although they are also organic, this focuses on the business as a whole and it’s CO2 emissions, spending months assessing their energy and water use, transport of wines, packaging, waste, and even the distance travelled by their workers to get to the winery.
Assia speaks about the importance of biodiversity and how it ultimately gives better fertility, structure, and substances to the soil which benefits the grapes. Their aim is always to keep the characteristics of their grapes, so they practice very low intervention in both the vineyard and the cellar. Angelo’s philosophy is to put in nothing and take out nothing. For example, sometimes malolactic fermentation happens in the white wines, sometimes it doesn’t, Assia and Angelo neither encourage nor prevent it.
They grow mainly indigenous varieties like Grecanico and Nero D’Avola, but grow two international varieties, Viognier and Chardonnay. These make the distinctive Currivu, and represents the decision of Angelo to make wine as he wishes, naming it after the Sicilian word for ‘stubborn’. This wine is non-vintage, giving them the freedom to blend from different years’ harvests to get the wine they want.
The Nero d’Avola is a lighter, livelier wine than usual from this hot part of the world, again reflected in the name, Ruversa: ‘going back’, using old traditional methods like longer maceration in concrete, bit without aggressive pumping. This wine is not the modern, blockbuster version of the grape. To keep alcohol levels low in all the wines, harvesting is early. Their location close to the sea also helps, with the temperature about 5 degrees lower than further inland. Fermenting in concrete is another natural temperature control method.
Grecanico likes to work alone, hence the name Sketta for this wine. Ripening often 6 weeks after the other white grapes, it is harvested later and is fermenting in the cellar when all the other white grapes are well on their way to being wine.
With all the wines, fermentation is with natural yeast, keeping all that biodiversity in the wines. Maceration of the whites on the skins for 5/6 hours gives a richness and structure which beautifully balances that early-harvest acidity. Only old oak barrels are used for aging, so their purpose is micro-oxygenation and time, not to add flavour.
Having named their wines according to their individual characteristics, the winemaker does not tell us how the wine should taste. Assia believes that every bottle has a different life, no two being exactly the same. They have brought them to the point of maturity, now they can go out into the world and tell their own story.