The Wine: Sikelé Orange 2021
Cantina Marilina Sikelé Orange is a skin contact natural wine made from 100% organic Grecanico grapes grown in Noto, Sicily, on limestone soil. The grapes undergo a 13-hour maceration on the skins before pressing, and then they are fermented spontaneously in concrete vats with indigenous yeasts. Sikelé Orange is aged for 6 months in concrete, 3 months in bottle, and is unfiltered, unfined, with minimal addition of sulfites upon bottling.
No chemicals are added both in the vineyards and in the cellar and only native yeasts are used during vinification. The wine undergoes extended maceration on the skins after which is aged for 12 months in 60hl French oak barrels.
The Producer: Cantina Marilina
Angelo Paternò worked for 25 years as the winemaker and technical director for the Sicilian wineries Cantine Settesoli and then Duca di Salaparuta and then bought 60 hectares (148 acres) on a hill formerly known as Poggio dei Fossi in the southeastern Sicilian province of Siracusa, near the town of Pachino, where he thought the land was one of the best viticulture areas in Sicily. He handed the reins over to his daughters, Marilina and Federica, and still helps them in the cellar.
They grow organically and favor strict minimal intervention and additives in the cellar, with an approach influenced by local natural winemaking master Frank Cornelissen. Almost half of the land is dedicated to polyculture in order to nurture the ecosystem. On the other 35 hectares grow an array of grape varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Grecanico, Muscat Blanc, Moscato Giallo, Insolia, Merlot, Tannat, Viognier, and Chardonnay. In the cellar, fruit and freshness are preserved with the use of large concrete tanks for fermentation and elevage.
The Region: Sicily
Sicily is Italy’s biggest island and also its biggest region. It’s separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina (Stretto di Messina). The capital of Sicily is Palermo, a majestically decadent multicultural city offering one of the richest culinary traditions in Italy.
Sicily’s history and culture are fascinating, to say the least. Their complexity is manifest in the diverse architecture of its cities. All over the region and particularly in Palermo we can find Arab, Greek, Roman, and Spanish influences in the layout of the city as well as in the food and local language.
Sicily is the third biggest producing country in Italy, behind Veneto and Tuscany. The quality of Sicilian wines has increased steadily in the past 30 years. Some international grape varietals - mainly chardonnay and syrah - have found a place in Sicilian viticulture, traditionally dominated by native varietals such as Nero d’Avola, Catarratto, Grillo, and Inzolia.
The Terroir of Sicily
Sicily proximity to Northern Africa and position right at the center of the Mediterranean reflect deeply on its climate. Endless sunshine, moderate rainfalls, and good aeration characterize pretty much the whole region with minor seasonal variations. Palm trees and other tropical plants and fruits are a fairly common sight in Sicily all year round.
Among the several benefits of this climate one stands out: in Sicily, grapes can grow without being imperiled by mildew, rot, or any other disease brought by too much humidity. Sicilian grapes are generally speaking naturally healthy, hence the substantial number of certified organic or biodynamic wineries.
The Red Wines of Sicily
The most widely planted red grape varietal in Sicily is Nero d'Avola, which accounts for about 20% of the total regional wine production. Frappato is another prominent red varietal, used to make the only DOCG wine in Sicily, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG.
Less common but typical of Sicily are Alicante, similar to Grenache, Nocera, and Perrone often blended with Nero d'Avola. On the slopes of the active volcano Mount Etna, Nerello Mascalese, and Nerello Cappuccio are key red grape varietals in the popular Etna DOC appellation.
The White Wines of Sicily
Marsala and Passito di Pantelleria are perhaps the most famous Sicilian white wines, although their popularity has been waning over the years in favor of dry and refreshing white wines made from native varietals Inzolia and Grillo are fairly easy to find in the United States and generally very good.
In a similar way to Umbria, the Central Italian region known for the red tannic wine Sagrantino di Montefalco, Chardonnay has found its place also in Sicily. Chardonnay from Sicily can vary in quality depending on the producer.
On Primal Wine we sell one of the few 100% Chardonnay vinified with extended skin-contact in the style of an Orange Wine made by the excellent Marabino winery from organically farmed grapes.