The Wine: Njuro Perricone 2015
Il Censo Njuro Perricone is a red natural wine made from 100% Perricone organic grapes grown in Sicily.
The Producer: Il Censo
Courtesy of our long friendship with Giampiero Bea, the Umbrian wunderkind and son of Paolo Bea, we had the special good fortune of meeting Gaetano and Nicoletta Gargano, the proprietors of Il Censo, an estate of 65 hectares situated in Bivona in the south-central zone of Sicily near the town of Palazzo Adriana, the site of the wonderful film, Cinema Paradiso. Gaetano’s family, through his mother’s side (family name: Spoto), has owned Il Censo for over 200 years.
Production over the years was principally of grains and legumes but there was also a small vineyard planted to Perricone and Malvasia Nera and an old olive grove the trees of which are now 100 years of age. The name “Il Censo” literally means “census” but in this instance most likely refers to the obligations of the tenant farmers to pay tribute to the landowning family, a system that dates back to feudal times. The name predates the Spoto time of ownership.
As has been the case so often, much of the agricultural activity at Il Censo was abandoned over the years. Gaetano met Giampiero Bea about 25 years ago and fell in love with the work the Bea family was doing in Montefalco. Ultimately, Gaetano determined to reinvigorate the farming activity at Il Censo and, with the guidance of Giampiero, began by planting 5 hectares of vineyards split between the white Cataratto grape and the black Perricone variety.
The vineyards are situated high on an undulating volcanic outcropping. An additional four hectares have recently been planted which will come into production between the 2015 and 2017 vintages. This newest planting regime includes Nero d’Avola and Malvasia Nera in addition to Cataratto and Perricone. The olive grove has also been revived and is now producing about 500 liters of a certified organic, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, small quantities of which will make its way into our hands for the US market.
The entire agricultural enterprise is managed organically. Vinification is conducted under the principles developed by Giampiero Bea. Our first viticultural foray into Sicily has already proven to be an exciting adventure, a natural extension of our nearly forty year immersion in the wines of Italy.
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 over 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.