The Wine: SP68 Bianco 2022
Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Bianco is a white natural wine made from a blend of 60% Moscato di Alessandria and 40% Albanello organic grapes grown near the town of Vittoria, Sicily. The name refers to "Strada Provinciale 68" a roadway near the town of Vittoria, home to Arianna Occhipinti. SP68 Bianco is aged for 6 months in concrete vats, made with native yeasts, unfiltered, unfined, no added sulfites.
The Producer: Arianna Occhipinti
Occhipinti is located in the Vittoria region of the southeastern coast of Sicily between the Mediterranean Sea and inland mountains. Owner, winemaker, and viticulturist Arianna Occhipinti founded the estate in 2004, bottled her first commercial vintage in 2006 and today works exclusively with estate fruit. Her 25 hectares are certified-organic and practicing biodynamic and feature only native Sicilian varietals: 50% Frappato, 35% Nero d'Avola, and 15% white varieties Albanello and Zibibbo (aka Muscat of Alexandria). The Frappato and Nero d'Avola vines range from 10-year-old guyot-trained vines which she planted all the way up to 60-year-old alberello-trained vines which she rented initially and was later able to add her holdings. Total production is approximately 10,000 cases annually.
Arianna started at age 16 in her uncle Giusto Occhipinti's cellar--he being the proprietor of Vittoria's most famous winery, COS--and loved it, enough to go to enology school and to jump right into her own production. She began with a mere one hectare of abandoned vines attached to a family vacation house. Though university imparted technical knowledge of a sort, the main influence on her ways in vineyard and cellar was in fact her uncle, who raised his wines as well as his niece on organic viticulture, harvest by hand, and native-yeast fermentations, none of which is typical of Sicily's bulk-driven wine production. In Arianna's own words: "Not irrigating, harvesting late and not using fertilizers are the secret to making more elegant wines in the area. The freshness and minerality in my wines come from the subsoils. Any wine made from young vines or chemically grown vines feeding only off of the topsoil will have the cooked, hot characteristics people associate with wine from warm regions."
Arianna's star has risen very quickly over the last decade in the wine world, and she is rightly regarded as a symbol of success in the world of biodynamic farming and natural winemaking. She has remained committed to those principles while evolving from her originally more dogmatic outlook. (source: David Bowler)
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.