The Wine: Zibibbo Orange 2019
Abbazia San Giorgio Zibibbo Orange is a skin-contact natural wine (orange wine) made from 100% Zibibbo grapes grown on Pantelleria Island, off the coast of Sicily, Southern Italy. The grapes are farmed with the use of some biodynamic techniques. No chemical fertilizers and synthetic products are used during cultivation. Most years the vineyard is left untouched. Fermentation is spontaneous with native yeast, the wine is aged for six months in stainless steel silos and six months in chestnut barrels. No sulfur is used during winemaking or at bottling.
The Producer: Abbazia San Giorgio
Abbazia San Giorgio is the winery of Battista Belivisi on the island of Pantelleria just off the coast of Sicily. Even though his winery, is quite young, Battista is far from a beginner when it comes to making wine. He was born and raised on the island, helping his father and grandfather make Passito in the traditional way. Later, Battista left the island to study agronomy in Palermo. Unlike many other students who stayed on the mainland Sicily after finishing school, he decided to return to Pantelleria. He quickly applied his education to the cultivation of vine and the making of wine. He worked as a consultant for a conventional winery for a time, and later collaborated with Gabrio Bini of Seragghia winery, where he grew the grapes and made wine for 11 years.
All Battista Belvisi’s wines are the result of a clear and natural approach to winemaking, which can be summed up quickly—ultra small production, low yield, and minimum intervention in the cellar as well as in the vineyard. Battista doesn’t run after certifications, and that is why he is neither Organic or Biodynamic certified. But be assured, he uses organic and biodynamic methods—the fight against weeds and parasites is conducted with agronomic means, without pesticides, cryptogamic or any other type of chemical product. No fertilizers of any kind are made, not with chemical fertilizers or even organic ones. Wild herbs are planted at the end of winter. In the cellar, fermentation starts on its own by indigenous yeasts and he severely limits the use of additives—only using minimal amounts of sulfur at bottling on just a few of his wines. (source: Minimum Selection)
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.