Sicilian Reds 2004
|Sicilian Reds 2004|
|The event's opening|
|Sicilian red wines|
|Wine and chocolate|
|Cheeses from Ragusa province|
|At the fashion show|
|At the fashion show|
|[Photographs by Melchiorre di Maria]|
The extravaganza, that started as a showcase for the great red wines produced on the island, this year focused on highlighting the particular differences between the various productions according to the characteristics of the soil, micro-climate, varieties and techniques used. These wines represent a valuable eno-sensorial treasure that changed drastically the enological profile of Sicily, from a region producing mostly white wines, to the land of great reds, characterized by complex structure and roundness, able to age graciously and ready to challenge the best appreciated labels worldwide. This revolution of sort is supported by the favor and appreciation shown by the market and consumers, especially overseas, and by the quality achieved, as well as the positive quality/price ratio. The hub of such development is the phenomenal Nero d'Avola, the great Sicilian native grape, upon which is concentrated the attention of a great part of the public. The organizers of the show want to bring forward other native grapes and, moving in this direction, the Regional Institute for Grapes and Wine is promoting an experiment in the Cerasuolo DOC zone, aimed at improving the overall quality.
According to Nicolas Joly, French producer from France and one of the world bio-dynamic gurus who participated to the event, the future of wine is in its originality of flavor, as well as in the kind of emotions that it brings to the palate.
"In the future we'll sell originality," said Joly. "As for now, with the wine flavor made uniform by the about 300 standard aromatic yeasts, the winners are the big labels that employ affordable workers. Today the big winners are Australia (see article) and South Africa, in 10 years it will be China. However, if the consumer tastes the flavor of Beaujolais in a Chilean wine, he or she would feel cheated. The road of imitation is foolish and dead ended. Thus we must go back to the 30 original natural yeasts that produce the wine flavor based on the characteristics of the soil and micro climate. The flavors will make the difference. Maybe the wines will not be as good across the board, but all of them will be true Sicilian expressions. Thus the island, by pouring its millennial history, will be able to make a difference in the marketplace."
Meetings reserved to Italian and international wine and food writers
The convention calendar, the buyer meetings and the Slow Food laboratori del gusto (flavor laboratory) were tight and packed.
The opening convention, 'La Sicilia del vino di qualità. Tradizione e innovazione, una formula di successo' ('The quality wine Sicily. Tradition and innovation, a formula for success'), dug immediately into the matter. Politicians, producers and scholars debating the perspective for quality wine, from the production level focusing on promoting native grapes, to the promotion and marketing of the product, especially overseas.
The Agricultural regional councilor, Innocenzo Leontini, stated categorically that: "The success of Sicilian wine is not a parentheses. We are the most dynamic Italian region and are able to follow the market tendencies. The future is rosy, or if I may say so, deep red. In just a few years we became producers of great, structured red wines, coming from a historic past of white wine production. The latest data show that while the provinces of Trapani, Palermo and Agrigento still produce mostly white wines (about 70%), in the provinces of Caltanissetta and Enna the percentage drops to 15-20%. In the Catania, Ragusa and Siracusa provinces the production of red wines accounts now for 81% to l'89% of the total."
The local administration weighed in on this re-qualification project reorganizing the the OCM (Communal Market Organization) wine to promote the DOC of native vines, in addition to selecting clones from ancient, native vineyards. In addition to the good work of the regional administration, the social and local producers have been active in creating and promoting associations such as the Strade del Vino (Wine Roads) and the Città del Vino (Wine Cities), to which many municipalities are participating as they view it as a tourist promotion for the whole area and not just for the products.
"As Sciascia (well known Sicilian Writer - N.D.T.) used to say," continued Leontini, "the ocean is ever more the color of wine and the tourist who arrives in Sicilia, tastes the wine along with the Barocco architecture in Ragusa, on the Aeoliian Islands (off the main island - N.D.T.) the Malvasia is married to the ocean, and in Agrigento finds the Magna Grecia (literally 'Great Greece', meaning 'Ancient Greece'). Only Sicily can offer this. It helps visitors catch the meanings and understand the soul of our land."
Attilio Scienza, the world famous scholar in charge of selecting the clones of the historic Sicilian grapes, presented the state of the research on the field, especially in relation to the differences of products from vineyards cultivated in different areas of the island. "We must understand that the genetic variability that characterizes the Sicilian viticulture represents a love and understanding of the land that allows for the production of a multitude of wines even when starting with the same kind of vine. In this sense, Sicily is truly a wonderful world apart. We are involved in a scientific research to gather data from each single clone and the results will be be available to producers through the creation of a data bank. This is true innovation," he said
The next speaker was Dario Cartabellotta, coordinator for the regional agricultural development. "We are developing the structure for widespread technical support to help Sicilian producers widen the success of our viticulture. We filled the gap that used to isolate our wine production and, in some cases, we were able to open new frontiers for the entrepreneurs who want to invest in quality products and modern agriculture. These days our experts and technicians are structurally supporting all the island producers with up-to-date information and direction. The SIAS (Sicilian Agricultural Meteorological Information Service) is a living proof of it."
It's the SIAS task to study in details the various island's micro climates, thus finding the best pairing between vines and areas. The result is providing wineries with the optimized system for the production and managerial processes, such as the sanitary defense and irrigation, thus guaranteeng the correct balance between productivity and environmental preservation.
Finally Lucio Tasca d'Almerita, historic Sicilian producer, president of Assovini Sicilia (Sicily Wine Association) spoke. He focused on the attitude with which producers must face the market. "We must do our homework and be humble, so that we can be creative and competitive at the same time. The institutions must back an help us and, in this regard, I would like to congratulate Councilor Leontini who, in just two months after taking office, was able to synchronize with the complex enology world that is fundamental to the future of the Sicilian economy."
Eno-sensorial workshops and other appointments
A lot of space was reserved to wine tasting and to eno-sensorial workshops moderated by Nino Aiello and Giancarlo Lo Sicco, regional delegates of the Slow Food organization. They led the participating eno-travelers in an ideal journey among the Sicilian production areas, that currently are able to satisfy the most refined and demanding connoisseurs.
The laboratory dedicated to the pairings of five typical Sicilian red wines met with great success. especially the pairing ofNero d'Avola with modicano chocolate, made after a traditional Aztec recipe consisting of cold mixing with sugar and enriched with three different flavors: cinnamon, vanilla and hot chili pepper. Another noteworthy success was the pasta made with pure cocoa paired with the same wine.
In addition to being an 'opportunity for economic and organizational observation', the organizers of the event took the participating journalists, (about 50) on a discovery tour of the areas including visits to the historic towns of Modica and Ragusa Ibla, as well as the ancient masserie (ranches) where the native Modicana cow, from whose milk the Ragusano DOP cheese is made, is bred on a free range.
In closing, the event was livened by a fashion show featuring the creations of young Sicilian stylists and Francesco Cafiso's jazz concert. Though just fifteen years old, Cafiso is already well known both in Italy and abroad.