A week ago I returned from an amazing destination trip to Sicily thankfully hosted by the Firriato winery. I hadn’t been to Sicily in almost 20 years since I visited Palermo and Taormina. I had always said if I returned I would love the opportunity to visit Mt. Etna and to better understand these highly talked about volcanic wines of Italy.
There is no better way to understand the culture, food and especially terroir of wine unless you experience it for yourself first hand. I’m going to share my trip in a 3 part approach starting with an overview of the history of Firriato and their Baglio Soria estate. In future blogs I’ll discuss their volcanic wines of Mt. Etna and finish the series with a special treat highlighting their unique vineyards on the island of Favignana.
When we think of wine history there are wineries that have been producing wines generation after generation for centuries. Although Firriato was established in 1984 by Salvatore and Vinzia di Gaetano, the amount that they have accomplished and where they are headed is mind boggling. I’m not so sure our host, Federico Lombardo di Monte Iato the COO of Firriato, ever sleeps. His father-in-law started the winery on the western side of Sicily in Trapani. They have 6 estates spanning 470 hectares (almost 1,200 acres) spread throughout the island, mostly on the western side. Their vineyards are located on 3 different terroirs:
The mountains (Mt. Etna)
The sea (the island of Favignana)
The hills of TrapaniThat’s why its easiest to break down my trip into a few different parts as each estate produces very different styles. Federico informed us that there are 12 different soils in the world and Firriato has 7 of them right there in Sicily. All of their 40 labels across the 4.5 million bottles produced are certified organic and they are even the first winery in Europe to get a certification on carbon neutrality in 2018. Just an example of what that means: they have lowered their green house gas emission by 41% and 90% of their products come from recycled products. To be a winery of Firriato’s size it impresses me their efforts to achieve such accomplishments.
Upon arrival to Trapani I visited Firriato's estate, Baglio Soria, for an aperitivo set up high on the hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegadian islands for sunset. Breathtaking! As Federico joked it was impossible for someone to say no to an engagement with that setting!
I wasn’t able to stay right at the Baglio Soria resort due to it being fully booked, but every resort/winery we visited owned by Firriato was so beautifully built and cared for. I tasted through a number of their wines that evening prior to dinner including the following:
- 2018 Firriato Altavilla Grillo Sicilia D.O.C. - This wine spent 3 months on the lees plus another 6 months in bottle. First produced back in 1988 this wine was very light bodied, clean, crisp, lemon nose with a nice acidity.
- 2018 Firriato Jasmin Zibibbo Sicilia D.O.C. - I really enjoyed this wine. A gewurztraminer type nose with nice aromatics, spice and hints of peach and jasmine also showing through on the palate. Light body with nice acidity. This wine spends 3 months fermenting stainless steel and 2 months in the bottle.
- 2018 Firriato Quarter Vitis Bianco IGT Terre Siciliane (catarratto, inzolia, carricante and zibibbo) - I’m always intrigued by blends, especially those with this many grapes. It tends to add many layers and characteristics to the wines. All the grapes except the carricante that comes from the Etna side are from the area. The aromatics of the zibibbo grape were showing on the nose with stone fruit. More towards medium body this wine was well balanced displaying nice fruit with a lingering sapidity on the finish. Aged in stainless spending 3 months on the lees.
- 2014 Firriato Santagostino Baglio Soria Rosso IGT Sicilia (nero d’avola and syrah) - This is Firriato’s flagship wine and the most exported with a production of about 400,000 bottles. It spends 1 years in French and American oak. I can see why this wine sells so well. Very enticing aromas of blackberries and spice. Bright acid up front on the palate with moderate tannins with some grip. Dark berries, vanilla, cedar and tobacco notes with a long finish.
- 2014 Firriato Quarter Vitis Rosso IGT Terre Siciliane (nero d’avola, perricone, frappato and nerello cappuccio) This wine spends about 10 months in both French and American oak lending the typical vanilla nuances combined with rich in cherries, licorice, spice and a juicy palette with round tannins.
- 2013 Firriato Harmonium Sicilia D.O.C. Definitely the pick of wines that stood out to me when I tried Firriato wines for the first time earlier this summer. The three women on the label represent the 3 single vineyards that the nero d’avola grapes are harvested from. This vintage was actually the most awarded Sicilian wine according to Federico. The grapes are seperately vinified and aged and blended before bottling. Aged 1 year in French and American barrique. This wine shows juicy plums, blackberry and baking spice on the nose. Great acid and well-integrated tannins with an elegant finish.
- 2014 Firriato Ribeca Perricone Sicilia D.O.C. Firriato is actually the first winery in Italy to produce 100% perricone. Perricone is a difficult grape to grow, late ripening and difficult to vinify due to the tannins. It was almost extinct due to phylloxera at one point and is only found in the area around Trapani. Rich in dark fruits, great acidity and sturdy tannins with the oak showing on the finish lending vanilla nuances, but elegant.
- Firriato L’Ecru Passito of Zibibbo IGT Sicilia I’m a sucker for finishing a meal with a good dessert wine. Firriato uses a unique process they developedi n 2005 called the infusion method where the harvest the grapes in 2 stages with one part drying the grapes and the other part late harvested. The aromatics of the zibibbo in this wine are to die for and it’s concentrated flavors rich in apricots with a medium body, not too syrupy as some and not too light either.
Process of drying the zibibbo grapes
About half of their production is red and half white wines. Although I enjoyed all the wines from the tasting if I had to pick some of my highlights it would be the Jasmin for whites along with the Harmonium and Perricone for reds and of course the passito to end the tasting.
The evening was topped off in their restaurant with the talented young chef, Chef Andrea Macca, that served up these amazing dishes paired with all the Firriato wines of course. My visit to Baglio Soria was a real pleasure and I really look forward to the next two upcoming features on Firriato’s wines of Mt. Etna and the Island of Favignana. Stay tuned!
*This trip was sponsored, but opinions and views are all my own.