Sicily is a hugely important wine region – not only in the context of the Italian Wine industry but also as a significant contributor to worldwide production. Few people realise that Sicily makes almost as much wine as Australia in some years and yet receives far less coverage.
Also integral to the Sicilian wine scene are the English – and in particular John Woodhouse who commercialised the fortified wine we know as Marsala back in the late 1700’s. Marsala was our focus for our first visit of the tour as we took a short seven minute drive from the hotel to the family owned estate Curatolo Arini. Founded in 1875, we were greeted by 5th generation Alexandra Curatolo who gave us a brief insight into her ancestors and their role in the development of the Marsala industry. Export director Carlo Montauto then took over with an overview of the commercial aspects and a little look around the winery which was undergoing a major refurbishment.
Curatolo are a very highly regarded estate and very early on took the export route for the distribution of its wines – mainly due to the dominance of the Sicilian Florio brand. Curatolo have both Marsala and table wines in many countries all over the world.
We were treated to a fabulous masterclass by Carlo and Alexandra. The passion for the product was wonderful to behold as we tasted through the range:
Marsala Fine semi-secco
Marsala Superiore Riserva
Marsala Dolce Superiore
A 35 year old barrel sample of a semi-secco that was yet to be bottled
Marsala Vergine Riserva 1995
Thoughout the tasting we got a deep insight into the importance of the Grillo grape, the terroir, climate and all the subtle intricacies that make Marsala such a fascinating and delicious subject. No-one was thinking about only using it for the cooking any more!
From Curatolo it was a ten minute drive into Marsala town for a visit and tasting at Donnafugata. The Rallo family established themselves originally as Marsala producers but since the early 80’s have pioneered Sicilian table wine and are now viewed as one of Italy’s top estates. Paola hosted our visit with an overview of production and walk around the hugely impressive facility. The barrel cellar is extraordinary.
The focus of our tasting was pairing eight different wines with eight different dishes encompassing fizz, two whites, three reds and two sublime sweeties.
Sparkling Brut 2013 with ricotta and anchovy
Grillo Sur Sur 2017 with a cauliflower and pine nut flan
Vigna di Gabri 2016 (white blend) with octopus and potato
Cerusuolo 2015 with a fish risotto
Tancredi 2014 with melanzane parmigiana
Mille e Una Notte 2014 with pork roulade and spinach
Kabir 2017 with a Sicilian Cannoli
Ben Rye 2013 with a chocolate and ricotta cheese crumble
A terrific start to the tour.