Marabino 'Rosso di Contrada' Nero d'Avola 2018
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Direct Press Selection
When we were looking for Biodynamic wines for this month's selections, we were lucky to time it perfectly with a visit from Pierpaolo Messina of Marabino to Brooklyn. Marabino's 29 hectares are in the Noto Valley in Sicily, between the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas (familiar to viewers of the White Lotus). Biodynamic farming here is enhanced by a plethora of wild herbs that are native to Sicily, and hot winds from Africa that eliminate any threat of mildew. All of the vines are trained using the 3000 year-old albarello method, low to the ground to reduce the distance from the leaves to the water in the root systems. It is a highly effective method for this hot climate but also very labor intensive, as every vine must be worked by hand. Pierpaolo and his team also tie the vines using dried herbs instead of the more commonly used plastic. He and his wife dislike plastic's ecological footprint so much they even refuse to buy Legos for their son.
The Rosso di Contrada comes from a blend of four parcels, covering all the soil types of their vineyards: poor white limestone, rocky limestone, black alluvial clay, and yellow clay. I was shocked to find that the grapes were picked in late to mid-October, which would normally mean a very big, ripe wine. To avoid this, the wine is made in an 'infusion' method with very light extraction. It's still got plenty of ripe, juicy notes, however, with strawberry, blueberry, black cherry, and fruit leather notes matched with complex tannins and a lifted, mineral energy. It's a surprisingly finessed for a wine of this much substance, so Pierpaolo recommends pairing it with bluefish, red tuna, sardines, and eggplant dishes with capers and dried tomatoes. Just 18 mg/liter of sulfur added. Jonathan Kemp