Friday, 21 August 2015

The golden manor house

Don Pino and family
Probably because of my visit to Mt Etna in 2014, I love to learn more about indigenous grapes from Sicily. Therefore, even though I could not stay behind for the Sicilian wine dinner that Marco from Italy Small Vineyards had kindly invited me to, I still went along just to taste the wine and talk to Guiseppe Laudicina, sales manager and one of the family members of Baglio Oro from Marsala in western Sicily.

Baglio Oro is a family estate founded by Giuseppe’s grandfather, also called Giuseppe or ‘Don Pino’. He used to sell grapes and bulk wine to other wineries but then the family realised just how good quality grapes the vineyard could produce and decided in 2012 to start making and bottling the wine under their own label, Baglio Oro. Oro means gold, probably referring to the family’s other business in jewellery, while baglio means manor house, referring to the building on the estate. The family converted one part of the manor house into a winery and cellar and retained another part as a ‘Museum of Rural Life’, showcasing ancient Sicilian arts, crafts and domestic appliances once used in everyday life on the island. Don Pino is still pretty much hands-on in the vineyard, and he is helped by his children and grandchildren.

The vineyard is located in the upper part of Marsala at 160m altitude, blessed by the southern wind that moderates the otherwise too high temperatures. Of the white wines we tried, the Grecanico (same as Garganega used to make Soave in Veneto) only had 11% alcohol, a pleasant wine with floral and citrus notes. It was a hot afternoon and both Ali fromWine Times HK and I thought of Lamma, beach and seafood. The wine also reminded me of Muscadet from the Loire, the perfect summer afternoon drink for Hong Kong.

Catarratto is the island’s most widely planted variety. It was used to produce the sweet fortified Marsala wine in the past and now is often distilled or made into grape concentrate. When made into wine most Catarratto is pretty ordinary but Baglio Oro Catarratto, with good concentration and freshness, is one of the better IGTs that express the variety well. Giusseppe said all the white wine underwent skin maceration to extract more flavours. He compared this to eating a healthy and ripe apple with the skin—that is where all the flavours are.

Another local grape variety we tasted was Grillo, a full-bodied white wine with herbaceous and perfume aromas. I could imagine that it would be perfect with the tuna tartar Marco had prepared for dinner. While Baglio Oro doesn’t make Marsala, they do make a late harvest Grillo, Yema. At 14% alcohol and 80g/l residual sugar with multi-dimensional flavours and surprisingly elegant, it is rather like a heavyweight spätlese Riesling.

Cherry/oak barrels
The red wine, a 100% Nero d’Avola from 2012, was vibrant, a lot less meaty than most Nero d’Avolas. Giusseppe stressed that they want to preserve the true varietal expression of each grape variety so only use oak sparingly. In fact, they commissioned Li Causi from Marsalbotti, a family-run artisan cooperage in Marsala, to construct a series of 160hl barrels made of a combination of cherry and oak so that the cherry wood could tone down the strong oak aromas. This wine only stayed in these cherry/oak barrels for a few months to make sure the wood flavours support but not dominate the varietal characteristics.

All the wines are well-made and honest. I’m glad that I didn't miss the chance to taste them.

Baglio Oro is available from Italy Small Vineyards.

No comments:

Post a Comment