“Wine marks my life”
Why This Wine?
There is a personal quality to Italian wine. When an Italian winemaker talks about their vineyards and the work they do in the cellar, there’s a subtle difference in tone that’s different from a French, Spanish, German, or American winemaker. In those places – where wine has only been cultivated for one or two thousand years – The vineyard is a separate vocation. Perhaps this Domaine in Auxerre has been in the family for twelve generations, but it remains a job passed from parent to child. In Italy and particularly in southern Italy, wine is simply a part of life, an inextricable element of the family farm and as vital a crop as the wheat and the olives.
In the beginning of the 20th century, about 70% of Italian households produced at least a little bit of wine. This pastoral way of life had existed in Italy since at least the Roman era, undisturbed by conquests and Renaissances of all sorts until the emergence of modern cities. Places like Salvatore Marino’s family farm represent a window into that past.
About the Winery
Salvatore Marino’s family farm is on the southernmost tip of Sicily, Cape Passero. His family has made wine for five generations there, though Salvatore is the first in his family to make his own wine. Until he started his winery in 2017 the family wines disappeared into the local cooperative. In true Sicilian fashion the farm also produces olives – from which they make olive oil – and wheat – from which they produce their own whole wheat pasta. Salvatore’s grandparents told him “wine is made in the vineyard”. This first principle informs his farming and winemaking practices. The vines are bush vines without any sort of trellising, and Salvatore works almost exclusively with a hoe and pruning shears in the vineyard to disturb the vines as little as possible. The only soil treatment he uses is organic and green manure, the only sort of treatment available to his ancestors. Fermentation is done without added yeast and there is no oak in his cellar.
A place marked by wine
The Marino family’s estate is near a coastal nature preserve called Vindicari, or ‘Dear wine”. Specifically, the farm is just north of the central town of Pachino, which used to be called Bacchino before standard Italian arrived in Sicily. Originally named after the Roman god of wine Bacchus, this part of Sicily was famously part of the Greek colony of Syracuse just a few miles to the north. The farm’s district is called the Contrada Buonavini or ‘district of beautiful wines’, and indeed, the area surrounding Pachino is considered the heart of the wider Eloro region. Winemaking has existed here for at least 2500 years and the practice is written onto the map.
Eloro Pachino is a small region that covers Cape Passero. Nero d’Avola is the prized variety here, named after the nearby city of Avola, this corner of Sicily is the grape’s most likely, though not undisputed, origin. In Eloro Pachino, red wines must contain at least 80% Nero d’Avola, with Frapatto and Perricone also permitted.
Sicily’s climate is hot. At the 36th parallel, this is on the southern edge of the wine belt, below which viticulture becomes an extreme sport. The nearby ocean blowing a constant breeze across the peninsula makes vine cultivation possible in this very flat, low lying area (the vineyard sits at 34 meters above sea level. Soil is limestone rich clay but very rocky and therefore resistant to mechanized viticulture.
Salvatore Marino treats his wines delicately, with a quick press and six day maceration before fermentation begins. The Nero d’Avola grapes do the rest of the work. This is an intense and meaty wine. The nose is of smoky soil, plum and boysenberry fruit leather, orange oil, black olive and tar. The palate is spicy, brambly, with rich plum and raspberry, and black dirt. There’s a breath of acidity and a whallop of tannin. It finishes with notes of fig and baking spices.