SLOW WINE GUIDE 2011
Az. Ag. Guccione in Contrada Cerasa -- BIODYNAMIC
Sicily’s a land of paradoxes and my friend, and eno-colleague, Vera, from Palermo fits right in. By evening she’s found skirting about on her scooter for the theatre, or walking over to a friend’s to split hairs about vintage champagne. By day, she’s the smiling yet hard nosed (pun intended) buyer for enoteca Picone, one of Italy’s most respected and longstanding places to buy fine wine. But, even if, as she once told me, “I plan to live and die in Sicily,” she's a bit edgy about Sicilian wines and their extract levels. Ask her about German Riesling and you melt her heart, ask her about Sicilian wines, and she’s asks you about German Rieslings. But, she loves Guccione and that alone was enough of a litmus test to start following these guys a few years ago before they became the right hip of Sicilian hipdom, along with Occhipinti.
The Monreale DOC, om an area all but forgotten, is south of the crumbling, and exceedingly romantic, city of Palermo, in the NW part of the triangle island. Working with only native varieties (including the rare Perricone), The Guccione Brothers man the helm of 7.5 hectares of land that’s been in the family for generations. They said their great grandfather used to make wine here and tend horses; but, he was kind of crazy and shot a motorcycle thinking the thing was possessed by spirits. Back to 2010: it’s dry here and hasn’t rained since 2005. They dry farm, and the soil is, well, I’m repeating myself, dry. It contains mostly clay with some chalk and iron, which gives some of the vineyards a reddish brown color from oxidation; rusty locals just call it terre brune, brown soil. The old vines here dig deep for underground water on the higher part of the hill at circa 480 meters, in an area called Cerasa, having been known generations ago, by those who had been in the know in Palermo, as a great place to pick up some kick-ass jug wine.
Smell the air and you might get a whiff of one of the many herbal plants Guccione Brother #1, Francesco, is growing around the vineyards (I picked up some Chamomile and Echinacea). Francesco is a thoughtful farmer with empty bottles of aged German Riesling in his house, while Manfredi is the guy connecting the dots and aligning the many cogs of the winery and sales, he’s a wheeler-dealer but makes you laugh in the process. They both have a genuine passion for these wines; and they love drinking and sharing them with others. Tasting with them, you have the feeling that, if they had the money, they’d just give all the wine away at a series of intimate get togethers with family, friends, and wine lovers around a table of excellent food.