in Noto -- SUSTAINABLE
IN SHORT: a certifed organic winery in the heart (and original home) of Nero d'Avola making Noto DOC Nero d'Avola (not IGT Nero d'Avola). Some guyot vines and some old Alberello bush trained vines. Working with an obseesion for trasparency of soil and variety, young owner Pierpaolo takes Nero d'Avola seriously, when others have left the Sicilian soil and variety to cheap bottlings. Sandy, chalky soil; fresh, mineral, spicy Nero d'Avola. If you're looking for something beyond jam or thin over-cropped Nero d'Avola posing as elegance, you've arrived at Noto and Marabino, further South than North Africa -- but what zing and spice to that Sicilian fruit! 27 ha, c.10,000 cs.
If you ask someone if they’ve had a wine from Sicily, they’ll probably say:
“Sure, I’ve had a Nero d’Avola from there.”
In which case, while it’s true they had a Nero d’Avola, it’s most likely that it was not 100% Nero d’Avola, since Italian law calls for only 85% minimum for a wine to be LABELED as Nero d’Avola. Many wine-winking Sicilian producers throw in some Syrah or Merlot for good measure to ooze over the freshness of Nero d’Avola; so goes the attempt to placate the imagined one-palette of the US market (a concept I not only loathe, but find misguided if one is searching for authenticity and distinction). My son goes to day care in Florence, and the two-years olds there can sing all the animals of Old Mac Donald Had a Farm. Let’s sing the six syllables together, folks:
It’s the spice of life; and tangentially, Nero d’Avola has quite the spicy nose.
Another distinction is the ‘Where?’. Nero d’Avola (literally Nero from Avola) is grown all over the island; it’s original home, and where Marabino has its vines, is just south of its Avola namesake, in the hills of Pachino and Noto. This area is right by the sea in Southeast Sicily. Look on the map and you’ll see how the sands of the Sahara end up on your windshield sometimes. Once, when I called up the guys from Marabino to ask how it was going down there in the South, they told me it was very hot and dry “here in the North.”
“Nord?! You’re in the South of Italy.”
“No, caro Ernest. We’re in Nord Africa!”
(Oh! Elizabeth Bishop was right) the Lost Art of Geography.
So, we all know there’s been much fanfare about the promise of Sicily and some larger quality wineries have put Sicily on the map. We thank them; we are moving on. We want some local color, local owners. We want a local enologist. While we’re wanting, add a request for the winery to be young and ambitious but have old vines, to know what Brett was if you said a wine had it, but also to look toward tradition and organic farming. With those requirements, what comes to mind is the Italian version of ‘Good Luck.’ Of course, nothing in Italy is straightforward, thus, saying the words ‘Good Luck’ is not done out of superstition which holds that the asking for it with exact words will not bring it. Italians are quite the convoluted. Instead “Good Luck,” in Italian is:
“Into the Mouth of the Wolf!”
To which you must respond: “Die!” for the good luck to be had. (...quite interactive too.)
Well, Die Wolf! and don’t eat us with those requirements. It took us forever to find folks working well in the vineyard and cantina. We found two: azienda Zenner Do, whose Nero d’Avola we’ve enjoyed in the past. And, from Italian blogger fantastico, Franco Zilliani, we found Marabino.
We’ll maybe it’s serendipitous, but Zenner is right next door to Marabino, and they help each other out, sharing experiences on how to grow Nero d’Avola organically. In the office in Florence, we tasted the Marabino wines with glee, arranged a visit right away, and happily found that they fit every one of our “Into the Mouth of the Wolf” requirements. See? You can have it all! Add too that they are humble, intelligent, and friendly people with a verve and passion for Sicily, life, Sicily, natural wines, and, they mentioned to me, Sicily.
Pierpaolo is the young owner of Marabino and he has a vision for a traditional and natural Nero d’Avola. He also has passion and cantina filled with natural wines, which is always a plus in my book. Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but there’s way more attention to natural, traditionally made wines in central and northern Italy, making him one of a few emerging gems in the rough South.