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Feudo Maccari Maharis 2007
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The Feudo Maccari lies just over a mile from the sea, and basks in a dry, sun drenched climate verging on torrid in the summer months. Mediterranean winds moderate the climate and aerate the clusters, and some irrigation is required during the hot, dry season. The vineyards lie 240 feet above sea level on southerly exposed slopes, and the predominant volcanic soil profile is mixed in a few areas with white sand and chalk deposits. The Nero d’Avola vines are trained on trees in the traditional Sicilian manner, with the other varieties to more conventional systems. The first vintage of Saia, composed entirely of Nero d’Avola, is in the 2002 vintage; experimentation continues with other varieties.
The diversity of the estates’ soil and climatic conditions dictates that cultivation and winemaking follow the demands of the environment and pursuit of quality. Yields are restricted, and at harvest the clusters are handpicked, sorted, destemmed, and put into a conveyer-belt apparatus which breaks the skins rather than crushes the berries. Fermentation takes place in a combination of temperature controlled stainless steel and lined open-top fermentors with maceration periods appropriate to the varietal in question followed by natural malolactic fermentation in tank. Cooperage consists primarily of 225-liter barriques with some capacity in 500-litre tonneaux, and is of new and one year’s use; length of oak contact depends on both the wine and vintage, but generally lasts for a period of twelve to eighteen months. A first blending of lots takes place when the wine is placed in barrique; a second at the first racking. The wines are then bottled with minimum intervention.
A large, geographically and climatically diverse island off the toe of Italy, Sicily has long been recognized for its fortified Marsala wines. It is also home to red and white table wines that have been steadily increasing in quality and popularity over the past few decades, allowing Italy’s fourth largest wine-producing region to shed its former image as merely a supplier of bulk wine. Certainly, plenty of bulk wine is still made here, but those who look beyond that will find plenty of high-quality wines for every-day drinking as well as bottles from boutique producers who espouse thoughtful vineyard practices (the organic wine movement thrives here). Though most think of the climate here as simply hot and dry, there is some variation on the sun-drenched island, particularly at high elevation on the slopes of Mount Etna.
Although Sicily’s comeback began with clever labels and easily recognizable international varieties, its charm lies in its indigenous grapes. Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted red variety, responsible for full-bodied, berry fruited wines throughout the island. In Cerasuolo di Vittoria, it is blended with the lighter, more floral Frappato to create an elegantly balanced wine. On the volcanic soils of Mount Etna, many noteworthy wines are being produced in every color—whites from Cataratto and Carricante, and rosés from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. All of these wines share a racy streak of minerality and at their best can bear more than a slight resemblance to their respective Burgundies. Grillo and Inzolia, the grapes of Marsala, are used to produce generally simple, crisp dry whites. Pantelleria, a subtropical island belonging to the province of Sicily, specializes in Moscato di Pantelleria, made from the variety locally known as Zibibbo.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to create complex wines with many different layers of flavors and aromas, or to create more balanced wines. For example, a variety that is soft and full-bodied may be combined with one that is lighter with naturally high acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.