Sicily and its islands historically represent a melting pot of Arabic, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece & Modern European cultures. The influence of which plays an enormous part when it comes to Sicilian viticulture. Our visit to Rallo in Marsala “Gods Port” commenced with a real step back through history as we entered the large gates from the seaside road to absorb the tall structure of the old winery established back in 1860 for the production of Marsala wines.
The winery today is however no longer focused on Marsala, the former family owners sold the business and historic building in 1982, where it languished for 14 years as demand for premium Marsala faded slowly from the memories of the world. In 1996, enter stage right Andrea and his uncle Francesco Vesca, vineyard owners from the neighbouring region of Alcamo with a plan to reinvigorate the grape growing in the Marsala area with a focus on high quality dry white wines. With the purchase also came the tiny 1.5 hectares of vineyards on the island of Pantelleria, famous for the Passito di Pantelleria sweet wines.
The structural renovations are still ongoing in Marsala, but with an eye on its historical importance, the winery and its outbuildings are really taking shape, with a view to completing all the work by 2015. A brand new bottling system using the latest oxygen free technology, visitors centre, offices and ageing rooms will soon all be completed and the historic Rallo name will once again reside above the large entrance gates.
The vineyards around Marsala are all farmed organically and are focused completely on the Grillo grape producing the amazing Bianco Maggiore, a Tre Biccheri winning wine in 2013; it has a rich concentrated grapefruit character with a hint of salinity from its very close proximity to the sea and dry citrus finish.
The remaining wines from Rallo are grown high up in the Alcamo hills where the vineyards range from 230m to 600m. Again all farmed organically and focused on the indigenous white varieties of Catarratto, Insolia & Zibibbo plus a few surprises, Sauvignon Blanc and Müller Thurgau are grown for their aromatic influences on the local white wines. These wines display such formidable minerality, finesse and freshness it's hard to believe they come from such a warm place.
For the reds we have Nero d'Avola, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Syrah is especially tasty with a distinctive, delicate, perfumed red fruit nose, black pepper, spice, and delicious soft silky tannins. Stylistically no surprise when Tuscan consultant Carlo Ferrini is on the team advising on all the red wines.
Also nestled amongst the vines are the 100 year old olive trees producing the Cerasuola olive variety, which provides a spicy yet fruity olive oil with hints of tomato leaf, green olive and hint of chilli, a great match with local sheep cheeses and the freshest ricotta I have ever tasted (just 4 hours old & still warm).
The Rallo name and hospitality of the Vesco family will firmly be imprinted on my memories of my trip to Sicily and more importantly an awareness of a new era of wine production for Marsala & Alcamo where the Rallo label once again will grace the tables of the restaurants and shelves of wine shops around the world.
I can highly recommend the local seafood and Pasta di Bottarga as well.
Grazie Mille Andrea & Irena.