Tasting: Pear, grapefruit, flowers, refreshing bubbles. Pairing: Fresh oysters with a squeeze of lemon, sushi, charcuterie.
Grape: 100% Moscato
The Muscat family of grapes includes over 200 grape varieties belonging to the Vitis vinifera species that have been used in wine production and as raisin and table grapes around the globe for many centuries. Their colors range from white (such as Muscat Ottonel), to yellow (Moscato Giallo), to pink (Moscato rosa del Trentino) to near black (Muscat Hamburg). Muscat grapes and wines almost always have a pronounced sweet floral aroma. The breadth and number of varieties of Muscat suggest that it is perhaps the oldest domesticated grape variety, and there are theories that most families within the Vitis vinifera grape variety are descended from the Muscat variety.
Among the most notable members of the Muscat family are Muscat blanc à Petits Grains, which is the primary grape variety used in the production of the Italian sparkling wine Asti (also known as Moscato Asti) made in the Piedmont region. It is also used in the production of many of the French fortified wines known as vin doux naturels. In Australia, this is also the main grape used in the production of Liqueur Muscat, from the Victorian wine region of Rutherglen. Young, unaged and unfortified examples of Muscat blanc tend to exhibit the characteristic Muscat "grapey" aroma as well as citrus, rose and peach notes. Fortified and aged examples (particularly those that have been barrel aged) tend to be very dark in color due to oxidation with aroma notes of coffee, fruit cake, raisins and toffee.
Muscat of Alexandria is another Muscat variety commonly used in the production of French vin doux naturel, but it is also found in Spain, where it is used to make many of the fortified Spanish Moscatels. Elsewhere it is used to make off-dry to sweet white wines, often labeled as Moscato in Australia, California and South Africa. In Alsace and parts of Central Europe, Muscat Ottonel is used to produce usually dry and highly perfumed wines.
Region: Sicily, Italy
Sicily is a large island off the southern point of Italy. This region was historically famed for it's agricultural products, with vineyards documented as far back as the 5th century. However there is evidence of wine making back to an even earlier time with inscriptions on Amphorae (clay wine vessels) pointing to Mesopotamian wine along the south coast near Gela. Throughout the Middle Ages, Sicily exported primarily grain, but also olives, citrus and wine. Up until the 14th century, wine made in this region was primarily for domestic consumption, but as the demand for high-quality increased, so did the number of vineyards in this region. With a total vine acreage of over 280,000 Sicily currently produces in excess of 158MM gallons of wine per year. In terms of climate and geology, there is a wide range, from alpine on Mount Etna with vineyards at the height of 3,280 feet above sea level, to the subtropical as the island moves closer to Tunisa. The center of the island is hot and dry, but there are also many areas close to the coast that benefit from constant winds.
Vinification: Grapes are harvested by hand then undergo spontaneous fermentation in concrete tanks with indigenous yeasts, and an addition of must for secondary fermentation. Aged méthode ancestrale - which is one of the oldest methods of sparkling wine production and is not fined or filtered.
About the Winemaker: Angelo Paternò worked for 25 years as the winemaker and technical director for the Sicilian wineries Cantine Settesoli and then Duca di Salaparuta and then bought 60 hectares (148 acres) on a hill formerly known as Poggio dei Fossi in the southeastern Sicilian province of Siracusa, near the town of Pachino, where he thought the land was one of the best viticulture areas in Sicily. He handed the reins over to his daughters, Marilina and Federica, and still helps them in the cellar. They grow orcanically and favor strict minimal intervention and additives in the cellar, with an approach influenced by local natural winemaking master Frank Cornelissen. Almost half of the land is dedicated to polyculture in order to nurture the ecosystem. On the other 35 hectares grow a array of grape varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Grecanico, Muscat Blanc, Moscato Giallo, Insolia, Merlot, Tannat, Viognier, and Chardonnay. In the cellar, fruit and freshness are preserved with the use of large concrete tanks for fermentation and elevage.