Tasting Wine at Pianogrillo in Chiaramonte Gulfi Sicily
In the morning I headed over to Chiaramonte Gulfi to find Pianogrillo. Lorenzo was outside supervising some work with the olive trees and also a special breed of black Sicilian pigs they raise on the farm. Pianogrillo is a 100 hectare estate that's been in his family for many generations. He seemed super involved in the details of day to day running of the farm and seemed to be particularly passionate about working in and with nature.
First he gave me a short tour of the family house, which long long ago had been a fortified watch tower protecting the surrounding valley.
The house was beautiful and he showed me a cabinet of Greek and Phoenician artifacts that his family had found while working in the fields. They had a little family chapel that was still consecrated, and an amazing old traditional Sicilian marriage cart! It seemed like he wanted to rush through all that and get to the wines but those classical Greek ceramics were insane.
He showed me an area where he's experimenting planting vines and olive trees together. This is super traditional but rare now. Lorenzo is experimenting with it to see if shade from the trees can help protect the grapes as the climate keeps warming.
The winery is a high point on the ridge with the olive orchards all around. In fact Pianogrillo is very famous in Italy for their olive oil and that's their primary business. I wouldn't call the wine an after thought, Lorenzo is too obviously focused on it and the quality is too good. Pianogrillo only making a few thousand cases of wine per a year so it must be a drop in the bucket compared to olive oil.
After touring the property we went into his new winery and tasted through all the Pianogrillo wines. It's a nice clean simple modern winery. Lorenzo was also clear that he sees himself as a farmer and not a wine maker who intervenes and makes the wine through chemistry. They're certified organic and pretty much just use stainless steel to preserve the wines freshness. The limestone in the soil seems to often give the wines more acidity.
Lorenzo particularly loves Frappato and we both agreed that it's a grape that deserves more international attention. The Cerasuolo di Vittoria in particular was fantastic. It's 50/50 Frappato and Nero d'Avola and sort of reminded me of an awesome uplifting Morgon from Beaujolais.
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