Category - People & Places

Visiting “Le Casematte” in Sicily

13 December 2019 People & Places

While the weather in Faro Superiore last Sunday morning certainly left something to be desired, Gianfranco Sabbatino, his infectious enthusiasm, lush wines, and the beauty of the property made an impromptu visit to “Le Casematte” an unforgettable and exhilarating experience.

Gianfranco is overjoyed at the prospects of this new vintage, which promises excellent quality and depth. He is also humbly grateful for having received the sought-after tre bicchieri from Gambero Rosso for his version of the historic Faro DOC, pictured below vested in its brand-new chic black label. He is further excited about bringing Le Casematte to Japanese shores, on his way there later this month to promote them.

A short walk up the hill to where the centuries-old bunkers and prime vineyards are located takes you to a part of the property that overlooks the Strait of Messina and Punta Faro, spectacular even in the rain, with perfect rows of Sicily’s best grapes surrounding you and a view of the exact spot where the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas meet. And with harvest having just taken place, the new wines were already in the making in the cellar. When Gianfranco asked if we’d like to have a taste straight from the tanks, we didn’t hesitate one second.

The first taste was the golden nectar of Carricante grapes mid-fermentation. Its thrilling brightness and fruity flavors were a promise of a winning wine that has us thoroughly excited about the wine’s future release.

Next we tried Nerello Mascalese, whose fruit, fruit and more fruit also piqued our fancy. Then we tried Nerello Cappuccio, whose tannins were wonderfully healthy and elegant and a perfect reminder that good wine starts with good grapes. We asked Gianfranco what sets his vineyards apart from the rest and he responded that the microclimate is perfect. The cool Sirocco winds keep the grapes perfectly aerated and the exposure is excellent; he also spoke of the wonderful sapid minerality from the sea and very few problems with rot or disease.

Gianfranco also maintains totally organic practices, even using the pomace to fertilize the vineyards. He likewise gave credit to Carlo Ferrini, saying that he really knows how to bring out the best of the territory and vineyard.

Gianfranco has also made some investments. He recently purchased four more hectares (about ten acres), planning to plant Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio in January. It will be three years before they’ll be used for wine, but they are destined to the Faro DOC. And he purchased special pigeage tanks that require no pumpovers but will give the wine significantly more elegance.

Finally a taste of Gianfranco’s hallmark wine: the Faro DOC, 2013 vintage. Beautiful, rich aromas of red berries and a wonderfully balanced and elegant palate with lush tannins and an incredibly long, pleasant and fruity finish, an invitation to drink more and more.

When we asked Gianfranco how he felt about receiving the coveted tre bicchieri he said, “I always said, if I ever get tre bicchieri, I can finally quit making wine”. So we asked, “Are you quitting then?” He just laughed. All we can say is, thank goodness, because a world without Gianfranco’s wine would be a sad one indeed.