We met the irresistible Gianfranco Sabbatino – with his enthusiasm, humor and his passion for fine wine and the amazing island of Sicily – through Carlo Hauner, of Salina fame. Today, Gianfranco has a winery of his own, in partnership with Italian soccer champion, Andrea Barzagli. Located on the northeastern corner of the triangular island, near Messina, it focuses on a single, tiny, quality-driven appellation, whose total surface is a mere 20 hectares – less than 50 acres. The appellation is called Faro DOC.
Gianfranco’s winery is at Faro Superiore, high above the Strait of Messina, where the steep hillsides have a 70% gradient. It was named after two casematte or casemates (also known as bunkers) from World War II, which served as observatories and defensive structures at that time. Today, in fortunately peaceful times, they watch over Gianfranco’s largest vineyard (2 hectares, 4.9 acres).
Le Casematte’s total surface is 7 hectares (17 acres) of terraced vineyards, between 250 and 370 meters (820-1,215 feet) above sea level. Pristine and remote, these vineyards benefit from the constant sea breezes of the Strait of Messina, notably the Sirocco wind during summer. Great day/ night temperature swings give the wines wonderful aromatic qualities and freshness throughout the entire range. The sandy, calcareous and clayey soils combined with the unusual micro-climate of the vineyards give Gianfranco’s wines amazing elegance and fragrance. These are luscious wines that simultaneously show distinctive balance and harmony. The winemaker is one of Italy’s most highly renowned, Carlo Ferrini, while Gianfranco styles the Grillo and Nero d’Avola himself. The range includes Terre Sicilyne IGTs and a Faro DOC.