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Feudo Montoni is about 60 miles south and east of Palermo – not very far, but worlds removed from the hustle of Palermo; little has changed at Montoni and in the surrounding countryside, so you could also say that it’s removed from Palermo by centuries. This is the region that was once “the granary of the Roman Empire” – fertile and covered in wheat. I’ve been there in late spring (very green) and in late summer (very brown, except for the vines) and the photos don’t do it any justice – the landscape is both dream-like and magnificent. Over the hill to the east is Tasca d’Almerita, still an important wine producer and one of the last intact feudal estates in Sicily – think of “The Leopard” and you get the idea.
We imagine Sicily as being very hot – anyone who’s traipsed around acres of ancient rubble there in the summer would not dispute that impression – but it also snows at Montoni, and the vines are high enough in elevation to moderate the hottest weather (at 650+ meters these are some of the highest plantings of Nero d'Avola, and the white grapes are planted at over 1000 meters), and there is a steady prevailing wind off the sea to the north.
The Montoni vineyards (first recorded as planted in the 1500’s) make an island of vines in a sea of wheat, grass, and sheep. Phylloxera never reached Montoni; they have always re-planted using their own vines, and so claim their own particular clone of Nero d’Avola. Chemical treatments and fertilizers have never been used on the vines, and the winemaking is equally old-fashioned. Here Nero d’Avola can achieve the expressive potential and finesse of the best examples from eastern Sicily, and the white wines are also of great quality, varietally distinctive, with good cut and freshness. Jamie Wolff
PS: the wines will be ready for pick-up tomorrow, or for delivery on Wednesday.
This is a new book - a lovely and most delicious book - by our friend Melissa Fasullo Muller, partner in life with Fabio Sireci, owner of Feudo Montoni. Now you can have your wine and eat the real thing with it too!
Montoni 2017 Sicilia IGT Grillo
Planted at over 700 meters – a high elevation that gives fruit with bright acidity, this is a stellar example of Grillo. The juice is fermented with skins for 3 days – enough to enrich the color and structure of the wine, but this is by no means an orange wine. It shows Grillo’s best (at 12.5° alcohol) with characteristic lemony herbs and mint, delicate floral notes, and firm salinity. The wine is fairy full-bodied, but remains lifted and bright. We drank some recently with grilled salmon (more than we originally intended since it was a school night - oh well - it was just too tasty), but it’s easy to imagine this working well with a big range of foods – or none. It’s a really delicious wine. Jamie Wolff
Montoni 2017 Sicilia IGT Catarratto
High elevation bush-trained vines (now about 60 years old) planted on pre-phylloxera roots… all this yields a very fresh and bright wine that’s – in a word – complete. Vinified in the same manner as Montoni’s Grillo, the Catarratto is also a wine for a wide range of foods. It’s a little spicier and richer than the Grillo, with some more pronounced herbal notes (Fabio Sireci proposes bay leaf, which immediately makes sense) but equally fine lemony citrus; the wine has great focus and concentration without a hint of heat. Jamie Wolff
Montoni 2016 IGT Sicilia Nero d'Avola Lagnusa
The Lagnusa Nero d’Avola vines ranging in age from 20-50 years old, and they give the wine remarkable depth and complexity. It has an opulent, silky texture, but it’s also a juicy and racy wine, with intense red cherry fruit, herbs like mint and thyme, and a hauntingly long stony finish. This shows the quality of much more expensive wine, and it’s full-on competition for the best Nero d’Avola from Vittoria and Pachino. Jamie Wolff
Montoni 2013 IGT Sicilia Feudo Vrucara
The first written record of the Vrucara vineyard is dated 1590. The vines aren’t quite that ancient, but the vineyard is planted with pre-phylloxera vines that are at least 100 years old, and which also provide the material for any new Nero d’Avola plantings at Montoni. As is the practice for the rest of Montoni, only copper and sulphur have ever been used in the vineyards. Vrucara grapes are fermented in cement for about 4 weeks on the skins, followed by 4 years in cement, 6 months in large wood, and 6 months in bottle – unfined, unfiltered. In most other hands you could expect something oaky and pompous; the great thing about Vrucara is that it’s a lively and elegant wine of real subtlety; the intensity and depth that comes from the very old vines almost takes you by surprise, and it has great persistence and thoroughly satisfying balance. It’s delicious now, but I think would be very interesting to cellar – the oldest Vrucara I’ve tasted was 12 years old, and it seemed to have plenty left to develop. This is one of the very best Sicilian reds – one of a very few Grand Cru wines of Sicily. Jamie Wolff