I have been asked to personally take you to the places where my wine originates from and is produced, telling you, in my own words, about the companyâ€™s history and the philosophy behind the business founded by my family over a hundred years ago, and showing you the vineyard and the winery, the spirit and the welcome we offer to those who want to enjoy the peacefulness and energy of this area, which is called VirzĂŹ.
The history of Spadafora bottled wine began over twenty years ago, in the summer of 1988, when my father decided it would be better to explore another world, to see how it was, so from our land in Mussomeli, a family-owned property in inland Sicily, where they grew wheat, I moved to VirzĂŹ to take care of the vineyards and make wine from the grapes. I immediately became passionate about it, thinking about what my father would like and what I wanted. After tasting and testing, I decided in 1993 that I would only produce wine from grapes grown on this land, and I produced our first bottle, which I naturally named after my father: Don Pietro.
Let us now return to who we are and what we do. I will quote a short text that I wrote some time ago, in a playful tone, for a Company presentation, which more or less says this: Every official presentation of the company should describe the place where it is located in the local area (municipality of Monreale; hills between 250 and 400 meters above sea level) it should then describe how many hectares are planted with vines (95 hectares of vineyards) as well as other crops (20 hectares of olive trees), out of the total property area of 180 hectares; finally, it certainly ought to outline the company philosophy, saying how the plants are grown and what types of grapes are produced (Catarratto, Grillo, Chardonnay and Inzolia for the white varieties and Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot and Nero dâ€™Avola for the red grapes). In short, in a few lines the presentation should provide a picture of the places and the grapes, before then giving descriptions of the various wines.
Our Philosophy For me it is essential that we only use grapes we have grown ourselves, but I know this is nothing exceptional, since many already doing the same. An equally determining factor is where the grapes are grown, but I understand that also this makes no difference, since there are many other places suitable for growing grapes. What I find strange is that we have succeeded, we alone, to produce something people like, and this is why I consider VirzĂŹ a special place. Let me give you an example: If I produced grapes in Burgundy, close to the best producer, in the best area of Burgundy, you would assume that my wine would be good; but in VirzĂŹ, where they produced wine that was sold in casks and then loaded onto trucks and where grapes were sold to cooperative wineries for forty years, we produced a wine in 1993 made with our own hands. And from then on, after each harvest or after each bottling, it seemed that I was witnessing a small miracle.
The Vineyard The grapes grown on the estate are harvested by hand and arrive in the winery in small, six hundred kilo trucks, within about ten or fifteen minutes after cutting, in order to be processed immediately. Harvesting of the white grapes, Chardonnay, Inzolia, Catarratto and Grillo, starts at around six oâ€™clock in the morning so as to reach a temperature of around 17 Â° C. The grapes are grown at a height varying between 220 and 400 meters above sea level and, under normal conditions, are subject to a temperature variation of 10-15 Â°C, between day and night.
The winery I remember perfectly the first winemaking and the first experiments in the 1990s. I began by renovating four vats, each of 170 hectolitres, and I cooled the must with a small heat exchanger connected to a fridge. I spent the nights making sure the fermentation temperature did not rise and when, a year later, there were already eight tanks and I had installed plates to exchange the cold, controlled by an electrical panel that allowed the temperature to be set, I felt over the moon and, if nothing else, I was could sleep at night! All the tanks have now been renovated, there are 27 of them and there are also some steel tanks in the area where the old winemaking machines are kept, which I use for smaller amounts. Naturally, I have a part in wood, 225 litre barriques, and a 25 hectolitre barrel, which I use for conducting tests, and is currently occupied by a Nero dâ€™Avola.
Sole dei Padri Sole dei Padri is pure Syrah, maybe more than 100%, from a single vineyard, 400 meters above sea level. We produce 7,000 bottles of it. This Syrah is the offspring of the previous one, although it has now surpassed it in importance. It was born as an offshoot of Schietto Syrah, during wine tasting from various tanks when we realized, with the help of a wine expert friend of mine who had come to see me, that a vat from grapes harvested at 400 meters, on sandier soil, had produced a wine that was more intense, more everything. I am always happy when I can share my feelings by talking about them with people. Then another friend of mine, thinking about my professional life, my father and my daughter, looked at me and told me that he had the name for that wine, if I ever decided to produce it. And so, after the wine came the name, â€?Sole dei Padriâ€?, dedicated to my father and my daughter.
Cabernet Sauvignon / Schietto I have always given great importance to Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and this bottle was created only after careful selection. It is part of the Schietto range, which are single varietals, so it is 100% Cabernet. We produce 12,000 bottles of it. The first bottle was produced in 1997, after a period spent in France during the harvest. Significant experience in which I have really realized, thanks to my guest Thierry, that making wine is much more than transforming the grapes into wine. I am not going to tell you the techniques learned during that French harvest but my bottle of â€˜97, my first experience, received two years later 90 points in the Wine Spectator magazine. On the back label I thanked my friend Thierry publicly. This is the story of my Cabernet Sauvignon.
Nero dâ€™Avola / Schietto Schietto Nero dâ€™Avola closes a circle, at least for now. In fact, a reserve made with this grape had been lacking, but now, nine years later, ever since I found the right soil, we are ready with the 2009 vintage. It is vinified in cement, aged in large barrels for a year and at least six months in bottles. I had tried to figure out how to make a Pinot Nero wine, I had tried to figure out how to have elegance and the right concentration from this grape and I had wondered what would be the sense of waiting until now to enter the world of Nero dâ€™Avola but, not having found a satisfactory answer, I thought that the only way to find out was to let my friends taste it and watch their reactions. Now, we are ready.
Syrah / Schietto This bottle of Syrah is included in the Schietto line, a line of single varietals, and is therefore 100% Syrah. It is structurally very different from the first one, with the red label. We produce 12,000 bottles of it. Syrah is grown in different ways in the winery, depending on the intended use for the grapes, so these grapes come from a sunnier area than the first but have quite a different plant yield, in order to ensure a concentration that will make this wine ready to rest a year in small oak barrels, which have been previously used for our third Syrah. It is remarkable how we started producing this bottle. When I planted several plots of Syrah in 1996, I thought I would only produce two different types, each with quite different characters and characteristics: the first as a wine bar wine and the second more structured, with a non-invasive transition due to the wood. And this is what I did. At the time of winter tasting, I realized that a different wine had been produced from a small tank, whose grapes were from a single plot, and this was put aside in order to become the third Syrah, namely, our reserve, while the rest became Schietto Syrah. It is an important but, at the same time, gentle Syrah, with hints of berries that make it elegant. This wine is produced every year, even if the reserve is not guaranteed.
Don Pietro red This is the second red wine of the range and, unlike the red label Syrah, it is a structured wine with the typical elegance of a Sicilian Bordeaux blend, therefore Nero dâ€™Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We produce 45,000 bottles of it. The Don Pietro red was the first bottle produced by the Spadafora Company: this was in 1993, although the first test dates back to 1991. The fermentation of the grapes for the Don Pedro red takes place in different periods: the first grapes to be made into wine are Merlot, then Nero dâ€™Avola and lastly Cabernet Sauvignon. The part I find most interesting is the moment of blending, namely, when I have to decide the percentages of each, which, of course, is done according to interpretation of the vintage. The technical specifications of the wine will be given as on the back label and you will realize that making wine for me is something that goes beyond mere trade, since each bottle bears my name, especially this bottle dedicated to the man who, despite himself, left me a beautiful land on which to produce grapes.
Syrah This is the first of three Syrah that we produce. I therefore consider it the companyâ€™s calling card. We produce 55,000 bottles of it. Conceptually, I consider it a wine bar wine, as an aperitif, in any case not to be drunk as the only wine of the evening. The grapes come from three different plots, with different heights and exposures and are harvested in three periods, in order to impart fresh fruit aromas built on a good structure, which give them those characteristics of fresh wine that you can even drink at a temperature of 16Â° degrees. The same principle holds true for this wine as for the Alhambra. It is the red that we produce most of and therefore we give it our maximum attention, because more people will drink it. The grapes are chilled before vinification, the extraction of colour is therefore done cold and only then does the fermentation with the skins begin, for a period ranging between 4 and 8 days, in order to avoid excessive extraction of tannins, which is not necessary for this type of wine. If the Don Pietro white can be described as a picnic wine, then I think this red also has the same concept, and should ideally be drunk outdoors.
Alhambra red I consider this the younger brother of the Alhambra white, not in any negative sense, but because it arrived recently and those who know me might perhaps be surprised that I decided to produce and market a Nero dâ€™Avola only now, just when this variety has lost the lustre of its best days. The reason is that for a few years I have been looking for the right plot and the exposure in the 180 acres of the estate for the Nero dâ€™Avola to reach its highest potential here in VirzĂŹ, and it seems that we have finally succeeded. We will produce two versions of it, the first is this Alhambra red, and there will be another in the Schietto range. This is produced in concrete vats and only spends a small time in large barrels, to smooth out the edges. It has been included in the Alhambra range, and therefore the same things written for the white apply here, namely that the commitment to processing these grapes and producing this wine is equal to, if not greater than, that for the other wines, which perhaps cost more. The reason is simply that this is the bottle of red wine which will probably be drunk by the most people.
Chardonnay / Schietto This is an elegant, structured wine, aged for 6 months in small, 225-litre barrels from three different years and made from two different kinds of wood. It is part of our Schietto range, which are single varietals, and we produce 7,000 bottles of it. The harvest takes place in August, in three different moments, because this grape is grown on a long, exposed ridge to the north, which has varied ripening times. The decision to harvest at separate times is because we try to integrate different levels of sugar and acidity. Fermentation takes place in steel vats, where the fresh must is also added to the first must that is already fermenting, in order to prolong the process. Only at the end of fermentation, and after racking, is it put into small casks where second fermentation, or malolactic fermentation, occurs naturally, with the malic acid being transformed into lactic acid. This gives the wine its characteristic elegance, together with a hint of vanilla. The 2008 and 2009 vintages won two beautiful gold medals in France, at the Chardonnay du Monde competition, and I am very proud of it, in fact, so proud that right now Iâ€™m going to leave the computer and pour myself a glass.
Don Pietro white This is a fresh, elegant wine, with a superior structure than that of the Alhambra. It is named after my father. We produce 45,000 bottles of it. The grapes are equal proportions of Catarratto, Inzolia and Grillo, fermented at different times, with the resulting wines blended in November. Compared to the Alhambra, I consider the Don Pietro as a small reserve. The Catarratto grapes used are extra glossy, which certainly contributes to the excellent quality. The Inzolia are grown in the hills and undergo a strict grape selection. The Grillo is processed at two separate times to ensure higher acidity, as well as a greater structure, considering the cluster sizes of the Grillo. A careful vine selection is also made. I find that the Don Pietro has improved in quality since I bought a new pneumatic press, for the 2008 vintage. Recently, at a Spadafora tasting event held on a beautiful lawn, the first wine to be tasted was the Don Pietro white, and a special friend of mine described it as an excellent picnic wine: I thought this was a wonderful description.
Grillo This is a fresh, elegant wine, with a superior structure than that of the Don Pietro white in the Don Pietro range. We produce 7,000 bottles of it. The wine is made from 100% Grillo grapes and the grapes used are different than those for the Don Pietro white Grillo. These were the first Grillo grapes I planted, 350 meters above sea level, in an area of about two hectares. The first batch was harvested in the second half of August and the second batch in the first half of September, to obtain different levels of acidity and sugar. The must from the second harvest is added to the first, which is already fermenting, so that the fermentation, at around 13째, lasts longer and acquires greater elegance. When the long fermentation period is complete, after racking, it is left for a few months on the clean lees, a process that allows it to acquire structure and finesse. When someone asks me about the characteristics of this wine, I usually reply that should be drunk before expressing an opinion. The Grillo is the quintessential grape for Marsala, in this instance produced in the hills, which is an interesting novelty.
Alhambra white This is a fresh wine, which should be consumed within two years. The name refers to my familyâ€™s Spanish origins and we produce 75,000 bottles of it. The grapes are equal quantities of Catarratto and Inzolia, fermented separately. The wines are blended in November. So far this seems like technical information, but I was also asked to give my personal impressions in this page on the wines. I can tell you, then, that the effort we put into processing these grapes and producing this wine that is equal to, if not greater than, that for the production of more expensive wines. The reason is simple: this is the wine that is consumed most and therefore our largest production.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil I love producing oil, but unfortunately I don’t make very much. The olive tree is as much a part of the land as the vineyard and producing oil is like when I cook pasta with raw tomatoes and fresh basil in the summer. It does not ferment; once it is pressed, it is left to settle and then, with the new year, it is bottled. It does not go into reduction as with some wines, but is immediately ready for use. It is currently the only bottle we produce, and on the label there is a reference to my lovely daughter Enrica, aka Kiki. I have written: ”Little Kiki, my daughter, chose this as a condiment for her food”, and I don’t know why, but I always considered this bottle of oil to be her very own.
Visits and tasting VirzĂŹ is an open place, where the only organising is that regarding the work. A lot of people have come to see me in recent years: amateur enthusiasts, men and women from the wine trade, journalists from around the world, my daughterâ€™s friends and those of my own. I have always welcomed them all in the same way: by jeep, with a tour around vineyards, or, in the vineyard around the winery and then, depending on their age, a chat with a glass of wine.
Hospitality At a small sign for ”Virzì”, you turn off the road linking the Gallitelli exit of the Palermo Mazara del Vallo motorway with the town of Camporeale, and after a few bends, a group of different coloured houses can be seen in the distance. It looks like a small village, and once it actually was. I remember well as a kid, when those houses, and others besides, were inhabited by families who cultivated the estate, before they all collapsed during the Belice earthquake. The houses have been gradually renovated over the years to accommodate the people who come to visit us. After about two miles of paved road, you continue through olive groves and vineyards along a dirt road, sometimes an ordeal and sometimes a delight for our visitors, and eventually reach the centre of the estate, following the signs for Virzì. I have now been living on the estate for ten years, opposite the winery, among the vineyards, and for me this is a marvellous place, but I know that it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
This is why I decided to create the Virzì guests’ ”handbook”: • I am well and I feel happy to live in this place, even though before this I was already content. • I feel the need to hear and tune into other noises than those of the city. • The light does not disturb me and I do not fear the energy that it can give me. • I love the produce of the vegetable garden and eating in the evening beside a large window overlooking the vineyards. • I am enticed by the possibility, when I return from trips - to Segesta, the Zingaro Nature Reserve or wherever - to dive into the pool, between the Chardonnay, Nero d’Avola and Inzolia. I could continue, but I don’t want to deprive you of the pleasure of surprise. I can tell you, however, that Virzì is perhaps not the best place for people who don’t like living like this.
The estate can be reached from the Gallitelli exit of the A29 Palermo - Mazara del Vallo motorway, about 55 km from ”Falcone-Borsellino” airport. Follow the signs for Camporeale from the Gallitelli exit. From the junction on the SP 5 provincial highway, proceed for 6.1 km and you will see signs for the Azienda Agricola Virzì to the left. Take this road unhesitatingly: after just 5 km you will reach the estate.
progetto grafico AD Positive di Leonardo Recalcati
Spadafora Offices Via Ausonia 90 90146 Palermo P / +39 091 51 49 52 / 091 670 33 22 F / +39 091 670 33 60 M / firstname.lastname@example.org Azienda Agricola Spadafora Contrada VirzĂŹ [PA] 90146 Palermo