Grape(s): 60% Zibibbo, 40% Albanello
Localization: Sicily, Italy
Tasting notes: Occhipinti SP68 Bianco 2018 is an aromatic and elegant white wine. The nose presents memories of Mediterranean herbs and white flowers accompanied by a fruity note that combines aromas of pink grapefruit, lychees, and white peaches. On the palate, it is a light and frank wine, with a fresh and almost herbaceous note and with a dry finish.
Food pairing: Aperitif, Grilled seafood, Cold meat, Fish rice, Lightly seasoned salad.
Notes: 60% Zibibbo/40% Albanello. The two varieties are native to Sicily--Zibibbo is more widely known as Muscat of Alexandria--and are grown on red sand soils over limestone rock, with vines averaging 15 years old on several different estate sites. The vines are organically farmed and hand-harvested. The fruit is destemmed and co-fermented with native yeasts in concrete tanks and with two-week skin maceration. The wine is aged in a concrete tank for 8 months and bottled unfiltered. The wine is named "SP68" for the road near Arianna's home vineyard in Vittoria.
The Domain: The winery of Arianna Occhipinti, one of Italy's most authentic and celebrated women of wine, is located in Vittoria, in the province of Ragusa, on the now-famous Strada Provinciale 68. Her story as a winemaker began very early, when, after obtaining a diploma in Agriculture and Enology in Milan, she decided to return to her beloved Sicily, determined to produce high-quality wines while respecting ancient traditions. In 2004 she bought a hectare of land at the foot of the Iblei mountains, near Vittoria, and planted her first vineyard. Today the estate has expanded to 22 hectares of vineyards and orchards. This includes beautiful plots of land in the districts of Fossa di Lupo and Piraino, divided by traditional dry stone walls, where the typical vines of the area are grown: Frappato, Nero d'Avola, Cerasuolo di Vittoria and Zibibbo.
Arianna Occhipinti's production philosophy is proudly traditionalist and very respectful of the land and nature: the use of green manure in alternate rows, treatments with only copper and sulfur, fermentation carried out in cement tanks with indigenous yeasts, no filtration, and aging in large wood barrels with little or no toasting. This is the work of Arianna Occhipinti, a 'natural woman' who draws strength and success from the land, from passion and love for the territory.
Arianna personally manages the entire production cycle, putting her studies in Milan to good use. From the vineyard, as an expert in agriculture, to the winery, as an expert enologist, she has also developed into a skilled administrator and marketing expert. Her wines, known and appreciated all over the world, reflect the characters, aromas, and peculiarities of the terroir in which the vineyards are immersed. These are authentic, rustic, but especially true wines: expressions of one of the most charismatic producers of the Italian peninsula.
In 2006, Joe and Kevin fell in love with the wines of an unassuming 24-year-old showing her first vintage at an Italian wine fair. Today, Arianna Occhipinti has become a seminal figure for a new generation of wine lovers. Her rise to prominence has been meteoric, and rightfully so: anyone who has ever met Ari will instantly vouch for her charming personality and seemingly boundless energy.
Arianna is the niece of Giusto Occhipinti, whose COS wines are undisputedly amongst the very best of Sicily. In 1998, Giusto invited her to help him out at Vinitaly for four days. Arianna was 16 at the time and knew nothing about wine; the experience was such a good one that she decided to study viticulture and enology in university. This quickly proved counter-intuitive, since everything she had learned from her uncle (organic viticulture, hand-harvesting, native yeast fermentations) clashed with what she was being taught in school.
Undeterred, Arianna started making her own wine with just one hectare of abandoned vines in the commune of Vittoria. Over the years, she has progressively expanded the estate by replanting 10 hectares of the region's indigenous Frappato and Nero D'Avola in selection massale. A few years later, she was able to start renting 50-year-old Frappato and 45-year-old Nero D'Avola vines, both independently bottled as single varietal/vineyard cuvées. In 2012, an additional eight hectares of 19-year-old vines were acquired, which for the time being will be used to produce more of her "SP68".
Continually pushing things forward, Arianna built herself a new cellar in 2014, a huge step up from the cramped, chaotic space she used to work in. Besides the obvious advantage of having more space, it has permitted Arianna to start a new regiment of concrete fermentation and aging for both "SP68"'s, which used to be produced in stainless steel and fiberglass. Some of the tanks are glass lined, some aren't. They are all 2mx2m, and with the way they are set up, the juice can be worked by gravity.