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oenopole trade tasting (3/4): Arianna Occhipinti

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Based near Vittoria in the province of Ragusa in southeast Sicily, just-turned-30 Arianna Occhipinti has been making wine and olive oil on the family estate for more than a decade. She farms organically, ferments using indigenous yeasts, adheres to a non-interventionist approach in the cellar and bottles unfiltered, unfined and with minimal sulphur dioxide. In the five years since the MWG had the pleasure of hosting her at a tasting, she has gone from being a virtual unknown in North America to something of a rock star, with regular mentions in the New York Times and wine magazines.

IGT Sicilia 2011, SP68 Bianco, Arianna Occhipinti ($25.90, oenopole, NLA)
A 50-50 blend of Albanello and Zibibbo (aka Muscat of Alexandria) from ten-year-old vines. Macerated 15 days on the skins. Aged six months in stainless steel vats. 12% ABV. Albanello is an obscure but ancient grape variety grown in the Ragusa and Syracuse areas. At the private import expo, Arianna told me she feels it has the potential to make very fine wine and is experimenting with a varietal bottling.
Fragrant nose of muscat grapes, sour apple and white flowers with minerals in the background. Less perfumy in the mouth. Dry and a little disconcerting because the nose has you expecting something sweeter. Soft, fragrant, delicious. Not super fruity but pure and fresh with just enough acidity. Lingering sour chalky finish and a faint astringency. One of those wines that keeps you coming back for another sip.

IGT Sicilia 2011, SP68 Rosso, Arianna Occhipinti ($22.70, 11811765)
A 50-50 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato from ten-year-old vines. Macerated 30 days on the skins. Aged six months in stainless steel vats. 12.5% ABV. The wine will be sold through the SAQ for the first time as part of the November 22nd Cellier release. Unfortunately, the SAQ decided to order only 900 bottles for the entire province (it was offered more), virtually ensuring a stampede by wine geeks anxious to score even a bottle or two (versus the case or two they could get when it was a private import). The monopoly moves in mysterious ways.
Lovely nose: cherry and red berries with hints of flowers, slate and old wood. Soft, supple, pure. Lightly tannic and acidic. The fruit fades leaving minerals, earth and herbs. The drying finish is kissed by bitterness. A joy.

IGT Sicilia 2010, Il Frappato, Arianna Occhipinti ($38.25, oenopole, NLA)
Arguably Arianna’s flagship wine. 100% Frappato di Vittoria from 50-year-old vines. Macerated 50 days on the skins. Aged 14 months in large 25 hl Slovenian oak barrels. 12.5% ABV. Quebec’s entire allocation was snapped up by restaurateurs, leaving even us longtime innamorati empty-handed.
Fragrant nose of dried rose, sour red berries, slatey minerals and spice. More tightly wound than usual with some tannic astringency. Still medium-bodied and beautifully balanced. Turns minerally on the long, caressing finish. The structure makes this more Burgundy-like than ever. Will probably benefit from a year or two in the cellar but plenty delicious now.

Written by carswell

November 8, 2012 at 20:34

3 Responses

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  1. […] and affable if far from profound. Comes across as a warmer-climate take on the grape than Occhipinti’s and COS’s supreme – and, yes, much pricier – interpretations. A fairer comparison might […]

  2. […] First, the quantities. How could the SAQ have decided to purchase only 900 bottles? They were offered many more. (“Are you sure you didn’t drop a zero from that number” the agency representing the producer is reported to have asked the monopoly.) But the SAQ decided to “play it safe.” For a wine with a track record of selling like hotcakes through the more exclusive private import channel when the bottles were also $2 or $3 more expensive. For a wine that has been universally, ecstatically praised by the world wine media. For a wine that’s a favourite of local restaurateurs. For a wine that wine geeks across the city knew was going to cause a stampede. […]

  3. […] price has crept up $2.50 from the 2011 sold last November. Yet as a Web search shows, shops in New York City are listing the wine for […]

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