Before I even get into writing about this experience, I want to let you know that I am, by no means, a wine expert! My post is definitely written as a “regular” wine consumer, and therefore my descriptions and explanations are very simplified!
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being an interpreter for a group of 6 family run wineries from Sicily that are on a USA tour promoting their unique wines! The tour has been named the X Wine Tour 2011. The wineries are looking to bring their wine talents to the San Francisco Bay Area and therefore had a presentation to members of the wine and restaurant industry. At times, my translating skills were put to the test when the technical aspects of wine production were discussed…but, as in all languages, when you don’t know the exact term, you find a work around! Even though my translations probably weren’t very “wine-specific”, I think I was able to make myself understood!
During the presentations at the press event by each winery on Sunday at the Italian Consulate, I learned so much about wine production in Sicily, and the uniqueness of their wines and grapes. Sicily is an island where the sun plays a huge part in the final wine product, thus leading to a sweeter grape (and also a higher alcohol content!). The terrain and the various altitudes where the grapes are grown also contribute to their uniqueness. Sicily has grapes that are indigenous to their island. thus creating wines varieties that are only produced there. They also produce wines with “international” grapes, but these as well, take on a totally different aspect because of Sicily’s particular characteristics.
The two wineries I assisted with produced totally different wines. The first one, FINA, produced red and white wines – some with indigenous grapes and others with “international” ones. I learned that the typical Sicilian variety of red wine, Nero d’Avolo, is widely produced and distributed worldwide. But what the wine merchants wanted to stress was that Sicily produces so much more than just Nero d’Avolo! The indigenous white wine grapes had lovely names with Grillo and Zibibbo being my favorites!
The second winery I interpreted for, CANTINE INTORCIA, only made Marsalas and dessert wines. But their Marsalas were different than the norm. They had a very dry Marsala, Marsala Vergine Soleras, which, when chilled, could be served as an aperitif with cheese. Serving this very same Marsala at room temperature completely changed the palate and pairing it with biscotti or even meats was great! Who ever thought of Marsala as a dinner or apertif type of wine? But because the Marsala is dry, it lends itself to this. I also had the pleasure of experiencing the sweet wonder of their Passito – the wine produced from those grapes that have dried on the vine.
The information I gained was so interesting – and the best was that I was exposed to that unique “continent” which is Sicily! The Sicilians very affectionately call their island a continent….and now I see why! It has a character all its own, with a history so diverse and intriguing that it could easily be a continent unto itself. Even though they are technically part of Italy, their land is different and their people have a character all their own. I’m just thankful that they speak a language that I can communicate in, so that when I do visit it (which will be very soon, I hope), I can experience it to the fullest!