Marco De Bartoli, Sicily

Marco De Bartoli seems to have single-handedly restored (rescued?) the good name of Marsala, two hundred years after the British put it on the map (and before the Italians reduced it to a mere cooking ingredient). The 20ha family baglio (cantina/winery) close to the Sicilian town of Marsala is now also producing a range of sweet passito, fine dry white and excellent sparkling wines.

Scion of two industrial producers, Pellegrino and Mirabella, in 1978 Marco De Bartoli chose the lonely route to quality, deciding to grow and vinify the fruit himself in-house. To re-inforce this message he launched their flagship wine: ‘Vecchio Samperi’, named after the location of their baglio/farm, ‘Samperi’: a 100% ‘perpetuum’/solera aged 100% Grillo wine, it’s an original ‘Marsala’ made without fortification or the adding of ‘mistella’ (caramelised sweetner), perpetually racked to produce a fine, dry, delicate ‘rancio’ style wine. Alongside, De Bartoli also produces a range of classical, English-style, quality Marsala Superiore Riserva, from his own vineyards, using only Grillo (for quality) and not adding Inzolia or Catarratto (for quantity).

His children, Renato, Sebastiano and Giuseppina have now succeeded their father, continuing along the path of quality, but their campaign is to further promote Sicily’s autochthonous (indigenous) grape varieties (in the face of the sea of international ones), notably local Grillo, Zibibbo, Catarratto and red Pignatello (Perricone), through dry still and sparkling wines (the latter called ‘Terzavia’ in reference to the three ways in which Grillo can be vinified: oxidative, still white and sparkling!)

And since 1986 they have been producing a sweet Passito on the island of Pantelleria, close to Tunisia. Here the family own 8ha of Zibibbo vineyards (Muscat di Alessandria/Canelli) at the contrada/frazione of Bukkuram, making only a couple of thousand cases a year.

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