Centopassi - wines from the side of a mountain
A little over a year ago I moved jobs. My old job was based in central London and although I like to think I was just very good at managing my time, if I am completely honest it was a little bit dossy.
This meant that, in what I know look back upon all misty-eyed as "the good old days", I was a regular lunch break visitor to London trade tastings.
I didn't take the piss. It wasn't like I spent three hours every lunchtime swirling a glass and staining my teeth in some posh old building in Mayfair.
Oh no, I was ruthlessly efficient.
I would only attend if there was a winemaker I wanted to interview or a particular set of wines I wanted to sample. I would then review the list in advance and identify my prey. Armed with my asterisked tasting list, I set about getting in and out of there as quickly as possible, barging past other tasters with as much grace as Alan Partridge at Tony Hayers' funeral.
Unfortunately, the new job is a different proposition. I actually have to do some work now, and even worse than that my office is down near Gatwick, not exactly a hot spot for the UK wine trade.
Recently, however, I was able to engineer a quick hour at the London Wine Fair at the Kensington Olympia after a meeting in West London. True to form, I planned in advance. With 14,000 wines on show and one hour spare, I needed a strategy. I spent time tasting the latest releases of two producers I know and love, Tenute Sella and Centopassi.
Centopassi is a co-operative based in Sicily. It is certified organic and the wines are made from vines at altitude grown on land reclaimed from the mafia. You can read more about the set up here.
Meanwhile, here are my thoughts on the latest wine releases from Centopassi;
Giato Bianco 2017 - 30% Grillo and 70% Cataratto. The name Giato is the old name for Mount Jato, where the vineyards are. This is Centopassi's entry level wine but its lovely. Floral stone fruits on the nose and the acidity of white grapefruit on the palate.
Rocca di Petra Longa, Grillo 2016 - 100% Grillo, made from vines grown more than 600m above sea level, this wine is ace. A real salty, maritime aroma to it and then the trademark Chablis-eque minerality combines with flavours of freshly cut green apple and honey....and that texture. Delicious.
Terre Rosse di Giabbascio, Cataratta 2016 - 100% Cataratto, Sicily's most planted grape, made from vines planted in 1970 on clay soils at an altitude 300m. Brilliant tension and energy here, floral peachy flavours and a light syrupy texture.
Cimento di Perricone, Perricone 2016 - 100% Perricone from vines at 950m. This has a really dark purple colour and offers a spiced black fruited mouthful with wild tannins, which makes you want to run down a steep hill at speed.
Argille di Tagghia Via Di Sutta, Nero d'Avola 2015 - 100% Nero d'Avola taken from the lower section of the vineyard, where the richer soils give it more elegant, velvety tannins than the wild Perricone. Really fresh red fruit and mineral bite, this wine is so drinkable. Very complete.
Marne di Saladino, Syrah 2016 - 100% Syrah. I'm not sure if my judgement was marred by not tasting this blind and knowing it was not made from an indigenous grape, but this was the least successful wine for me. Floral red fruits and white pepper fall into a wall of tannins which are just a bit too drying for me.
Pietre a Purtedda da Ginestra 2015 - 30% Nocera and 70% Nerello Mascalese grown at 950m on bush vines on rocky soils. The fruit was not harvested until late October and the slow ripening season has given the wine real freshness. A brilliant silky texture with dark, brooding fruits spilling over a mineral-laden backbone of soft tannins.
Centopassi's wines are available in the UK through Astrum Wine Cellars.