Some producers define a region, and others transcend it. Arianna Occhipinti, the niece of Giusto Occhipinti of COS, is the latter. Since her teens she closely spent time with her uncle who had put Vittoria and its Cerasuolo blend of Frappato and Nero d'Avola on the worldwide map. In 2004 with just one hectare she produced her first wine, and every day since it's more or less been a battle of allocations. Today we focus on two blends of Vittoria's most prized varietals, the SP68 and her top wine, Grotte Alte, only produced in exceptional vintages.
Arianna's close bond with Giusto sent her to Milan to study oenology. There she was surprised and disheartened to find the more chemical and industrial focus on winemaking taking precedent over the natural vineyard-first emphasis she grew up around. When she returned to Vittoria she slowly began to make plans to cultivate her own land, growing vines and more. The one hectare she started with has now grown into 28. Organic farming is strictly followed on all parcels.
I had always loved Arianna's wines and her approach from what understood. But, I wasn't prepared for what I saw at her newly constructed Vittoria estate. Every step has been taken to ensure the most clean and precise wines are produced. Much of Italy still sees temperatures for aging much higher than ideal. Arianna's top wine, Grotte Alte spends extended time in botti and it's marvelous balance of deep textured fruit with bright piercing clarity is incumbent upon pristine conditions.
However, as much as I want to wax poetic about the underground cellar, Arianna would point out that it's all very much second to the work that occurs in the vineyard. The parcels are immaculate, as you'd imagine with her background and terroir-focused sensibility. The rocky limestone makes itself evident with patches on the top of the soil as well as deep below where her cellar is built with exposed walls (picture below).
We touched on the unique terroir of Vittoria on Monday, but it bears repeating. The reason these wines are so elegant and balanced in Sicily's hot interior is due to constant wind, sandy topsoil, and the limestone mother rock that brings marked acidity to the wines.
Grace is a characteristic that may be overused at times (guilty as charged), but there's no better apt identifier for Arianna's wines. They have a seamless, velvet texture, finely-etched minerality, and concentration that lets it be known power shouldn't be mutually exclusive with elegance.
SP68 is a blend of 70% Frappato and 30% Nero d'Avola. It's fermented and aged entirely in concrete. This preserves the fresh red and blue fruit notes, and crisp minerality streak that Vittoria captures so well.
Grotte Alte is produced only in exceptional vintages and is a blend of equal parts Frappato and Nero d'Avola, sourced from estate's oldest vines. It's fermented for at least 35 days on skins and then aged in large Slavonian botti (pictured below). If at any point in its evolution Arianna feels it's not up to the highest standard it will be blended into SP68.
2015 Occhipinti SP68 Rosso
$27 per bottle.
2012 Occhipinti Grotte Alte
$99 per bottle.