Belice Valley Wines
This eco-friendly cooperative is rebuilding tradition.
Wednesday 10 November 2021
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In 1968, an earthquake devastated the Sicilian region of the Belice Valley, crumbling ancient towns and shaking the South West of the island to dust. More than 100,000 local people were made homeless by the natural disaster, and the “ghost town” of Poggioreale, which was totally ruined, remains an eerie monument to the destruction, now visited by more tourists than its rebuilt neighbours.
Many local wine growers left the area to restart their life elsewhere, leaving vineyards in Belice to be sold or swallowed up by larger companies, and to a few producers using international varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1998 though, a group of young wine growers emerged, keen to rebuild the appellation’s winemaking communities and bring indigenous grapes back to the area.
Set in a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and dramatic cliffs, the vineyards of these young Sicilians are today baked by the sun and cooled by the sea air, providing a microclimate that’s ideal for nurturing vineyards of important indigenous grape varieties such as Nero D’Avola, Grillo, Cataratto, Zibibbo, Grecanico and Inzolia, alongside more international varieties and grapes from Mainland Italy like Sangiovese, Frappato and Nerello Mascalese. In the wilder corners of the vineyard, head-trained vines crouch, gnarled and stout, pruned in this ancient way to keep low, protected against gales blowing in from the sea.
Thanks to millennia of changes, the soil in this part of Sicily is highly variable. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and emergence from the sea have all played their part in the geological marvel that is this island. Limestone, volcanic ash, pumice, sand, grit and chalk all appear in the soil, bringing unique texture, aroma and minerality to their wines. It is a beautiful bigger picture of their wine composed of tiny essential fragments, each as unique and important as the last.
This incredible local terroir is, of course, vital to Sicilian wines, and so the entire Sicilian viticolture is working to drastically reduce their impact on the environment
A lot of winegrowers use eco-friendly and sustainable working practices too. Here, every single step of the winemaking journey should be taken with sustainability in mind, because without sustainability, there is no future for winemaking. And what would be the fun in a future without wine?
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