A forward-thinking winery in the heart of nature.
Wednesday 10 November 2021
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Since 1958, Cantine Settesoli has been growing grapes by the banks of Lake Arancio in Sambuca. Now with an accumulation of farmers all working together to create a cooperative that works hard for its members, the winery has vineyards in the hills and by the sea, and on the slopes by the rivers Belice and Carboj. There are even grapes in vineyards by the Magaggiaro Forest, taking advantage of the humidity and special qualities of the soil and biodiversity there.
When you think about Sicilian wines, you might immediately think of Mount Etna smoking in the distance, or of fuller-bodied red wines full of tannin and spice grown from dry, sandy soils. At Cantine Settesoli, however, there’s a wealth of limestone and chalk-rich soils — soils known as “skeletal” because of the high composition of fossilised sea creatures from when Sicily was once under the ocean. There’s clay here too, concentrating flavour and grabbing hold of moisture, keeping vines hydrated during hot, dry periods.
Settesoli is proud of its biodiversity, growing grapes and making wine in a region that’s thriving with wildlife. Hares are commonly seen darting through the fields, flamingos balance in the lake and by the forest, wild boar snuffles out into the evening.
Of its 2000 members, the Settesoli cooperative looks to support its youngest as an increasing priority. Keeping young people in Sicily to tend to the vines and to make high quality wine for the coming generations is something that many winemakers in the region know is important for the industry’s future, however it’s organisations like Cantine Settesoli who are investing in young winemakers, and supporting them with their experience and technical expertise. Alone, these smaller winemakers might have a rough time sending their finished wines to drinkers around the world. As members of Settesoli, they can ensure their grapes are harvested at the right times, sold for a fair price, and that the wine they make ends up bringing them the profits they deserve — and will taste delicious too.
It’s not only young people that Settesoli seeks to benefit, however. The wine cooperative wants to improve working conditions for all its winemakers and growers, creating a more attractive prospect for ex-pat Sicilians so that they might return to the island, bringing their experiences and skills with them. These prospects include protecting and respecting the environment, an aspect of their winery that has become ever more prescient in recent years. They’ve even got their own fundraising campaign to protect and restore the Selinunte, an ancient Greek city on the South West coast of Sicily not far from the winery.
In 1985, Settesoli was one of the very first wineries in Sicily to introduce Chardonnay to their vineyards. In addition, they began to experiment with other international varieties, many of which remain in their estate and make up some of their most popular bottles. However their commitment to maintaining the quality and popularity of indigenous grapes has never faltered. One of their most popular grapes is still Grillo, a Sicilian mainstay, originally used to make Marsala. Now, it features in their bright and fresh white single varietal wine, with orange blossom aromas and minerality from their unique patchwork of soils around the Settesoli vineyards.
In contrast to many Sicilian cooperatives, Cantine Settesoli pushes a fun, eccentric style in its artwork and its representations of itself. Easygoing, light and breezy, but with serious consideration to the tasting notes for each wine, it’s clear that even the most simple-seeming wines made at Settesoli are meant to be enjoyed in a way that goes deeper.
“The benevolence of the smiling sun on our labels tells the story of the genuineness of our community,” say Settesoli.
“The energy of the Sicilian sun is in our grapes; the passion and experience of a community of winemakers is in the quality of our wines.”
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