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Salina – the greenest of the Aeolians

Malvasia Day in Salina, Sicily: Capers and malvasia are two of the items from a lush countryside where the soil is composed of layers formed in ancient volcanic eruptions…

by Francesca Ciancio

In the center of the Aeolian archipelago, the twenty-seven kilometers of islands lying north of Sicily, is Salina. It seems protected by the other islands: Vulcano and Lipari are in front, Panarea and Stromboli lie on the right, Filicudi and Alicudi to the left. Didyme is Salina’s name in ancient Greek – twin mountains. It is the greenest of the Aeolians, and has two of the three highest elevations in the group. Made up of three municipalities (comuni), its important agricultural resources turn out excellent products, unique in Italy’s gastronomic panorama. Capers and malvasia are two of the items from a lush countryside where the soil is composed of layers of soil formed in ancient volcanic eruptions.

Capofaro, in the northern part of the island, celebrates Malvasia Day in June.The entire day is dedicated to the wine and the artisans who grow its grapes. The event was established by the Tasca family, the proprietors of Tasca d’Almerita, the winery that produces its Malvasia on Salina and owns a luxurious resort in Capofaro.

To vinify, the Tascas use tanks made by Francesco Fenech, of Maltese origin. His family left Malta in the mid-eighteenth century to escape an outbreak of the plague. Francesco describes his own Malvasia as if it were his beloved, a woman who was rough and yet soft at the same time. He leaves her only to move around Italy, selling his

wine. When Francesco is away, Boudid, a Moroccan youngster, is in charge. Malvasia delle Lipari passito 2009 displays no sensations of wood, but lots of ripe apricot and also green apple. Its amazingly persistent aromatic nose closes on hints of almonds. The last notes are briny, like a true wine of the sea.

In the organic D’Amico winery, famed enologist Salvo Foti has been making his mark for a while. The owner, Salvatore D’Amico, is from the Veneto, Bassano del Grappa, but spends more than half the year in Salina making his wine. The estate also has the only olive oil mill on the island where D’Amico turns out oil based on nocellara and oliarola messinese cultivars. Even his capers are certified organic. D’Amico produced one of the island’s first Malvasia bottles: his first experiments date back to 1972. He paused for two decades and then in 1992, he began again with grapes from one of the island’s most favorable locations, Valdichiesa a Leni. Wood can be sensed here, acacia tonneaux that were the idea of a Veneto producer, Maculan. The wine is sunny, but not overripe, with strong citrusy notes and very pronounced minerality. It is more rustic than elegant, but unquestionably honest.

Lidia and Piero Colosi have been married for 21 years. She is Calabrese, he is Sicilian, from Messina. Although their families have been growing grapes for three generations, they made their first Malvasia delle Lipari in 1988. Their winemaking facilities are completely underground and the vineyards are all around

the island, with the largest one (eight hectares) in Capofaro.Their version of this wine is perhaps the most traditional. With your eyes closed, you imagine a red with light organic notes. Then Salina itself emerges powerfully, with notes of myrtle in both nose and mouth. Fig, apricot and jasmine tones follow, and on the finish a hint of camphor bestows freshness, but also austerity.

Finally we come to Hauner – everything begins and ends here.Every producer we met said,“We sold our grapes to Hauner, we worked for Hauner, we drank Hauner”. Carlo Hauner, with the same name as his father who founded the business, is behind the counter serving wines. His looks and accent are typical of Brescia, a city way in the north, but he sees himself as belonging to Salina. Although the Hauner family has done a lot for the island, the island always rewarded them with extraordinary sunsets. Much has been written about the father and about his wines. These labels tell us a lot about his restless character. Carlo junior has a marvelous if difficult legacy to deal with- starting with 50,000 bottles of Malvasia divided into two types, natural and dried. Our choice is the Riserva, the most complex wine that Hauner makes. After careful selection, the bunches are dried for 40 days in a super-ventilated space. Wood aging develops fascinating tertiary notes (medicinal, balsamic) without betraying the island’s signature thyme and lavender tones. This opulent wine shows its character immediately through its intense gold color, Mediterranean yet dark.

Source: Tre Bicchieri International, monthly news for the wine professional.

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