Mortellito Terre Siciliane - Cala Niuru 2022


Mortellito [MORT-el-li-to] is in Val di Noto*, in the corner of Sicily that lies at the same latitudes as North Africa’s arid desert climate. Its vineyards are a few kilometers from the coast, with grooves of ancient olive and almonds trees breaking the wind off the sea. Abandoned and still working fishing ports dot the landscape. Owner Dario Serrentino has always enjoyed the contrasts of this coastal growing area, which he calls ‘a desert next to the beach.’ Over the years, lucky for us, he’s learned to coax extremely elegant wines from this receding coast of limestone, which, he says, is ‘the magic to produce wines with tension, freshness, and complex salinity.’  In Dario’s best vintages, his rosso and bianco wines have a tapering, svelte finish, that’s cool and salt-dusted.  Drinking them is akin to a dive into the nearby Ionian sea on a hot summer day.

Dario has always worked on the family farm in one form or another (his heirloom almonds were actually his first love). He changed careers from  social worker and part-time farmer to full-time vignaiolo with his first bottling in 2014. He works only with native grapes, including an herbal Frappato, and a spicy-sour bush vine Nero d’Avola. His whites are acid-driven and aspirin-chalky in texture: the Grillo often has a nose of grilled nuts and citrus rinds, the Moscato di Alessandria is floral and herbal (la sua morte, ‘it’s death,’ as the Italians like to say, is a pairing with raw fish crudo).

There’s never been any chemical interventions in the vineyards, and there’s an intentional hands-off approach in the cellar, with a minimum of sulphur added at bottling. Avoiding the entrapments of the glou-glou or overwrought luxury style, Dario is part of a very small contingent of producers in Sicily producing fine and natural wines, or as Dario poetically likes to say: mare e terra in vino.

Cala Niuru is a blend of 75% Frappato and 25% Nero d’Avola. Vine ages range from 5 to 10 years old. Frappato stays on the skins for 4 to 7 days, and Nero d’Avola for only 1 night. The entire fermentation lasts 15 to 20 days. Élevage for 6 months in stainless steel tanks.

Producer: Mortellito

Country: Italy

Region: Sicily

Varietal: Frappato, Nero d'Avola

Appellation: Terre Siciliane

Vintage: 2022

Size: 750ml