Azienda Agricola Bonavita
Azienda Agricola Bonavita
The Italian word for lighthouse is faro and it is no coincidence that this is the name given to the local DOC wine produced in the hills above the port city of Messina, north east Sicily. This wine is a blend of several different grape varieties and there is always the argument of whether to blend or not to blend. Done properly, I personally think it gives the winemaker the chance to exploit the differing strengths of different varietals to produce a harmonious and balanced result – think of it like a string quartet. However, there are certainly purists who would disagree. One thing is certain and that is that vines need time to adapt to their environment to produce their best grapes. Faro is blended from three varieties, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, and Nocera that are very much rooted in the local earth which is a mixture of clay and limestone, in sharp contrast to the heavily volcanic soils on nearby Mount Etna.
The Bonavita winery is situated high up in the hills. At over 250 metres above sea level, it has a fabulous view over the narrow Strait of Messina to the Italian mainland beyond. The owner, Giovanni, is following in the footsteps of his father, Carmelo, in caring for this tiny gem which extends to just a little over seven hectares of which only two and a half are devoted to vines. The family used to produce wine only for their own consumption – some of the vines are up to 80 years old and some are still trained in the traditional alberello or little tree method. This technique involves staking each vine and growing it as a small bush. This has the advantage of allowing the individual plant plenty of light and air. Here, Giovanni produces only 10,000 bottles per year and all is done to the highest organic standards.
The harvest for Giovanni’s Faro begins in late September and continues through to mid October and is, of course, undertaken by hand. This means that the grapes are undamaged and also only the best are selected. In this climate and at this altitude the grapes on the top of the bunches can dry out and become raisinated which would affect the wine if they were not discarded. He blends 60% Nerello Mascalese with 30% Nerello Cappuccio and the remaining 10% is Nocera which adds colour and acidity to the finished article. The wine is fermented in conical oak tini and cement tanks and is on the skins for a lengthy five to six weeks before spending three years maturing in large barrels and also cement.
The wine is bottled unfiltered and has a deep ruby colour. On the nose there are ripe cherries, raspberries, and herbs with hints of vanilla and leather. On the palate it is fresh and elegant with a good structure – due to the length of time that Giovanni allows for the wine to mature – and has a long finish. This is a wine that can be drunk straight away but will also reward those who can resist temptation and lay it down for some years. As with all Italian wines the pairing is important and Giovanni suggests roasted red meat.
For those who want to make up their own minds about the merits – or otherwise – of blending, Giovanni makes small quantities, only a few hundred bottles, of a wine he calls Ilnò that is 100% Nocera and the range is completed by a rosé.