Marilena Barbera di Cantine Bardera in Menfi, Sicily

Cantine Barbera, Menfi - Sicilia
Cantine Barbera, Menfi - Sicilia

Back in the day, all labor was done by hand; there was no pressing machine, no automatic destemming machine, nothing you could plug into a wall for operating. It was the only way to work in a winery, doing all the processes by hand. Is wine affected by the way these labors are done? Maybe no, maybe yes, but there are an increasing number of winemakers going back to the original roots of winemaking. Organic farming, natural winemaking, pruning, canopy management, green harvest and defoliation performed manually… we are lately seeing this more and more. And we have to say that we are enjoying it a lot.

We have a deep passion for Orange Wines and wines aged in amphora and we can find them almost everywhere. Today we travel to Sicily where one woman pursuing her father’s dream is making wine and among her wines there are two Orange wines. Marilena Barbera elaborates the first of these special wines with a variety we normally see in the Passito di Pantelleria wines, Zibibbo, an autochthonous Sicilian white grape. Ammáno is this wine, and its name says it all. 100% handmade, from the moment the grapes are picked up in the vineyard, when the grapes are hand-pressed, to the moment the wine is bottled. Seven days of skin contact. It is indeed a craft orange wine. No technology, no additives, no correction, filtering or clarification. Some times she doesn’t even use electricity for working. As Marilena says: ‘only grapes and hands, and the strong personality of Sicily.’

The grapes come from the Vigna di Torrenova vineyard planted in 2010 with clay soil and a limited amount of limestone. After being destemmed and squeezed by hand, the must stays seven days macerating with the skins in small steel tanks with no temperature control. At the end of the fermentation, the wine is transferred to French tonneaux where it remains for five months. Three more months in the bottle and the wine is ready to make our palates enjoy.

The second Orange wine Marilena elaborates is Arèmi, a Catarrato Superiore Menfi DOC made with Catarratto grapes grown in a small 35-year-old vineyard. According to Marilena: ‘Arèmi is one of the most elegant expressions of Menfi’s terroir.’ The Catarratto is a noble variety with antique Greek origins that has been used in Western Sicily for a long time.

Deep flavored and with an intense golden yellow, Arèmi’s grapes are destemmed and then they undergo a spontaneous fermentation in contact with the skins for around seven days. The wine is kept on its fine lees for at least one year in small stainless steel tanks, with weekly manual batonnages. Non-fined, non-stabilized and just barely filtered. After this period on the tanks it stays another three months in bottles. Vigna di Belìce a Mare is the vineyard where the Catarratto has been planted since 1980, with a soil clay rich in iron ore and rounded stones.

We will also talk about a red wine, Ciàtu, a Alicante Menfi DOC wine. Alicante is a Spanish grape that was probably introduced in Sicily around the XV-XVI centuries.

After destemming and crushing, the skin maceration takes around 14 days, a bit less than a typical red wine, with two-a-days manual stirring of the cap and no pumping overs. Fermentation is spontaneous, with indigenous yeast, in a big 30 hectoliters Slavonian oak tank where it remains for around six months and then it is refined anther six months in the bottle.

Vigna del Pozzo vineyard planted in 2000 with an alluvial soil, mainly clay with sandy components and good fertility.

Marilena Barbera is a passionate winemaker who believes in organic farming and creating wines that reflect the land they come from and that have no machinery intervention. As she says: ‘nothing’s more effective and sensitive than human hands for a careful and respectful viticulture.’ We will speak to her soon about her philosophy and her winemaking in Sicily.