Whitaker Mozia Grillo 2021
The harvest is slightly anticipated with respect to the ideal maturation, so as to preserve some degree of acidity and maintain the freshness of the palate and the longevity that the white wine of Mozia has been able to demonstrate over the years.
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Tenuta Whitaker is the modern re-creation of a vineyard that might have existed some 2,500 years ago on the island of Mozia in Sicily. This 100-acre islet (also known as Motya, Mothia, or San Pantaleo) lies in the Marsala Lagoon, around half a mile from the mainland of Sicily. It was identified as a very defensible position for a trading outpost by Phoenicians about 800 BC and eventually became a thriving city and one of the main colonies of the Carthaginians. It eventually was attacked and defeated by the Greeks around 400 BC, after which it disappeared from memory for two millennia.
Archaeologists began studying the ruins on the island in the 18th century, and eventually it was identified as the Phoenician city of Mozia. In 1902, the entire island was bought by Joseph Whitaker, an amateur archaeologist and heir to a fortune from his family’s role in developing Marsala wine as a British staple. The Whitaker Foundation still owns Mozia and is dedicated to researching and preserving the ruins there, both ancient and more modern. As part of this endeavor, the foundation decided to reconstruct the vineyard that had been on the island when Joseph Whitaker purchased Mozia.
To carry out this project, in 2007 the Whitaker Foundation turned to Tasca d’Almerita, which since 1830 have been at the forefront of production and research in Sicily’s wine industry. Launching Tenuta Whitaker, the Tasca family and the foundation worked together to restore the vineyard along historical lines, with bush-trained vines that are farmed organically, without irrigation, and hand harvested. Using procedures of an earlier century, before modern interventionist agriculture was invented, made it both possible and logical to attain SOStain and VIVA certification for sustainability.
Planting the vineyard was not a particular challenge, but there was nowhere to put a winery building, so vinification is done at Tasca d’Almerita’s Regaleali winery in central Sicily. Given the high temperatures that are typical in the lagoon, harvesting must be performed in the early morning. The bunches are carefully placed into trays and then transported in small boats across the lagoon to the shore, where they are taken in refrigerated trucks to the Regaleali facility for immediate processing. In the end, the Tenuta Whitaker “Mozia” Sicilia DOC Grillo is a reminder of long-ago winemaking brought up to date with clean, reliable modern equipment.
A large, geographically and climatically diverse island, just off the toe of Italy, Sicily has long been recognized for its fortified Marsala wines. But it is also a wonderful source of diverse, high quality red and white wines. Steadily increasing in popularity over the past few decades, Italy’s fourth largest wine-producing region is finally receiving the accolades it deserves and shining in today's global market.
Though most think of the climate here as simply hot and dry, variations on this sun-drenched island range from cool Mediterranean along the coastlines to more extreme in its inland zones. Of particular note are the various microclimates of Europe's largest volcano, Mount Etna, where vineyards grow on drastically steep hillsides and varying aspects to the Ionian Sea. The more noteworthy red and white Sicilian wines that come from the volcanic soils of Mount Etna include Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio (reds) and Carricante (whites). All share a racy streak of minerality and, at their best, bear resemblance to their respective red and white Burgundies.
Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted red variety, and is great either as single varietal bottling or in blends with other indigenous varieties or even with international ones. For example, Nero d'Avola is blended with the lighter and floral, Frappato grape, to create the elegant, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, one of the more traditional and respected Sicilian wines of the island.
Grillo and Inzolia, the grapes of Marsala, are also used to produce aromatic, crisp dry Sicilian white. Pantelleria, a subtropical island belonging to the province of Sicily, specializes in Moscato di Pantelleria, made from the variety locally known as Zibibbo.
Full-bodied and delicately aromatic, Grillo is one of Sicily’s most valued white grape varieties. While it is an important ingredient in Marsala, it also makes a delicious dry white on its own or does well blended. Somm Secret—Grillo is a natural genetic cross of Sicily’s indigenous Catarratto with Muscat of Alexandria and typically grows well in the gobelet system (bush vines).