I had one of those explosive, palate-defining moments at the Golden Glass tasting in San Francisco when I had the opportunity to taste the wines of Tenuta di Castellaro, from Lipari. The wines were so nuanced, so full of vibrant acidity and fruit, and so distinct- I can’t believe I had never before tasted a single other dry wine from Lipari. These are serious wines that represent the courageous and hardworking people who work this beautiful and unyielding terroir.
Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the north coast of Sicily. I always think of Odysseus navigating these islands in his weaving, homeward journey- these are fabled islands with a very ancient history. The powerful draw of a magical place like this makes it easy to understand why Massimo Lentsch and his family decided to lay down their roots here to make wine under the name Tenuta di Castellaro.
Tenuta di Castellaro has released both a white (Bianco Pomice) and a red (NeroOssidiana). The naming of these wines for the island’s famous pumice and obsidian quarries is no coincidence. There is a mineral quality in both of these wines that quite simply, will blow your mind. Tenuta di Castellaro is truly defined by its unique terroir.
The Bianco Pomice is composed of Malvasia delle Lipari and Carricante grapes. It is pale straw yellow, with a brilliant greenish reflection. The nose on this wine is all salinity and warm sunshine- like a perfect sunny day at the beach. It is a vibrant, mineral explosion on the palate, filled with tart green plums, balanced by apricot and a touch of salty seawater. I truly have never tasted another wine like it.
The Nero Ossidiana is a blend of Corinto and Nero d’Avola. It is brilliant purple with violet reflections- a gorgeous wine in the glass. The aromas are full of tart cherries, dried strawberries and ashy, salty, volcanic rock. On the palate the wine is subtle, layered and truly balanced between the earthy minerality and the gorgeous red and black fruit.
It is important to note that these wines are made from fruit grown in the alberello method- meaning they are free-standing bush vines. This non-interventive vineyard technique is truly both difficult and rewarding, yielding much less fruit of a much high quality. They are also dry-farmed, meaning no irrigation is used. If you’ve ever tried to successfully grow so much as a backyard tomato plant, you’ll understand the heroics of cultivating wine grapes in such a manner. Tenuta di Castellaro is seriously committed to quality and terroir.
However, these wines make it clear that more than anything Tenuta di Castellaro is devoted to honoring the essence of Lipari through crafting these mesmerizing wines. All I can say is grazie!
Yes, you can find these wines, although seriously small production with limited availability in the US, thanks to seriously geeky wine folks like these:
Nero Ossidiana – Biondivino (one the coolest little Italian wine shops EVER!)