Val di Noto, Pachino. The dawn of a new red

Val di Noto, Pachino. The dawn of a new red

Today, the name Pachino, in Val di Noto, brings to mind the cherry tomatoes that have made the fortunes of farmers in this extreme corner of Sicily for about twenty years. But in the past, and for at least a century, this name was linked to wine.

The golden age of the vine (and unbottled wine)

Rosso Pachino, as it was known in Italy, France and even Russia, was nothing more than a wine from Nero d’Avola grapes with a high alcohol content which was very “helpful” from the 1870s and 1880s until the 1980s, for many Tuscan, Piedmont and French wines. It was a real “tank” of proof and colour for the anaemic reds of others (just like in Apulia). The vineyards of bush-trained vines covered a lot of the countryside in the Noto-Pachino-Rosolini triangle in those days, dotted with traditional palmenti, buildings where the grapes were vinified. Nobody at the time ever thought about selling the bottled wine. The only attempt was made by the Marquess Antonio Starrabba di Rudinì, at the end of the nineteenth century (his palmento is now a museum on the history of Pachino wine).

Val di Noto, from vinegrowing to cherry tomatoes

The decline of winemaking in Val di Noto, with Pachino playing a leading role, came about for two reasons: European incentives to uproot vines in areas with excess production and the methanol scandal (1986) which consequently led to the restricting of the use of wines produced outside the area of their designation of origin. Hence an almost complete uprooting of vineyards and the start of the famous cultivation of tomatoes (first beefsteak and then cherry tomatoes, the latter grown mainly in the coastal area of Porto Palo).

The desire for this resurrection comes from the western side

Fortunately today, winemaking in Pachino and the surrounding area has made a comeback, mainly due to the initiative of external entrepreneurs. However, the first pioneers to invest in this area, recognised as the real cradle of Nero d’Avola, were two Sicilians from the west of the island: Antonino Di Marco, a winemaker from Marsala, with a past working for great wineries; and Diego Planeta, who makes wines such as Santa Cecilia, a flagship Nero d’Avola, and the Passito di Noto, Gulfi. Some of the other producers taking part are the “non-Sicilians” Baglio di Pianetto and Feudo Maccari (from the Tuscan Sette Ponti Estate). There is also the Cantina Marilina, Marabino, Feudo Ramaddini, Barone Sergio and Zisola.

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