Paolo Cali ‘Violino’
Vittoria, Sicily 2016
Nero D’Avola, or should we say Calabrese? That’s really the official name of this grape?! Why have we been mis-lead, nay, lied to for all these years?! Put simply, it would seem that the moniker Calabrese was wrongly placed on several other grape varieties throughout Italy over time and the local Sicilian name for this grape, meaning ‘dark from Avola’ kept its identity separate from that mess and then it just sort of stuck. Thankfully. It is far and away the most prolific and important grape in Sicily but only in recent years are we seeing more single varietal wines of great quality. Often it was blended with international grapes that were an unfortunate trend in the region for some time.
Paolo Cali has one of the most unique properties in the area of Cerasuolo di Vittoria. His land is essentially referred to as a prehistoric sand dune. As you can imagine, one man’s sand dune is another man’s treasure and Paolo considers his challenging terroir to be the source of his beautifully aromatic wines. The property does evoke feelings of the tropics without question as the vines and olive trees are neatly rowed in a bright beige sand that seems to change shape with the wind much like it would on a beach. His biggest challenge here are crickets that burrow in the sand and damage roots, dealt with by churning the loose topsoil to keep those bugs moving.
Although a bit shy in its expression at first, this opens up with some air fairly quickly to reveal the plump red raspberries and tart hibiscus delight that this wine is all about. This is as bright and delicate a Nero d’Avola you will ever find anywhere. Red licorice as well as bitter, dried cocoa notes and a soft herbaceousness that reminds me of fresh tarragon. Lastly there is a touch of sweet grilled onion in there, giving the wine an unexpected depth of flavor. The Pinot comparison is pretty obvious here, in fact there are some examples from Central Otago New Zealand that remind me of this wine. Despite being the polar opposite in location and terroir… besides the fact that they’re both Island wines
Paolo names his wines with expressions of music (Violino, Jazz, Blues etc…) as he feels music is the type of raw expression of art and beauty that he wants people to feel in his wines.