Cult Wine and Sicily are rarely used in the same sentence but, when it comes to Arianna Occhipinti, the term ‘cult’ may actually apply. A generation of young sommeliers and wine professionals consider her as one of the most important winemakers in Italy and the spiritual leader of an entire revolution in Sicilian winemaking. Not bad for someone in her mid-thirties, right? Located in the rural southern Sicilian town of Vittoria, Arianna has, indeed, been the prime mover in the quality movement sweeping the wine world in this part of the country. She attributes being in the right place at the right time and her growing up in the industry under the tutelage of her famous uncle, Giusto Occhipinti for her success. That, and I think, an unquenchable drive to make great wine. Giusto is one of the founders of the COS winery; the estate responsible for challenging just every basic assumption anyone ever had about winegrowing and winemaking in the region. Over several decades, Giusto shifted the focus of COS from producing an ocean of innocuous bulk wine to the artisanal production of soulful, truly outstanding wines reflective of one of the most unique terroirs in the world. Arianna started at COS at 16 learning how to make wine and work in the vineyards. She brought the experience she gained there with her when she developed her own project. Now that she has more than twelve vintages under her belt, she’s considered the leader of a new generation of wine producers in Italy who create wines more evocative of their origins than just the talent of the winemaker.
Named after the country road that runs past her now-iconic winery, Occhipinti’s SP68 Rosso is as off-the-beaten-path as its namesake highway. It beautifully shows just what distinction Vittoria is capable of; wines of elegance, structure and nicely ripened fruit that still weigh in at under 13% alcohol. The just-arrived 2017 is a blend of 70% Frappato and 30% Nero d’Avola from her organic vineyards in the Val di Noto Province. The driver of the blend, Frappato, is a varietal known for its lifted framboise-like fruit, low tannin and light color. Nero d’Avola, on the other hand, is dark, rustic and full of Sicily’s warm sunshine. The two play very well together to create a robust, fragrant and super elegant red. It’s got the intensity to fulfill those who crave power in their reds, but it’s got the grace for those who want to think about what’s happening in the wine. It’s simply a beautiful expression of Sicily. We also have several cases available of Arianna’s much-coveted varietal Frappato. From two high-altitude biodynamically-farmed sites averaging around 40 years of age, Arianna naturally ferments the whole Frappato berries on their natural yeasts and ages them for eight months in a neutral cask before bottling what is one of the most scintillating reds we’ve ever tasted from Sicily. Like drinking a glass of amazingly evanescent strawberry confit, there is a sauvage aspect to the wine’s rose petal, wild mint, red licorice and mellow spice notes. It’s absolutely sensational and one of the most unique wines made anywhere in the world. These are two rare and exciting treats.