Monday, May 7, 2012

Two Glasses, Two Islands, One Winemaker

Winemaker Vincenzo Mercurio
To reach Antiche Cantine Migliaccio, you first need to take a ferry from Formia, Terracina, Anzio or Naples.  Then a private boat. You need to get to the Island of Ponza, a small gorgeous island in the province of Latina in the region of Lazio.  Once there,  head for Punto Fieno, a part of the island that is not so easy to get to, Vincenzo Mercurio tells me.  Vincenzo Mercurio, winemaker for this small young winery, introduced me to the cantina but not in Ponza,  in Verona during Vinitaly. There aren't many producers on this tiny island, he tells me.  And as he  poured me a glass of Fiena di Ponza Rosato 2011, he spoke about the enormous challenges of reaching the winery and of tending the vineyards. By foot or donkey only.  All to tend once abandoned vineyards that have been given a new life by Emanuele Vittorio and his wife Luciana Sabino.   Vineyards that are at least 100 years old.  In my glass I had the second vintage of this rose', straight from the stainless steel vat.  

One of the first things I noticed was the color.  Piedirosso, Guarnaccia Rossa, and Aglianico give this wine a beautiful light pink color.  I closed my eyes and placed my nose in the glass.  I could almost feel an island breeze. I noticed light floral aromas.  Taste?  La primavera, spring in a glass.  The Mediterranean...minerality...full flavor.  A flavor inviting me to visit Ponza. Visit Antiche Cantine Migliaccio.  Take that ferry/private boat.  Experience a 40 minute hike through terraced vineyards with breathtaking views of the sea..

There was another island in a glass that Mercurio wanted me to try. Sardenia and Cantine Poderosa.  Ah, I remember this winery, I mentioned.  I remembered the story of this organic/bio dynamic cantina and their  pride in their Sardinian roots and  traditions.  Vincenzo smiled.  He had something that I hadn't tried before.  Arzu Rosato Vino Della Luce 2009.

This copper colored rosè is a mix of different grapes from an antique style vineyard. Mercurio poured me  a glass of indigenous Sardinian grapes...a mixture, a fusion of what could be Cannonau or Cagnulari, or Monica...or all of the above.  He poured me a glass of tradition, a glass of territory.  And while we waited for this rosè to evolve, open up in our glasses, Mercurio served me a plate of Sardenia, to stick with the theme, to stick with tradition.  Unleavened bread or pane carasau then a little smoked ricotta cheese.

Then it was back to my glass of Arzu. Back to my rosè which didn't believe it was one.  A rosè that spent nearly 3 years in this bottle before being poured out for me.  Back to the intense aromas, flavors, back to tradition.  Back to Sardinia-if only for a moment.

And almost as soon as it began, it was over.  My island hopping with winemaker Vincenzo Mercurio.  My taste of two Italian islands in two glasses. I looked over the brouchures.  I wondered how it would feel to visit these wineries up close...walk the vineyards...taste the wines there instead of in a booth in a crowded pavillion in Verona....

Oh, Vincenzo.....

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