Firriato, “Ribeca” Perricone 2012 (about $34)

Italian Wine for june, 2018

Perricone is an ancient but little-known variety of uncertain origins although, like many of Sicily’s native varieties, it is thought to have been brought to the island by the ancient Greeks. Regardless of origin, Perricone (also known as Pignatello) was a major and widely planted variety in Sicily and, to a lesser extent in mainland Italy, for centuries.

Unfortunately, Perricone suffered extensive damage during the phylloxera epidemic that ravaged Italy and Europe in the late 1800’s, a disaster from which the variety never really recovered. The diseased vines had to be torn up but rather than replant, many vineyards were simply abandoned while others were replanted with Nero d’Avola or other more resilient and higher-yielding varieties.

What little Perricone was grown was used primarily as a blending grape for production of Ruby Marsala or, more recently, blended with Sicily's premier red wine, Nero d’Avola, to add greater texture and structure.

The outlook for the enigmatic Perricone has improved considerably in recent years as a new generation of winemakers began to take another look at and experiment with heritage varieties such as Perricone. They showed that when grown in the right location with careful vinification and adequate ageing time, Perricone is capable of producing aromatic wines of great structure and personality, no blending required.

As a result, Perricone gained a greater foothold in some vineyards in western Sicily and slowly moved off the list of endangered varietals.

While vineyard plantings of Perricone have improved in recent years, finding wines made entirely of Perricone is still no easy task. With limited consumer demand only a small number of winemakers - at most a half-dozen and all located in western Sicily - offer a pure expression of Perricone.

The Firriato winery is one such producer. Located in Trapani in the westernmost part of the island it also owns several other vineyard estates in Sicily. With a total of approximately 865 acres under vine - all of which are certified organic - it is not exactly a small-scale operation. The estate offers a well-curated portfolio of red and white wines with an emphasis on traditional varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Grillo, Zibibbo and Perricone.

2012 "Ribeca" Perricone by the Firriato winery in SicilyFirrato’s 2012 “Ribeca” is made entirely of Perricone sourced from estate vineyards in Trapani’s gently rolling hills. The grapes are fermented for 2 weeks in temperature-controlled steel tanks and undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine is then aged for a year in French oak barriques and spends an additional 6 months in the bottle prior to release.

As an aside, the proprietary name of the wine, "Ribeca", is named after a centuries-old stringed musical instrument played by bowing as portrayed by the figure at the top of the wine label.

The 2012 “Ribeca” Perricone has a dark ruby color with a deep purple edge. A gentle swishing of the glass delivers energetic dark fruit aromas of blackberries and plums with some subtle but distinct notes of oak and roasted coffee. It is full-bodied and deeply textured with effusive ripe cherry and black currant flavors accompanied by good acidity and prominent tannins. It has a firm structure with a rustic edge and a long finish with a tannic grip accented by notes of dried herbs that linger pleasantly in the mouth. The 2012 "Ribeca" checks in with 14.8 percent alcohol.

It is a wine that is sure to appeal to those, like myself, that favor wines with a unique and distinctive sense of place. It has an energy and focus that is compelling. While the wine is ready to drink now it will age well for at least another 5 to 7 years.

©Richard Marcis
May 28, 2018

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