2013 Il Censo Praruar Terre Siciliane Bianco — translucent rusty orange that is just a bit cloudy in the glass; interesting aromas and flavors of iron, rocky soil, cut rose stems and walnuts. Hints of iodine and smoke mingle in the background. Juicy acidity keep this wine bright and provides an interesting counterpoint to drying tannins. The finish goes on forever. And that color! 13% abv. $33. Yes we paid $33 for a skin-contact white wine, and would do so again.
This wine is orange. There is nothing wrong with it, it is meant to look like this. It is a wine made from white grapes, the variety is Catarratto, which are indigenous to Sicily. Rather than using modern white-wine making techniques (pressing the grapes and quickly separating the solids before beginning fermentation) the winemaker, Gaetano Gargano, used the ancient technique of extended maceration on the skins. According to notes from the importer/distributor, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, fermentation started naturally (no added yeast) and the wine spent 20 days on the skins followed by one year in stainless steel without temperature control. The wine was bottled without temperature stabilization and was not fined or filtered. Only a minimal amount of sulfur was used at the time of bottling.
Gaetano Gargano has set about reviving his family’s farm, Il Censo. The 160-acre farm includes olive trees, pasture, an ancient variety of wheat and vineyards. Just over 20 acres are planted to vines – a mixture of old and new that includes Perricone and Malvasia Nera, Nero d’Avola in addition to Catarratto. Il Censo is located in the mountains south of Palermo at an elevation of 1900 feet above sea level near the ancient city of Palazzo Adriano (part of the film Cinema Paradiso was filmed there). The temperatures are hot is summer, but the nights cool significantly due to the elevation, and farming is done organically.
This wine has everything going for it: interesting location and viticulture, interesting winemaking, interesting in the glass. It may not be for everyone, but I’m hooked. To me it is a food-optional wine – meaning I’m happy to sip and contemplate this wine without the distraction of food. It keeps me thinking about what I’m tasting and how to put words to it. That said, it’s fabulous with food. We enjoyed it with spicy pork tenderloin and roasted vegetables one night and grilled chicken leftovers on another.
Gaetano Gargano also makes a red wine, Il Censo Njuro Terre Siciliane Rosso, made from Perricone. I hope to put my hands on a bottle or two. On a good wine day one thing always leads to another.
We purchased this wine at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchants in Santa Barbara the last time we were there. We always have a meal or two at Les Marchands when we’re in town and then take a look at what wines they have on the shelf. We invariably find many bottles that interest us and there is always someone knowledgeable to assist. We often leave with a case of wine. Beyond that, we are wine club members so lots of interesting wines come our way via Les Marchands. Finding a wine shop that suits your taste in wine (and one that can also send you in interesting directions) is invaluable.