Grillo Parlante wins the award as southern Italy’s best white wine

Lorenza Scianna is a winemaker at the wine producer Il Fondo Antico in western Sicily, not far from Marsala. She was one of the first to believe in the characteristics of the grape grillo and since 2002 she makes a wine with a hundred percent grillo called Grillo Parlante (the talking grasshopper). At the end of November, Grillo Parlante won the price for the best white wine in southern Italy at the Radici del Sud wine competition where BKWine Magazine´s Åsa Johansson sat in the jury. Here she talks to the winemaker.

BKWine Magazine: How did you start to work in the wine world?

Lorenza Scianna: I was about twenty years old, and my journey into the wine world was lined with vines. I spent my childhood summers in a landscape full of vineyards just outside Marsala. The area’s colours, aromas, sunsets have shaped my soul. At a certain point, I read that you could apply to be one out of few allowed students at the Oenology University, I applied – and here I am now!

Lorenza Scianna, winemaker at Fondo Antico and her Grillo Parlante

Lorenza Scianna, winemaker at Fondo Antico and her Grillo Parlante, copyright A Johansson

What is your philosophy regarding the work in the vineyard and in the cellar?

I stand in an observational position. I try to understand the strong and weak sides of an area. I usually prefer to respect the grape varieties’ specific characteristics, but sometimes I let myself be transported and create a product that has roots in local traditions.

You have just won the award for the best white wine in southern Italy with your Grillo Parlante, a white wine made with 100 percent grillo. What are the most difficult and most beneficial aspects of working with the variety grillo?

The most sensitive aspect is associated with vineyards in warm regions, like where we are. To provide healthy and aromatic wines, you must protect the bunches from the sun and it requires a careful work with the foliage. The easiest aspect is that grillo is a versatile grape variety, suitable for different interpretations, from being the base of the Marsala wines to sparkling and more complex wines.

Grillo IGT Sicily ageing in cask

Grillo IGT Sicily ageing in cask, copyright BKWine Photography

Why is the wine called “Grillo Parlante” (the talking grasshopper)?

In 1870, in Favara, in Sicily, Baron Mendola received a new grape variety from a crossing between catarratto and zibibbo. Since its birth, grillo is used to produce “high-quality” wines that can handle oak ageing, with a strong character and oxidized tones. Il Fondo Antico has since 2002 produced a wine made with only grillo using modern technology. We therefore call the wine “Grillo Parlante” to allow grillo to speak for itself, telling its many positive qualities. It was one of the first wines made in this way and it was something of a revolution that changed the view of the grape grillo among consumers.

What do you hope people feel when they drink your wines?

I hope they think they are good and that they like to drink them. That’s my purpose. In general, I try to make clean wines, with characteristics that respect the nature of the grape variety or the ageing method used. There are wines that are harder to make, and wines that are harder to tell, but both must in some way meet the consumer’s interest.

Vineyards at the Rapitala winery

Vineyards in the east part of Sicily, copyright BKWine Photography

What is positive and negative about making wine in Sicily?

A fun and undoubtedly positive aspect is the pedoclimatic diversity of the region. This means that you travel from the sea to the volcano’s mountain peaks, from red sand to clay, from drought to 800mm annual precipitation. Another aspect is linked to Sicily’s geographical location, which has played a key role in hosting so many grape varieties since the first vineyards started in Europe. Grape varieties that, after adapting to different environments, have developed specific characteristics. Therefore, there is a wide range of biotypes of the same grape variety in Sicily.

The hardest thing is to communicate all this and the most important thing is, in my opinion, not to neglect further research.

Dreams for the future?

Since my life is more or less dedicated to wine, I hope it will give me health and joy.

Vineyards in the centre of Sicily

Vineyards in the centre of Sicily, copyright BKWine Photography

The winners of Radici del Sud 2017

Best sparkling wine from southern Italy

  • Dovì Spumante Aglianico Rosé Brut 2014 – Ferrocinto (Calabria)

Best white wine from southern Italy

Ex aequo:

  • Grillo Parlante 2016, Fondo Antico (Sicily)
  • 12th Mezzo 2016, Malvasia del Salento, Varvaglione 1921 (Puglia)

Best rosé wine from southern Italy

  • Castel Del Monte Rosato DOP 2016, Terre del Grifo (Puglia)

Best red wine from southern Italy

  • Il Sigillo 2011, Cantine del Notaio (Basilicata)

More on

Åsa Johansson is BKWine’s person in Italy. She lives in Florence since the early ’00s. Asa writes regularly on wine and food in Swedish and Italian publications as well as online.

This post is also available in: Swedish

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