At “Life of Wine” we tasted three different vintages of Principi di Spadafora’s Cabernet Sauvignon Schietto; the producer is a Sicilian family who, since the Middle Ages, has ruled on five principalities, a duchy, two marquisates, a county and twenty-five baronies. Some of the members of this noble family have also held some prominent positions in the Kingdom of Sicily and in several European countries.
The history of Principi di Spadafora’s bottled wine begins in more recent times. Just over thirty years ago, in the summer of 1988, Don Pietro dei Principi di Spadafora established the farm in Contrada Virzì, in the municipality of Monreale, in an inland area not far from Alcamo, but still far from the towns, in an estate bordered by a succession of sunny hills and valleys with the Sicily warm colours. The current owner, Francesco Spadafora, Don Pietro’s son, manages the company assisted by his daughter Enrica.
The Principi di Spadafora vineyards stretch for 100 of the 180 hectares of the entire estate and are in an agricultural area.s located around the winery at about 300 meters above sea level. They are planted on sandy and clayey soils and undergo a high diurnal range of about 10-15°C. The vineyard, that is run organically, has a planting density of 5,000 vines per hectare, with the exclusive use of natural products. Paying the utmost attention to sustainability issues, the company uses alternative energies to those derived from fossil fuels. The choice of lighter glass for bottles and organic caps made from sugar beet fibres also points to greater environmental sustainability.
The cycle of grape cultivation begins shortly after the harvest, after the first autumn rains in order to prepare the soil for the field beans sowing. The sowing is carried out in alternate rows and the pomace is dispersed on specific soils. The field bean is buried to the extent of 80 quintals per hectare, to provide a great deal of organic substances and nitrogen at the beginning of spring. This biomass creates cover crop that contains erosion and carries out partial soil sanitary control.
In spring, the work in the vineyard starts from the end of March with budburst. The buds are selected and the canopy is managed by hand. Forty days before harvest, veraison begins, a phase of the ripening of the grapes marked by a change in colour, which gradually turns from the original green towards the characteristic colour of the grape variety. During this phenological phase, a further selection is carried out to determine which bunches will make it to the harvest. The check of the ripening curves of the grapes begins 15 days before the harvest, to predict the evolution of the harvest. Every 4-5 days, the decrease of acids and the increase of sugars are analytically verified, following the trend until the optimal ratio for the wine to be obtained is reached. Once the degree of ripeness desired is achieved, the grapes are selected and harvested by hand and are quickly transported to the cellar in small trolleys.
The vineyard, where the Cabernet Sauvignon tasted at Life of Wine is produced, is trained with the Guyot system and is mainly exposed to the West. The pruning reduces the number of buds to a few units per vine, with the canopy trained high, at about one meter and twenty centimeters, so that the bunches are not directly affected by the sunshine. Once harvested, the grapes are immediately destemmed and then transferred by means of a volumetric rotary eccentric screw pump, to the special fermenters for start of alcoholic fermentation. There the grapes find the pié de cuvé of the same variety that have already been transferred to the cellar in the first phase. In this way, wines with yeasts, produced with local grapes will be obtained, respecting nature.
The maceration takes place at a controlled temperature of 23°C, without the use of sulphur dioxide and lasts for about three weeks in concrete tanks, where malolactic fermentation also takes place. The wine then ages in 25-hectolitre barrels for a year in the maturation section of the cellar.
The wines are then bottled and mature for a long period of time, until they can express the terroir at the highest levels, regardless of market demand. Bottled wine, however, never contains a sulphur dioxide concentration higher than 50 mg/litre.
Let’s see how the wine tasting went.
Cabernet Sauvignon Schietto 2014
The vintage was humid with several rainy days and without very high temperatures during the spring phenological phases. The summer was warm but without any particular heat peaks, with a harvest that took place on the 8th September; the grapes had good levels of acidity and sugars measured at 21.75 degrees Babo.
The wine was deep ruby in colour and has a wide olfactory spectrum with berries and violets in evidence. Hints of licorice emergeand arefollowed byherbaceous notes, spiciness of pepper and cloves, hints of roasted coffee, with a finish of herbal notes of thyme and rosemary. In the mouth, it was intense, full-bodied with a round taste, with very firm tannins. Powerful and elegant, the wine had a long finish on fruity tones.
Cabernet Sauvignon Schietto 2010
The weather in 2010 was fairly regular, with average favorable spring temperatures and good overall humidity. The not excessive summer heat allowed the correct phenological ripening with a harvest that took place on the 31 Augustt; the grapes had a level of sugar at 22.10 degrees Babo.
The wine was ruby in colour, very similar to the previous sample tasted. On the nose, it has hints of blueberry jam, followed by tomato leaf, tobacco, forest floor, pepper puffs and a balsamic finish. On the palate it was balanced, warm but with a very perceivable freshness. The finish was long with eucalyptus aftertaste notes.
Cabernet Sauvignon Schietto 2008
The flowering in April took place in dry weather with only one rainy day during the month. The humidity increased in May, when the late flowering took place. The harvest was brought forward to the 13th August, in an unusual period of time for the Cabernet Sauvignon, a necessary choice due to the summer heat that sped up ripening after the rain in mid-June, to safeguard the freshness of the wine. In fact, the acidity of the grapes was good, with levels of sugars at 21.25 degrees Babo.
The wine showed a ruby color with garnet reflections. The range of aromas was very wide and ranged from blackberry and blackcurrant jam to cloves, from notes of blond tobacco to graphite, and had chocolate, andhints of licorice on the finish. In the mouth the wine was dynamic, with silky tannins but also with a still vibrant acidity. The finish was very long with balsamic notes.
Cabernet Sauvignon Schietto is a true wine, like its name, maintaining its integrity despite the passing of time. An important wine to pair with meat preparations such as fillet with green pepper. We are convinced that every sample tasted, despite its diversity, will maintain the same pleasantness if we have the opportunity to taste it again even in several years.