Alessandro Viola is a talented winemaker from Sicily, representing the new generation of winemakers in the region. We were fortunate enough to visit him in 2021 and experience the beauty of that remote corner of Sicily (some pictures from our visit).
The winery is based in Alcamo, a town located halfway between Trapani and Palermo on the north coast of the island. It is just a few km inland from the picturesque Castellammare del Golfo. The town is blessed with cool and humid sea breezes that climb above it, reaching Mount Bonifato, which boasts a pine forest and the nature reserve Bosco di Alcamo. This is where the finest vineyards can be found, thriving on the limestone and sandy soils.
The Viola family has a deep-rooted connection to their terroir, indigenous grapes, and winemaking tradition. Alessandro and his brother, Aldo, were not new to winemaking, with their father producing wine for domestic consumption. Influenced by this rich heritage, the brothers embarked on their separate winemaking journeys. Alessandro pursued his studies in oenology and viticulture, gaining valuable experience around the world, including his passion for windsurfing. Eventually, he made the decision to return home and dedicate himself entirely to the family's land.
Alessandro's fervent advocacy for native grape varieties, particularly Catarratto, is a testament to his visceral love for his Sicilian roots. Catarratto thrives in this specific corner of Sicily, showcasing its unique terroir when nurtured by skilful hands.
Alessandro tends to 5 hectares of vineyards on Mount Bonifato, situated at an altitude of approximately 600-700 meters. The vineyards are situated on a geological fault, with one side composed of sand and the other of limestone. This geological complexity, combined with abundant underground water and the cooling sea breeze, creates an exceptionally high-quality terroir bathed in the Sicilian sun. While catarratto takes center stage, Alessandro recently acquired a piece of fallow land and planted massal selections of perricone and nero d'avola. An additional seven hectares are scattered in an inland valley around Santa Ninfa and Pietrarenosa, with clay soils nurturing grillo, nerello mascalese, nero d'avola, and syrah.
When it comes to viticulture, Alessandro approaches it with immense respect for the land. He eschews the use of chemicals and employs sustainable practices. He manually mows the grass between rows and ploughs the soil by hand around the vines. In winter, he plants cover crops of fava beans and clover to enhance nitrogen fixation, improve soil texture, and promote microbial life.
For vinification and aging, Alessandro utilizes a combination of stainless steel tanks, Marsala botti, and French oak barrels. Over time, he has gradually acquired new wooden vessels, allowing for better control and precision in winemaking. Alessandro enjoys experimenting with lees-stirring, a careful and deliberate batonnage process performed roughly once a month, which adds depth and complexity to his wines. Sulfur is prohibited during vinification, only being added in minute quantities at bottling.
The wines crafted by Alessandro possess a unique energy that almost nourishes the senses. They exude a sense of freedom and showcase aromatic and quintessentially Mediterranean characteristics, all while maintaining low alcohol levels and a mouthwatering acidity.