Terroir and viticolture
We can not speak of our wines without first presenting the territory (or “terroir”, in the broader French meaning): grape, soil, climate, man…we know that they are intimately interrelated, even more in this little extraordinary place where the only possibility is a “heroic agriculture”, meaning without making use of heavy agricultural equipment and machineries, unable to operate in the narrow terraces.
The main agricoltural product of the island has always been the vine, especially the Muscat of Alexandria (also known as “zibibbo”): imported by the Phoenicians, it has been maintained during the time of the Romans, and has experienced a wide diffusion on the island at the time of Arab domination, when it was cultivated for the production of raisins. The word “zibibbo”, used in Pantelleria and in the rest of Sicily, derives in fact from the word “zabib” , which in Arabic means raisins. Cultivated also in Sicily, Zibibbo manages to reach the best quality just in Pantelleria island, where it is able to develop large grapes, sweet and fleshy, with very intense and distinctive flavors. Today Zibibbo represents the 95% of the vines on the island, whereas a 3% of the surface is covered with other white varieties, like “catarratto”, and a 2% with black grape varieties .
The soil is volcanic, loose and with a good porosity. The presence of pumice-stone in some areas, in addition to the steep hilly orographic structure, made necessary the work of containment of the soil with the famous dry stone walls terraces. This enormous effort, started by the Romans, contributed to the formation of a unique and charming landscape, a tangible sign of the human wit and of the endeavour of generations of men, nowadays more than 12000 km of dry stone walls can be counted on the island.
Even the climate had its influence in agricoltural practices carried out by man: the most influential factor is the wind that always blows impetuous and determined the type of pruning of the vine: “little tree” with short spur, to keep the plant low and avoid exposure to the wind. Another determining factor is the drought, that has once again stimulated the creativity of men, who started to dig a hollow beneath each plant, to ensure that the maximum irrigation was favored with the little and rare rains. Pantelleria is located on the extreme low latitude of the grape growing band, few km south of this the Sahara desert has its beginning, this extreme environment stresses the plants in a similar way to what happens with the cold and lack of sun in the extreme north latitudes in famous regions like Burgundy and Champagne, and as it has been recognized, vines struggling for their food (sun, water, nutrients in the soil) are counterintuitively more likely to produce better quality grapes.
Harvest and production
The harvest, performed strictly by hand, is very long and it goes on from early August until the end of September, this is because in Pantelleria there are several areas with different ripening time. The grape maturation time is faster in the lower areas close to the sea, and it becomes longer as we go more inland and higher up along the sides of the mountains and hills. The grapes coming from the most early areas are those destinated to the production of raisins (used for the Passito di Pantelleria), as they have more sugar and to take advantage of the hottest season for drying. The density is approximately 2500 plants per hectar, while the average production is around 5 tons per hectar.
The winery D’Ancona has approximately 5 hectares of vineyard, part owned and part belonging to farmers who have a long-standing collaboration with our company. We are working with the farmers all year long, and in July we start the visits on the field, scheduled and repeated to check the progress of maturation, the sugar level and hence to establish the precise date of harvest.
The company is then carrying on the whole vinification process, adopting the highest quality standards and conjugating the use of modern machineries with traditional operations (like the manual destemming of the raisins for Passito di Pantelleria).