- Sicily, Italy
Biscaris is an 11-hectare biodynamic estate in the town of Acate, in the classico zone of Sicily’s only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria. The winery takes its name from Acate’s not-so-distant past: originally called Biscaris, from 1633 to 1812 it was the Principality of Biscari, whose castle appears on the wine labels. Acate was officially called Biscari up until 1938.
Owner Antonia Guardabasso and her daughter-in-law, Veronica Gentoli, manage what is truly a family affair, as most of their workers are also relatives! Biscaris’ first commercial harvest was in 2004, after meeting Nicolas Joly, who encouraged them to both produce their own wine and do it through biodynamics. In addition to the classic biodynamic preparations 500 and 501, for soil and plant vitality, the family will use stinging nettle extract, quassia wood powder, chamomile, and valerian as natural insecticides, if needed. To combat downy mildew and oidium, only copper and sulfur are used.
The vineyards, with 3ha of Inzolia, 4ha of Frappato, and 4ha of Nero d’Avola, are divided between two contrade: Casazza and Santissimo, 200m and 100m above sea level, respectively. Most of the vines were planted between 2003 and 2016, trained exclusively as bush vines, alberello, with the rows planted in what is called “mare monti,” taking advantage of the breezes coming from both the Mediterranean and the Monti Iblei, each entity only about 15km from the vineyards.
The soils are mostly the so-called terre rosse, poor red sands derived from the southern Apennines, high in active calcium carbonate, combining with the nearby sea to imbue a salty freshness to the wines of an otherwise warm and arid zone. Harvest decisions are plant-by-plant to focus on quality. Yields are kept low for all four wines, around 35 hl/ha. Perhaps surprisingly these days, there is no single-vineyard, old-vine cuvée, or special cellar selection. Depending on the year, they will decide to make more or less of any of the three reds. Total production is 70,000-80,000 bottles.
The winemaking here is also refreshingly straightforward. Vinification happens steps away from the Casazza vineyard, in a building that was formerly Stefano’s father’s car dealership. No maceration on the white, yes maceration on the reds until the wine is dry. Everything in stainless steel, bottled unfined and unfiltered, and released between the Spring and Summer the year after harvest. The wines are healthy, honest, and typical, transporting you right to southeast Sicily, reminding you why the wines of this area are so beloved.