Vino Perpetuo "Vecchio Samperi"
“Vecchio Samperi” is the starting and departure point for De Bartoli marsalas and in fact for its whole raison d’être. Marco De Bartoli first commercially released this wine in 1980, in homage to the very first, the true original marsala wine of the 18th century. Called stravecchio or “extra old”, it was made by the perpetuo method, aka in a sherry-like solera system and, notably, without fortification with a neutral spirit. Fortification was introduced later by British shippers to preserve the wine for sea travel and a long life beyond. Besides skipping this now-ubiquitous step in making his “Vecchio”, Marco adorned his wine with the name of the Samperi contrada, where the De Bartoli estate lies, to tie it directly to its terroir--a foreign concept in modern-day marsala production.
Marco's other main point of vinous rebellion was using only the Grillo grape, valued for its bright acidity and complexity, but commonly blended with other, lesser varieties in this commercialized category of wine. Still today, Vecchio Samperi is made exclusively with Grillo from the De Bartoli estate. The vines grow in sandy, marine-fossil-rich limestone soils and are farmed organically. Harvest is at the point of least 15% potential alcohol (key since it is not to be fortified) and done by hand. The bunches are gently pressed and the must fermented spontaneously with natural yeasts in wooden vats. The new wine goes into a fractional blending system of variously sized oak barrels, replacing the approximate 5% of the perpetual wine drawn off and bottled annually. The average age of the wine in the solera is 15 years. Though emphatically unfortified, Vecchio Samperi reaches around 16% due to the evaporation of water during its long life in wood. It finishes at 11-12 grams/liter of residual sugar, drinking dry thanks to the keen acidity. The lack of fortification disqualifies the wines from the Marsala DOC, ironic given that is the Ur-marsala.