vineyards growing at Porta del Vento trace the shape of their
Valdibella hills with the organic whorls of a fingerprint. The vines
face north, like long green compass hands in the summer; this direction
shades them from the merciless, pounding Sicilian sun. The decades-old
vines grow short, gnarled and stunted. They look like rows of old men
dancing, shaking shaggy vinous heads in the summer or in the winter
scraggly heads black as a fire escape in the rain. It's an old land, one
so long used to grow things that you can feel the antediluvian mystery
in the air.
Porta del Vento translates
to "Gates of the Wind." Breezes blow constantly across these hills,
cooling them in the summer. It's a harsh, difficult land whose great
day-to-night temperature swings surprise anyone who hasn't lived there.
The soil here is thick with minerals and stones. It's perfect for
growing grapes that'll make wild, intense, complex, unusual wines. Like
the terrain of Porta del Vento, the estate's wines are stony, laden with
peaks and valleys. They could come only from Sicilia. These aren't
wines for the Super-Tuscan drinker who's looking for wines that are
clean and correct. These are wines for the adventurer whose idea of
beauty includes a few unforeseen thrills.
Like Porta del Vento's
visionary owner Marco Sferlazzo, the three men who created [PRIMA] Terra
Srl got their inspiration from difficulty and tradition. Cinque Terre
is not an easy place to grow grapes, which is why so many of the small
estates have jumped ship. However difficult it is to navigate its
seaside cliffs, like Sicilia, Cinque Terre has the natural advantages of
sea air, stony soil, lots of sun, and millennia of tradition. Walter de
Batte and his two partners, Riccardo Canesi and Pierfrancesco Donati,
saw in these cliffs punctuated by crumbling stone walls a site made for
the reclamation--and celebration--of Ligurian wine.
The result is collector's
wine par excellence. They're hard-to-find jewels, not only because
Walter de Batte keeps the production numbers ludicrously low but also
because so little of his wine makes it out of Liguria. Every year,
clients would return from Italy and, stars in their eyes, tell these
wistful stories of de Batte's wines, asking plaintively if IWM had them. Rarely have we, but I'm delighted to offer them to you today.
This week, I'm proud to
offer you these two producers' wines that come from "the road less
traveled." While most travelers and wine buyers go for the known places
and wines, the adventurous ones go to the lesser known places and grow
mesmerized by the richness and authenticity of the people, places, food
and wines. Porta del Vento and [PRIMA] Terra couldn't make wines more
different from one another--each bottle is so imbued with its own land
and traditions, how could they not be wildly different?--but they're
united by their breathtaking honesty; their unshakeable commitment to
their land, its traditions, and its grape varieties; and their wines'
astonishing palates. Open a bottle of either producer with your favorite
intrepid traveler and toast to the journey, which is best when it's