L’ECRÙ DI FIRRIATO
The Garden of raisining at Borgo Guarini Estate
The Sicilian countryside is full of sunshine. The warm sunrays light up the Zibibbo leaves and bunches with an impressive sheen.
The sun and the wind play a key role in the raisining garden at Borgo Guarini, one of Firriato’s most prestigious estates.It is the combined action of sunrays and air that brings about – quite naturally – the drying process of Zibibbo grapes.
For 40 days and more, these grapes will receive all possible care so that each bunch undergoes proper and homogeneous dehydration. Tons of grapes are laid out and carefully inspected day after day by Mosè, who turns each bunch over allowing every single grape to concentrate all its essence within. A tiring work, which is also requires high precision. Zibibbo is the name of this variety, recalling distant lands always within the Mediterranean: Muscat of Alexandria.
The Arabs introduced Zibibbo in Sicily as table grapes, particularly suitable for raisining and conservation. It is a valuable variety, rich in sugars and scents, very special for the aromatic supply that distinguishes it from any other. Sweet wine from these grapes, “passito” as we know it today, is much more recent and Firriato interprets it in its own way, with a productive process and a style that stands out from all others. This wonderful experience is staged in one of Firriato’s own estates in the Trapani countryside, the 165-hectare large Borgo Guarini.
Nella Tenuta di Borgo Guarini è coltivato il Nero d’Avola più importante e prezioso, quello destinato all’Harmonium, etichetta che rappresenta alla perfezione quella filosofia produttiva di Firriato fondata sulla ricerca della qualità e della sostenibilità ambientale.
An unfortified dried-grape wine that fully expresses the philosophy and approach of a company with an unmistakable production style.
The process begins in the vineyard, with a growth and production cycle of plants focusing on top quality, with balanced yields, under a certified organic farming process, and ends after the harvest with the exposure of the bunches to the sun on drying racks.
A great manual work that requires precision, passion and dedication. The next and final step is vinification in stainless steel with very little clarification that gives L’Ecrù a light colour and an alcohol content of only 13.5 degrees.
When ripe, Zibibbo takes an amber colour unlike Zibibbo grown on smaller islands. This difference in shade reveals the fact that Zibibbo originates from the mainland, and at a later date was planted on smaller islands such as Pantelleria. This is why Borgo Guarini is Firriato’s area of choice for this cultivar.
As soon as the grapes reach the right degree of ripeness, their bunch stem is twisted by expert and attentive hands. Unlike what happens on the smaller islands, the bunches are then exposed to the sun and the wind for about 40 days. Every ton of raisins, after forty days of slow drying, gives approximately 250 kilograms of raisins, losing around 75% of the weight. Skilled and patient hands take care of every single bunch, turning them over on a daily basis to allow a complete dehydration of all grapes
Infusion in wine instead of must: Firriato’s method.
L’Ecrù is an unfortified dried-grape wine that is produced according to Firriato’s trademark method alone: infusion in wine
Still fleshy and fragrant, these dehydrated grapes, now raisins, are picked off their stem in the cellar on a sorting table. Each raisin is removed manually, to avoid that the woody stalk remains attached to it. The teams of workers perform this task with great care and skill. It is a work of great patience and attention, the result of hard work that follows age-old rhythms, with each day marked by sunrise and sunset. Even the smallest part of the stem is removed to leave the raisins with a soft core, perfectly clean, wrinkled, bronze-coloured and fragrant. These raisins are then added to fresh wine, in a proportion which varies every year, depending on the vintage. This is Firriato’s choice of production and style, one that stands out from any other process: raisins are added to wine, not must, like other Sicilian sweet wines. There is no fermentation of raisins in must. There is the current year’s wine, fresh and with excellent supporting acidity to marry the dried grapes. As raisins come in contact with wine, they swell and slowly release their valuable content. Slow absorption of aromatic substances does not affect the acidity of the wine, making it a dessert wine of extreme elegance and unparalleled balance.
The 2014 Harvest
Every September, the harvest of Zibibbo and Malvasia grapes is a ritual that is renewed year after year at the Borgo Guarini estate. The 2014 harvest gave beautiful and healthy fruits. Two traditional varieties, the true glory of Sicilian wine-making. Throughout Sicily, Zibibbo is having a new lease on life, and Firriato is one of the names behind it. Once the grapes reach perfect ripeness, they are subject to three different harvesting stages: a selection of the grapes is harvested for the raisining garden; another portion will remain on the plant to dry for about eight days, while the third set will be harvested after the twisting of the bunch stem and after a period ranging from 8 to 12 days, depending on the climate. The harvest began mid-August and lasted until mid-September. Malvasia grapes were harvested in the same period and with the same procedures used for Zibibbo. The yield per hectare is slightly down compared to 2013, but that was a particularly productive year, especially in Sicily. Firriato’s grapes are rigorously hand-harvested. The grapes intended for desiccation are stored in wooden crates. Each bunch is thoroughly checked, cleaned with scissors from any impurities and placed on the bottom of the crates, that are sent over to the Raisining Garden in the main house. There they will be entrusted to the care of Mosé for desiccation.