Sicily Day 2 - Selinunte
On waking Tuesday morning in Selinunte, a visit to the local archaeological site to view the ruins of the ancient city and it's acropolis, preceded our trip to Florio in Marsala. They were the first locally owned producer after two English wineries were the first the start up nearby. Opened in 1833, this winery was founded by Vincenzo Florio Sr, after his family had moved to Palermo from Calabria to establish a Chemist to supply Qunine to combat Malaria. The emblem of the family & winery is a sickly lion with his tongue hanging out. They also went on to extend their interests into shipbuilding, fisheries, mining, metallurgy and ceramics. As well as financing the building of the Opera House in Palermo, they founded the Targa Florio, the rally around Sicily!
With such history behind them, it was sure to be an interesting visit. Our guide was Valentina, a young lady well versed in the mystique of the Florio brand, from Vincenzo Sr, his 'playboy' son who almost bankrupt the family, his wife, Donna Franca after who one of their wines is named, the guests to the winery including Garibaldi (who unified Italy) and even Mussolini!
Sold in over 30 countries worldwide, they produce 6 million litres every year from this one location. Marsala is a sweet style wine which many would consider a dessert wine and here at Florio, it has two main production methods. The first uses four main ingredients - white wine from the local Grillo grape, alcohol in the form of grape spirit, boiled must (the juice & skins of pressed grapes) and alcoholised must. The second uses only white wine and spirit.
Here at Florio their 5 main products are split by the production method. Their youngest wine is called 'Fine' and using four ingredients it is produced using the Solero system, as with all their wines and hence their ageing for a "minimum" number of years. The second, 'Superior' is aged a minimum of 2 years. The third, 'Superior Reserve' aged a minimum of 4 years also using the four ingredients method. Their top two styles are made with only the wine and spirit. These are named Virgin which is aged for a minimum of 5 years and Virgin Superior Reserve, aged a minimum of 10 years.
Valentina presented us with our first Marsala. The Terre Arse 2001, a 'Virgin' Marsala. At 19% alcohol is was a wine with a sweet nose of apricots and raisins but, as we'd experienced in Planeta as well, it was a dry wine on the palate, with a lot of fruit and good finish.
Over a wonderful lunch including Arincini, aubergine cake, local pizza and sandwiches, we sampled some table wines from a sister company of Florio - Duca di Salaparuta. The White an Insolia - Chardonnay blend and the red, a Frappato - Syrah.
Our final wine at Marsala was the Targa 2003. A Superior Reserve, semi-dry wine. A deeper colour than the Virgin due to the addition of Must in the manufacturing process, the wine had notes of vanilla and prunes on the nose, with a fuller, smooth mouth feel and lovely sweet flavours of raisins.
After a few purchases at the Florio shop, we bid farewell to Valentina, and after a quick turnaround at the hotel, we headed out to Porto Palo for a wonderful meal at Restaurante Da Vittorio, right on the beach and serving some of the freshest and most unusual fish dishes I've ever seen.