Based in Menfi, Marilena Barbera makes very interesting wines and deserves a lot more credit for bringing sensibilities regarding organics and biodynamics to Sicily. I have said this before, but she has also played a key role over the years in communicating this important side of the island's changing viticultural landscape to the rest of the world.
AMMÀNO - ZIBIBBO
- 2021 - 89/100: I have a real appreciation for the wines of Marilena Barbera, some of the first so-called natural and organic wines made in Sicily. Her 2021 Ammàno is Zibibbo (or Muscat of Alexandria) made in stainless steel and amphorae. With 2,980 bottles created (all with hand-written labels and gold wax capsules), the wine shows suspended particles with aromas of pear, peach juice and white flower. The bouquet is waxy and loosely knit.
CIÀTU - ALICANTE
- 2018 - 89/100: The 2018 Menfi Alicante Ciàtu shows baked aromas of dark fruit, baked earth and even a touch of porcino or wild mushroom. The fruit is mature, ripe and soft. The wine displays a robust, full-bodied style, with earthy back notes of old leather and tar. The wine is open-knit in terms of texture, and there are bitter notes of toasted spice, tobacco and tea leaf on the close, with a touch of astringency too. Spontaneous fermentation is completed in oak over 15 days on the skins. Fruit comes from a small, 0.75-hectare parcel and the vines are 20 years old. Production is only 4,000 bottles.
- 2016 - 90/100: The 2016 Menfi Ciatu is a pure expression of the Alicante Nero grape that is both fermented and aged in large oak casks make with Slavonian oak. The wine shows a dark and impenetrable appearance. Thick aromas of black fruit, exotic spice, tar and smoke rise from the bouquet. The wine delivers most of its power and intensity in an upfront and immediate manner. The mouthfeel, however, shows moderate lenght. Some 4,500 bottles were produced.
- 2015 - 90+/100: With its Quintarelli-styled handwritten label, Marilena Barbera hits a new stride with her 2015 Menfi Ciàtu. Unrefined and unfiltered, this is an inky dark and impenetrable red wine with a seamless presentation of dark fruit aromas. In terms of flavor, it takes you slightly off guard thanks to a sour point of fresh blackberry or bitter almond that is characteristic of the Alicante grape. That astringency makes for a good contrast against the overall heft and density of the wine. This is an extreme wine for resilient palates.
DIETRO LE CASE - INZOLIA
- 2017 - 88/100: Made with fruit from old vines, the 2017 Sicilia Menfi Inzolia Dietro le Case exhibits a broad, slightly flat bouquet. The wine shows accessible and slightly oxidized tones of dried apricot and preserved lemon. Inzolia grapes are fermented with ambient yeasts, or pied de cuve, in stainless steel. It rests in steel for six months. Some 3,500 bottles were made.
COSTE AL VENTO - GRILLO
- 2021 - 88/100: Part of the Menfi DOC appellation, the amphorae-aged Marilena Barbera 2021 Menfi Grillo Coste al Vento (a certified organic wine) has heavier aromas of apricot and candied fruit. Fermentation on the skins lasts six days. The wine is slightly waxy on the close, but it also has the freshness and some minty end notes to keep it lively. These are interesting results with good complexity. Production is 4,500 bottles.
- 2015 - 88/100: The 2015 Sicilia Grillo Coste Al Vento shows a pretty golden color and luminous appearance. The bouquet is redolent of tropical fruit, peach, citrus and a subtle note of green olive. This Grillo is easy-drinking and approachable but it also has the mild structure to pair with a more important dish like pasta con le vongole. Some 3,500 bottles were produced.
- 2014 - 85/100: The 2014 Sicilia Coste al Vento is spicy and thickly textured white wine with a slightly ossidative style. The bouquet reveals layers of stone fruit, caramel and pine nut. This expression of Grillo is aged in tonneaux and is made with as little winemakers' intervention as possible.
- 2012 - 86/100: From the larger Sicilia DOC, the 2012 Sicilia Grillo Coste al Vento is vinified in stainless steel and sees five days of skin maceration for extra texture and intensity. This edition shows moderate intensity and a pretty ensemble of lemon curd, tangerine zest and crushed mineral. Drink 2014-2016.
ARÈMI - CATARRATTO SUPERIORE
- 2016 - 89+/100: Here's an interesting wine from the lovely Marilena Barbera. The 2016 SIcilia Menfi Catarratto Superiore Aremi is a heavier style of white wine with orange peel and preserved lemon. The wine has a slightly oxidized style with honey and soapy floral aromas. It shows a more elaborate style with some sweetness on the close. The wine sees spontaneous fermentation and manual punch-downs that last one week. It ages on the lees for 13 months. Some 3,000 bottles were made.
LA BAMBINA - ROSATO
- 2015 - 87/100: The 2015 Menfi Rosato La Bambina is an amber colored rosé with copper and raspberry highlights. This Nero d'Avola-based wine shows delicate aromas of honey, wild berry, candied fruit and acacia flower. The bouquet is deeply fragrant and floral. It offers good value from the deep south of Italy.
LU CORI - NERO D'AVOLA
- 2015 - 88/100: Another good value wine, the 2015 Sicilia Nero d'Avola takes a very direct and immediate approach to the grape. This Nero d'Avola shows the dark olive, caper and rosemary aromas. The wine is streamlined and tight with a sour point of cranberry on the close.
- 2012 - 88/100: The 2012 Sicilia Nero d'Avola is a great value deal, especially if you are in the market for a fresh and upfront Sicilian red without too many bells and whistles. This is the kind of informal wine to pair wth grilled sausages, onions and green peppers. Medium bodied in color and concentration, the wine opens to earthy layers with bold cherry fruit, crushed flowers and a background tinge of jammy raspberry. Its texture is plush and chewy, but here's a good dose of freshness that keeps it from feeling heavy.
MICROCOSMO - PERRICONE
- 2016 - 89/100: A pure expression of the Perricone grape, the 2016 Sicilia Menfi Microcosmo Perricone is a direct and powerful wine. You do feel some ripeness here, maybe even too much, but this is characteristic of the Menfi subzone in the southern part of the island. The bouquet is pungent and raw. There may be a distant whiff of volatile acid, but it's hard to tell. This is a dark (black) wine packed with ripe fruit. It undergoes fermentation in neutral barrel and is aged in stainless steel for 12 months. Some 2,300 bottles were produced.
- 2013 - 88/100: The 2013 Sicilia Microcosmo is 90% Perricone and 10% Nerello Mascalese from one of the most innovative producers in the southern part of Sicily. This wine offers a very exotic bouquet with Indian spice and Turkish bazaar mixed in with dried fruit, prune, black olive and marinated capers. Perricone is a marked and deeply etched red grape that delivers loads of intensity and a brooding personality. The wine is firm and muscular.
- 2011 - 89/100: A 90 - 10 blend of Perricone and Nerello Mascalese, the 2011 Microcosmo is intended to underline synergies between these two very different Sicilian grapes. They are treated as on with pruning and harvest times that are the same for both. The idea is to show the potential of the vineyard site, teaming with insects, flowers and animals as a microcosm. The wine is beautiful and bold with dark fruit set against sweet Indian spice and barbecue smoke. Microcosmo is aged for one year in neutral French tonneaux. The wine is dark and mysterious and shows the brawn of Perricone with the firmness of Nerello Mascalese.
FUORIZONA - FRAPPATO
- 2021 - 88/100: Now part of the Menfi DOC, the Marilena Barbera 2021 Menfi Frappato Fuorizona (a certified organic wine) shows aromas of dried cherry skin and black plum, and ultimately the bouquet is both sweeter and richer than you might expect of a Frappato. There is candied cherry, apricot and honey. The wine ages in Slavonian oak casks. It's easy to drink and lightweight on the palate. Some 4,000 bottles were made.