75cl bottle. Organic.
A pretty nose, a mix of citrus blossom and kitchen garden herbs, with vibrant acidity and a decent mineral streak.
Rediscovering precious grape varieties from Sicily’s rich past. With a big personality and distinctive minerality this is a memorable white.” Decanter
The six wines of Stefano Girelli’s Sicilian estate, Azienda Agricola Cortese, have now arrived in the U.K. The two tier range of wines are sustainably produced, organic, made from indigenous, ancient grape varieties and are aimed at the premium off and on trade.
A neighbour of Girelli’s original organic Sicilian estate, Feudo di Santa Tresa, in the Vittoria region, Cortese was acquired in 2016 after six years of negotiation. The estate has always been farmed organically, but was in a terrible state of decay, with both vineyards and winery in need of a great deal of maintenance.
On closer inspection of the vineyards, despite their wild appearance, it transpired that there were a lot of very old and extremely interesting vines which were producing excellent fruit, so it was decided to carry out the vintage, rather than start on the maintenance immediately and surprisingly good results were achieved. During the harvest period it became clear that these mature vineyards had some unique clones – something really different – and that the fully ripened grapes were truly exceptional, despite the condition of the vineyards. All of the grapes for the top range, “Cortese Selezione”, are grown on the estate.
Taking tradition as inspiration, Girelli employs ancient wine-making techniques such as fermentation in terracotta, which allows skin-contact for a particularly long time. The wine is fermented on the skins, finishing the fermentation in bottle, and they keep the wine on its fine lees for at least nine months. Fermentation in open barriques means that they can ferment really small parcels of wine at any one time – a kind of micro-fermentation.
The low-yielding Catarratto Lucido grape had almost disappeared from Sicily, but producers such as Cortese prefer the more concentrated, fresh style it lends to wines. This organic version benefits from skin maceration and extended lees stirring. Vibrant fruity aromatics of banana, pineapple and Russet apple lead to a bone-dry palate with mouthwatering acidity and a surprising fleshiness thanks to the skin contact. Delicious salinity on the finish.
Drinking Window 2018 – 2020
91 points James Suckling.