“Our Italians” is a series of interviews conducted with local food artisans, experts and producers in some major Italian cities, but also those who practice their craft in smaller, rural, less visited parts of Italy. These passionate individuals are committed to sharing the best in Italian food, wine and traditional products, through family-owned businesses and small scale enterprises, and we’re here to introduce them to you.
Today we meet Bruno Ferrara Sardo, the owner of Vini Ferrara Sardo located on the north side of Mount Etna. We’re lucky to have met Bruno on more than one occasion at his vineyards. It’s a magical place. We can’t wait to visit again.
Casa Mia: How and when did you start to produce wine? What or who inspired you?
Bruno Ferrara Sardo: In the early 90’s I started to manage my family vineyards. My family always had vineyards. As a child I’d spend the afternoons in the countryside with my grandfather. My appreciation of the art of cultivation and vinification came from him. At that age everything was a game. It wasn’t until I was twenty-five years old when I started to produce wine for personal consumption that I started researching and experimenting with wine making. In 2012, thanks to encouragement from friends and “santi bevitori” or “holy drinkers”, I bottled my first vintage.
CM: We hear lots about the “goldrush” to produce wine on Etna. What do you think? Is there room for new producers in the region?
BFS: Etna was discovered by producers from all over the world. Many call Etna “the Burgundy of Italy”. The arrival of new winemakers and the passion from established winemakers has raised the quality of wine produced. As a result of this influx and new knowledge used in the vineyard and in the cellar, Nerello Mascalese, an autochthonous grape variety of Etna, could express its true characteristics.
The area is quite limited in size but I believe there is still space for new producers. I hope that they will take care of the land and the soil: from the plants to the men who work in the vineyards, from the birds to the insects. These were my guidelines from the time that I had my own parcel of land and I told myself I wanted it to be healthy. Therefore I don’t use any fertilizers not even organics nor pesticides.
CM: How large is the vineyard? Is it all Nerello Mascalese? How many bottles of wine to you produce on average annually?
BFS: My tiny winery is less than two hectares. The vineyard occupies one hectare. The other is planted with olive and fruit trees. There are two vineyards of Nerello Mascalese, one hectare was planted 50 years ago while the older vineyard at 2000 meters is un-grafted. Production varies from a minimum of 2000 bottles to a maximum of 4000 annually.
CM: What is the philosophy of Vini Ferrara Sardo? Would you like to expand production in the future?
BFS: Quality is what guides Vini Ferrara Sardo and often quality is linked to small production. I have yet to evaluate whether to enlarge our production. If I were to expand I’d produce new wines, one white and one red. They would remain true to our philosophy: clean wine from healthy grapes.
CM: What do you hope that your wines convey to the people who drink it?
BFS: When people lift their glass to their nose, I see their facial expressions change. Then when they taste it their expressions change again into a sensorial rapture. It’s exactly the emotion I want to convey, as small or large as it can be. In Sicilian ‘Nzemmula, the name that I chose for my wine, means together. We have a need to be together and feel togetherness. I hope that whoever drinks ‘Nzemmula can experience this feeling.
CM: Can you describe your method of production? Are you considered a biodynamic wine producer?
BFS: I don’t consider myself biodynamic. My wine is a natural wine. I use a little bit of copper and sulphur in the vineyard and nothing else, and only when it’s absolutely necessary. In the cellar I add absolutely nothing. Once the grapes are harvested, I’m very careful not to ruin a year of work in the vineyard. At every step from the vineyard to the cellar, I take extreme care to preserve the product as a whole.
CM: And last but not least, which vintages are available in the market now? Can you describe the differences between them?
BFS: 2012 and 2013 are currently available. One is better than the other but I won’t tell you which one. 2014 will be bottled soon and I can’t wait, it’s the best of the best.
The three vintages are the perfect reflection of the climatic conditions surrounding Etna for each respective year. The wines show sensorial character that bring us back to meteorological events. The summer of 2012 was extremely hot and dry while the summer of 2013 was fresh and rainy. In 2014 there was balance.
Obviously this is reflected in the personality of the wine. Sometimes people doubt and struggle to believe that it’s the same wine. But it’s exactly this that I want to be clear about: every year has its own traits, you can’t have the same wine from different years.
The 2012 has a rather sustained acidity despite the hot and dry summer as well as a sensation of volume and depth. This is thanks to the higher altitude which alleviates the summer heat. It is bright ruby in color. The nose shows ripe red fruits, scents of chocolate and almond. It is light on the palate, elegant and it expresses the territory. Tannins are evident and sweet. Intense.
The 2013 is characterized by fresh notes which make it easy to drink. It’s bright ruby in color. The nose shows fresh fruit: cherries, citrus, flowers and spices. The flavor is intense with bold tannins.
2014 brought ideal vineyard conditions with perfect weather for grape maturation. All components of the wine are balanced and harmonious. The nose is floral, with aromas of red fruit, strawberries, spices.
Opening image © Jose Bonaccorsi for http://www.vinodabere.it – all other photography: Gina Tringali
Gina Tringali – food lover, certified sommelier, coffee connoisseur, and passionate home cook – is a successful freelance food and travel writer and blogger based between Rome and Southern Italy. She is committed to discovering and sharing with fellow food enthusiasts Italy’s best culinary and wine experiences.