Zibibbo Wine Guide
The wine of Pantelleria, the splendid island to the west of Trapani, is one of the treasures of Italian enology. An ancient wine, velvety and precious, endowed with great pleasantness and drinkability, which manifest themselves through tickling freshness, a rainbow of floral aromas and an incredible saltiness that comes from the sea breezes. Both the wine and the vine are called Zibibbo.
What is Zibibbo?
Pantelleria is the name of the DOC, but more specifically, the main grape of the island is Zibibbo, Moscato di Alessandria, brought on the island by the Arabs, who introduced the famous Zibibbo grapes (zabīb in Arabic means dry grapes) to produce raisins, certainly not to vinify it. So its birth was an extraordinary fortuitous event. The Arabs understood that the winds, the volcanic soils and the high temperatures would have created ideal conditions for the drying of grapes and in fact, they were damn right.
Organoleptic characteristics of the Zibibbo-Moscato di Alessandria
Zibibbo is Moscato di Alessandria and so part of the great family of Moscati, the most aromatic vines of all, characterized by scents of broom, apricot, honey, dried fruit, linden, sage and musk. Beware, however, we talked about dried grapes, however, the Moscato di Pantelleria DOC is a simple sweet wine produced with fresh grapes, not dehydrated, on the contrary, the passito di Pantelleria is the classic dense and syrupy sweet wine produced with dried grapes.
Classification of Pantelleria DOC wine
These two types of wines must be accompanied by a further classification with various interpretations, also included in the Pantelleria DOC, which includes them all. They are many, convoluted and certainly do not help the consumer, given that they create incredible chaos. Summing up we have the Pantelleria Moscato liquoroso produced with fresh grapes, Moscato spumante (sparkling) also produced with fresh grapes and characterized by a titillating perlage.
Pantelleria golden Moscato, which is cut with alcohol and must have a residual sugar of 100 grams per liter. Passito liquoroso made with dried grapes up to a maximum concentration of sugars of 60% and then cut with alcohol. Pantelleria Zibibbo dolce (sweet), which is a very light sparkling wine. And we close with Pantelleria Bianco: the only blended wine, where it is not necessary to have a 100 % of Zibibbo, but 85%, which can be sparkling too…
So many words, but to be honest Pantelleria wine is at its best with sweet wines produced from late harvest or with dried grapes. Although the great peculiarity Pantelleria wines is the method by which the vines are bred, almost like bonsai enclosed in holes dug into the basaltic rock of volcanic origin. This kind of cultivating is so particular and suggestive that in 2014 UNESCO awarded the Zibibbo of Pantelleria electing it World Heritage.
This “survival technique” serves to protect the vines from wind and weather and to collect rainwater and night humidity in small rock basins, to compensate for the chronic shortage of water. In any case, emergency irrigation is tolerated.
And the other great factor that determines the taste of Zibibbo from Pantelleria is the sea: the wine is as acidic as any Moscato, but it is above all impregnated with salty flavors and even the aromas of the grapes bear this tidal wave of iodine fragrances.
To all these suggestions we also add the volcanic soil of the island of Pantelleria, so peculiar, excellent for conferring mineral and magmatic flavors to the grapes and so you can finally understand the complexity of these extraordinary wines. If they are unique, it’s because the conditions are absurd and unrepeatable.
If you want to make a comparison, you can taste the magnificent Moscatel de Setùbal, produced in Portugal with the same grape variety, (Muscat of Alexandria), and you will notice both great similarities and abysmal differences. It is a question of terroir, of course.
In many areas of Sicily, many are starting to make dry Zibibbo, to produce tense and fragrant wines, not too structured, but able to enhance the typical Sicilian seafood cuisine based on swordfish, tuna and shellfish. Definitely a less suggestive version, but not bad for an aperitif with two olives and a plate of sardines.
The bunch of Zibibbo-Moscato di Alessandria
It is very different from the Moscato Bianco one, which is round and small. Zibibbo grape is always winged, but more compact, with larger and longer berries.
History of Zibibbo
It is common ground that the Arabs introduced Zibibbo to the island around the year one thousand, but we still grope in the dark about its origin. Some thought that, given the name, it comes from Egypt, where it was used to produce raisins, even if there are no unanimous opinions. The Italianized word Zibibbo appears only in the late 1600s.