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Le Casematte’s total surface area is a little over 17 acres of terraced vineyards and sits at an altitude between 820 and 1,215 feet above sea level. Pristine and remote, these vineyards benefit from the constant sea breezes of the Messina Strait, notably the Sirocco wind during summer. Large temperature swings give the wines excellent aromatic qualities and a freshness running through the whole range. The terrain in the vineyards are a mix of sandy, calcareous, and clayey soils that, when combined with the microclimate and location of the vineyards, endow Gianfranco’s wines with fantastic elegance and fragrance. These are big, luscious wines that simultaneously show distinctive balance and harmony.
The entire appellation is only 50 acres in size. It sits in the district of Messina, on the breathtaking Messinesi Hills wedged between two seas – the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian, joined by the Messina Strait. It is a 100% native appellation, exclusively from indigenous varieties that find their ideal home on messinese soil, ranging from dark, compact, slightly acidic at the higher altitudes and alluvial towards the coast. Gianfranco’s winery is located at Faro Superiore, high up over the Messina Strait, where the hillsides can have a gradient up to 70%. The winery’s name comes from two casematte or casemates (a.k.a. pillboxes) from World War II, which served as observatories and defensive structures at that time. Today, in more peaceful times, the casemates are content to watch over Gianfranco’s largest vineyard, which is five acres in size.
The modern and functional winery has recently been expanded, and it has also been equipped with a new barrel cellar for aging and with a comfortable and panoramic tasting room. The total extension of the vineyard is about 11 hectares and it is grown organically with Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera and Nero d’Avola varieties, in the percentages provided for by the Faro Doc disciplinary. Nerello Mascalese (Niuriddu Mascalisi in Sicilian) is a vine that grows in the Etna area in the Catania district, and in the Capo Faro area in the Messina district. Its name is due to the fact that it has been cultivated for centuries in the area of the Mascali County, on land made up of volcanic sands for the most part. It ripens very late and its harvest takes place between the second and third week of October. Nerello Cappuccio (also known as Nerello Mantellato) is a vine cultivated at the foot of the Etna volcano, and it contributes to the production of Faro Doc and Etna Doc wines.
Anyone who has met Gianfranco recognizes his enthusiasm and passion for fine wine and the island of Sicily. Set in the northeastern corner of Sicily, near Messina, Le Casematte focuses on a single, tiny, quality-driven appellation: Faro. The Faro DOC was introduced on December 3, 1976. The local wine, however, is ancient – the DOC name itself comes from an old Greek population, the Pharii, who settled in this spectacular nook of the Mediterranean and grew grapes as far back as the 14th century B.C. Not only is Faro one of the world’s most ancient wine areas, but it is also one of the tiniest appellations in Italy.
I started with this winery as a winemaker about ten years ago; and it was love at first sight here. Aside from Gianfranco, the extraordinary owner and host, the location is truly breathtaking! Perched on a panoramic hill overlooking the Strait of Messina, it allows you to see both Calabria and the splendid Aeolian Islands.
The Grillo “Migma” has infinite elegance, given by my touch for sure but above all by Mother Nature. When this is the case, I have very little to do. Proximity to the sea, wind, Mediterranean sun and a mix of sandstone and limestone soil. I love it with a Branzino cooked in a salt crust.
Migma Grillo, as described by Carlo Ferrini