Abbazia San Giorgio vintage 2018: tasting notes

We are honored to be working with Battista Belvisi from Abbazia San Giorgio, for now two years. He is a fantastic farmer and winemaker, working with a strong will to let nature does its work on its own. This approach is reminding us of the “do-nothing” agriculture and the work and ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka.

Battista Belvisi and friends in the very natural vineyard,
a few weeks before 2018 harvest of zibibbo.

He also makes his wines every year based on instinct. We are really grateful to be part of his project, helping him bring his wine on the US soil. We tasted the 2018 vintage at different times in Pantelleria, during the making and right after bottling this spring. We finally tasted again when our first shipment arrived here in NYC a few weeks ago. As ever with real wines, the arrival of a new vintage is an exciting moment. Here are some quick, simple tasting notes, hoping they might be informative to the ones liking Abbazia San Giorgio’s wines.

Orange 2018

For the newcomers, Orange is a 100% zibibbo dry maceration wine from Pantelleria island. The wine is aged six Months in stainless steel, after a quite long natural fermentation, more than two weeks, all along with the skins. Zero additives.

The least we can say about Orange 2018 is that it surprised us and it’s growing on us. Unlike industrial products, low intervention wines reflect much more the variations from one vintage to another. Although the color is nearly as identical as the previous year, as you can see (left and middle are ’18, right is ’17), Orange ’18 is quite different than ’17. The nose is pure zibibbo but feels even bigger in your face than ’17. It is fruity and tropical, yet bright and fresh — a delight. Once you sip, you notice more differences. ’18 zips you up, it has quite a high acidity but still takes you through its Pantelleria story; it could be from nowhere else. This acidity comes from the weather. Getting closer to harvest time, Pantelleria got hit by rain, and Battista decided to harvest a bit earlier, instead of risking the flavors, sugar, and polyphenols to dilute. Besides acidity, ’18 is still super clean and balanced, like rarely zero-additives wines are. Let’s forget a bit the technical analysis, it doesn’t matter that much. Orange is still this bright and energetic wine that makes you feel alive and dynamic. A UFO in our world of wine. People who are not scared and like acidity will probably love it even more than ’17, and it actually will go super well with Mediterranean appetizers. 

Lustro 2018

If you don’t know it, Lustro is another white dry maceration wine made by Battista Belvisi. It’s this time from Catarrato grapes grown organically on the volcanic island of Pantelleria (like all wines from the Domaine). It’s a “zero-zero” too, to use the jargon. No additive what so ever, a fermentation with the skins macerating for approximately a week and then 6 months of aging, with the dead skins, in stainless steel before bottling, to deliver this delicious result.

Well, unlike Orange, this year’s Lustro is very consistent with his one year older brother. We had not tasted side by side ’17 to compare, and we yet have to do so, but it brings me to a very similar place. The color is just beautiful. You could think from this color that there is a bit of oxidation, but you won’t feel any. The nose tells me grapefruit, but real grapefruit, slightly overripe, not at all the artificial grapefruit aromas that you find in many conventional sauvignon blanc. It also tells me subtle discrete white flowers and freshly cut grass. It is extremly fresh. In the mouth, the grass remains, it feels even more herbaceous. Could it be something of lemongrass? It would explain why I love it… There’s a nice structure to it, very balanced and clean for a “zero-zero”, with a reasonable acidity that is here not at all taking over, a nice bitter finish very progressive and never hurting, just sustaining the first impressions right there in your mouth. Also some more tannins probably due to the grape variety. That makes it more of a food-wine and it could pair with many different things. My latest success was with some panned scallops “aller-retour” with butter and parsley.

Overall, this is much more a contemplative wine than Orange, which is a dynamic and energetic wine. It’s a wine to sip slowly, with food or without. A wine to look at the moon and take the time to reflect on things. It removes you from the real world and lets you slow down to its real pace. I hope you all love it as much as we do. As ever, reach out if interested.

Cloé 2018

Finishing the tour of Abbazia San Giorgio’ 2018 vintage with Cloé:

Cloé is a rosato mostly made from Nerello Mascalese. This grape is unusual on Pantelleria island. It’s usually grown in the Etna region, in Sicily. Battista Belivis thought it would do well with the volcanic soil and the climate of Pantelleria, so he planted 1 hectare 11 years ago. Cloé also has a tiny amount of Zibibbo.

Vinification is all-natural, as much as the farming: native yeast and zero other additives, not even sulfites at bottling. Grapes are destemmed and pressed; then fermentation occurs with skin contact first to get this big color for a Rosato. Fermentation can take ten days or more, then the wine is aged six months partly in stainless steel, partly in chestnut barrels.

2018 is definitely different than ’17. Battista decided to add a bit more Zibibbo than the previous year, and you can tell. In ’18, it is approximately 5% Zib. Then the climate has been relatively different, leading to a bit earlier harvest. The result is a Rosato that expresses a bit more exotic flavors and aromas (although it is clearly a dry wine), and a bit less floral. Ripped red-fruit may be too. It somehow also reminds us of some pinot grigio ramato from the north. Overall, a wine that is less mysterious and cerebral and a bit more “glou-glou”. More of a thirst wine. We love both here.

All these wines are available now in the US in limited quantities, feel free to reach out if interested.

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