This is fantastic wine.
It’s the kind of wine makes you turn to your buddy and say “what did you just pour me?”
About three months ago I was outside, recipe on my porch, viagra having a little lunch and decided to crack open a tester bottle. It was stunning, or jaw dropping, or mind-blowing, depending on which wine-critic you read about regarding Occhipinti and her Frappato.
Comparisons to Burgundy are overdone in the wine trade so I will try and avoid making one. Upon the first pour the nose was high-toned strawberry and bright cherry fruit, lavender and sea brine, undercut with violets and truffles. I once learned in a sommelier class that great wines will have layers of flavors, almost like a meal, and not just have a dominant core flavor as most wines do. This wine is not like most wines.
So I was asked – “What did you just pour me?”
“Frappato. Arianna Occhipinti’s Frappato.”
This wine has quite a buzz around it – Rajat Par, Eric Asimov, Jancis Robinson – you name it, they are hot on it. The buzz is interesting but more interesting is the wine’s soul. I will try and summarize:
Arianna caught the wine-making bug when she was 16 at her uncle’s winery. Her dad, trying to do the “Right Thing” and keep her out of uncle’s cellar, promised to let her manage a vineyard if she graduated from Architectural school. She did, and demanded the vineyard. What she got was one acre of fifty year old, diseased Frappato vines outside their back door in Vittoria, Sicily.
She calls what follows a privilege – a privilege to be working with vines that taught her so much: how to nurse them to health, how to train them to produce, how to learn from a plant that is nearly three times your age. I would call it a crazy slice of h*ll. It almost goes without saying that the vineyard and winery are biodynamic and she farms everything by hand, by herself.
Three hours later (I like a long lunch) the next question was asked: “What are we drinking?!?!?”
Il Frappato, which was stunning before, had blossomed.
I grew up in Iowa and have this memory of standing in a strawberry field where the strawberries were so utterly ripe they were practically pulling away from the stems with the weight of their sugars. All around the field was prairie – tall sweet green grass, lavender, wild thyme, sunflowers full of rich nutty meat and in the far olfactory distance a freshly started cherry wood fire and the barest hint of pork fatback starting to char. I swear, the Frappato now had all of these flavors plus the ones I found on the first pour.
And then there was the palate: iron and silk. Iron being the resonance that I love in light bodied Italian reds that is the flavorful tension between vinous tannins and juicy acidity. Silk being the elegance of a graceful fruit character that lightly sits on top of those tannins and acids, like fine cloth draped over the nape of your neck.
Since most people don’t drink Frappato every day the easiest comparison is Burgundy, and to me, Chambolle Musigny in particular. But the comparison is unfair to Arianna and Frappato. This is seminal wine that I believe will one day be held alongside the ranks of Conterno, Soldera, Quintarelli and Valentini – masterful and utterly compelling Italian wine.
Dude, you need some.
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