Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Summer of Zibibbo

In June of 2001 I went to Pantelleria for two weeks by myself. My wife had died four months earlier and I was grieving her loss. It was summer and I just wanted to go away. Thirty years earlier I had passed on an invite to go to the island. This time I just went, alone.

I ran a lot and swam and rode a scooter around the little island. I went down to the market and bought fresh vegetables and fish and cheese and cured meats. And wine. Being not far off from Sicily there were few choices. But one of the wines I bought, a dry Moscato Zibibbo, was one I still remember fondly.

This was some time before the sweeter, fizzier version of Moscato from the mainland would make such a huge impact on the world. The wine I bought in Pantelleria was lively but far from frizzante, thankfully. It had the lovely aroma of sun-ripened Moscato, but in the fermentation process it went out all the way to dry. It was a bit of a puzzle for the aroma gave you the idea it would be sweet or at least fruity. But once I tasted it and got a whiff of the Scirocco in the body, it took me back. It was the perfect wine for the time. I’d make a little tuna salad with pasta and this wine would be right there with me. Nothing better.

It’s known that Sicilians love sweets. And sweet wines. But there is a place for this dry Zibibbo with the foods I encountered on that lonely little island so many years ago.

I remember getting up in the morning and taking a run down to the beach and back. Then I would jump on the motor scooter and run around the island, just burning gas and time. And then I would come home and make a little lunch and drink some of that dry Moscato. Then a nap before heading out again to the sea. I wanted to tan, maybe burn some of the grief out, viscerally. The only thing that I accomplished was to get a couple of sunburns. But as my body heated up, the dry Moscato was there. It was cool and refreshing. So welcoming, can I say maybe even healing?

Several years later I would be in Marsala visiting the winery of Marco de Bartoli. I was excited, for when I was on Pantelleria one of my scooter runs was to the locality of Bukkuram. What a fantastic name Bukkuram is. Marco de Bartoli also made dry wines from the Zibibbo and we had one the day we were there for lunch. I wondered, as I still wonder, if this wine would ever get any traction back home in the USA.

Eleven years have passed since I first went to Pantelleria and bid farewell to a chapter of my life. It was there I found this lovely little dry white wine that fits so well into the summer life. And with the heat all around us in July, where are the dry Moscatos?

I think it is time for another summer of Zibibbo. Long overdue. Either that or maybe I will just have to go to Sicily and Pantelleria to get me some.

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