Monday, June 24, 2013

Sicily 2013: The Timeless Fountain that is Regaleali

How many times have I opened a bottle of wine from this estate in the last 25 years, never knowing this place? How often has a newer, brighter, younger winery from Sicily appeared in the headlines, while this winery was put back on the second or third page? Is it not a story about life in these times, to take something so important and dismiss it because it is older? Does that make it less significant? Does that decrease the relevance? Is it diminished somehow, because it is not young and pretty anymore?

Regaleali could be a metaphor for Sicily or even the 21st century. Here was a place 50 years ago that was nowhere. It still is, to the throngs of rabid motor scooter terrorists in Palermo. Even to nearby Piana degli Albanese, which seems to have cast aside their folkloric costumes and habits for tattoos and an edgier, angrier perspective. Regaleali exists outside of time and the ravages of fashion. This place is living literature, an unpublished piece of music by a long ago forgotten master, an oasis for those who can see the light from an invisible spectrum.

I never knew what the vineyard was like when restaurateur Vincenzo Savino of Dallas in 1990 would ask me for a better price on the Rosso del Conte. If I knew I would have never budged, aching to make the sale. Here is a prototype for great red wine of Sicily, even a young naturalista looks towards this place with aspirational hopes. I’m almost speechless about this. It’s as if I have been transported in time after having seen the 21st century as it is and taken back to a safe place, to start all over again. And to sip from the fountain of Regaleali.

They don’t talk about organic or biodynamic here, something which you attain a certification for after having met all the requirements. They talk of the ongoing process of husbanding a land where the work is never done, where there is never an end point. This is exciting stuff in any other place, but in the middle of Sicily, who cares?

Someone did, many years ago, looking around and seeing grain and cereal planted all over the hills. Someone saw the future and with that future they saw Sicily’s place in it. Visionary. Timeless. Unable to be caught with the fishing pole of trendiness.

Everything here is wound together as a sphere, there are no angles, here the world is not flat. Here one finds life working together, an outpost as remote as the moon, but somehow it works. It’s a chakra, gathering energy from the world and the universe and emitting a life force rarely seen these days. The animals are the first to affirm this. The birds, the lizards, the ants, the fox, it’s as if they found their outpost and they have climbed aboard, waiting it out, while the cities down below grind towards oblivion. The traffic noise of Palermo is silenced by the symphony of wind.

As I drove away from Palermo and got closer to this oasis, the tension in my muscles evaporated with the heat. This is a place where the philosopher goes to think, the cave of the yogi out in the open.

And the wines, you ask, waiting for one brief glimmer of note on them? Again I’m going to disappoint, my notes are meaningless compared to this overall experience. How can I tell you about the aroma of the Catarratto when the courtyard is filled with the perfume of roses, lilies, jasmine, origano and countless others clamoring for my attention?

I tell you, this place is not solely about the wine. The wines are the space probes sent out to transmit the energy of the place. The rosé now makes even more sense, when one sees the food from here. The Nero d’Avola and the Perricone on these old vines, bent over, their arms filled with leaves, waving in the breeze, forming the core of a wine that will live as long as the greatest Aglianico, Barolo and Brunello wines.

And the “international” grapes. They have almost been here long enough to be considered autochthon. What are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet doing here? What everything else is doing, climbing onto this arc and sailing into the universe as if they were on a carousel, gleeful and as if playing.

The artist Constantin Brancusi said, "When we are no longer children we are already dead." Believe me, this “old” place is younger than the latest, trendiest, tattooed avatar that poses as wine. The well here is deep, but the energy is all about play. And life boldly going in a manner which one seldom sees.

 written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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