Wine: Tami´ by Arianna Occhipinti
Region: Contrada, Sicily
Vines: Certified Organic
There's been a dedicated interest in reviving native Sicilian varietals and the old ways of doing things in recent years, and Arianna Occhipinti is among those leading the revolution. At age 16 she began helping her uncle and renowned winemaker Giusto Occhpinti, then studied winemaking at university, and after graduation, began making her own wine from a tiny abandoned vineyard in her native Sicily in the early 2000s. Today she makes several blends and single varietal wines with an unwavering commitment to organic viticulture and natural winemaking under her eponymous label, Occhipinti. She's also begun to replant with native varieties that have become nearly eradicated from the island, and in 2014, built a cellar with concrete fermentation vats designed for gravity, eliminating the need for inert gas to move wine from one place to the next. I've had many of her wines and they are always a joy to drink, packed with incredible purity and finesse.
She makes three wines under the Tami´ label, a collaborative project from organic vineyards around 15 years old. Two reds and one white are made simply in stainless steel, filtered and bottled with the intention of drinking early at an easy price. I've had the frappato, one of the two reds, but I was new to the grillo. Grillo typically produces easy, aromatic, zippy whites, so I was surprised to find this bottle deep gold in color and slightly oxidized on the nose and palate. I didn't mind it at all and wondered if it might have been on purpose. The only tasting notes I could find on the internet and social media suggested a bright, outspoken wine, so I decided to call the importer in New York to see if anyone in the office could help me understand. Proprietor Jules Dressner answered the phone. He said the wine was near the end of its vintage and wasn't surprised to hear it had begun to oxidize. Arianna makes her wines naturally, using only native yeasts and presumably very little sulphur, which helps explain why the wine evolved so quickly.
The Tami´Grillo 2014 was an interesting experience. Though I wish I had tasted it in its youth for comparison, it's a pleasant reminder that wine is a living thing, and that, like humans, it transforms over time, sometimes for the better, sometimes just differently. For me, it expressed orange blossom, honey and lightly toasted hazelnuts with sharp acidity and good length. The 2015 vintage should be available soon, and I look forward to drinking one.