Barone Montalto is a prime example of what is happening in Sicily at the moment. New investors and winemakers coming onto the Island taking advantage of old vine, indigenous vineyards and cheap land. Everyone is looking for something new, and when you can supply wines from a region with over 2000 years of history, well it is pretty impressive. Barone Montalto controls over 400 hectares of vineyards and Ammasso is their flagship wine. This wine is made in a very similar manner to the Amarone’s of Veneto, and it is often referred to as the Amarone of the South.
It is a blend of two indigenous grape varieties, Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese along with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. But here is where things take a right turn.
At harvest time the finest grapes are hand-picked and arranged in a single layer in small boxes, not more than 5 kg each. This allows the grapes to remain intact and not be crushed by the weight of other grapes. Then the grapes spend 4 weeks drying in the fruttaio, or Fruit Chamber, which is ventilated remaining at a constant temperature. This period of drying concentrates the flavours and natural sugars inside the grapes, creating almost raisins. The dried fruit is then fermented in the normal manner and aged in small oak barrels for 10 months.
The affect is quite startling, for the resultant wine can only be described as rich and luxuriant, but due to the acidity of the grapes, the wine is still fresh and vibrant. The word “Ammasso” indicates an ancestral technique of winemaking which is still practiced on the best grapes of Sicily
The nose of the wine is intense with scents of prune, candied fruits and prominent Christmas cake type aromas. The mouthfeel is full, rich and opulent and becomes sensual thanks to its freshness and velvety tannins. I have enjoyed a number of Amarone’s in the past and this wine, at a fraction of the price, is just as good.