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Arianna Occhipinti Vino di Contrada

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Vintage: 2019
Region: Sicily, Italy
Viticulture: Biodynamic and Biodynamic
Grape varieties: 100% Frappato.

Arianna Occhipinti Vino di Contrada is a trio of single-vineyard Frappato loaded with flavors of cherries, raspberry jam, pink peppercorns.

Song: Steady As She Goes by The Raconteurs

Additional information

Single Vineyards

PT (Pettineo), FL (Fossa di Lupo), BB (Bombolieri)

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About Arianna Occhipinti Vino di Contrada

Arianna Occhipinti Vino di Contrada is a trio of single-vineyard Frappato loaded with flavors of juicy cherries, raspberry jam, pink peppercorns, and rose petals. Contrada names are not permitted on Sicilian wine labels, so each name is represented by a two-letter abbreviation–“BB” for Bomboliere, “PT” for Pettineo, and “FL” for Fossa di Lupo–with each being cheekily struck through with a line to emphasize their illicitness. The farming is certified-organic with biodynamic practices. Harvest is by hand. The bunches are mostly destemmed with the berries left whole. Fermentation is spontaneous with native yeasts in 20-hectoliter concrete tanks with maceration of 2-3 weeks and occasional punch-downs. The wines are aged in concrete for about 22 months and bottled without fining or filtration. Sulfur use is minimal.

PT (Pettineo) –  A few miles away from Bombolieri and Fossa di Lupo, the 0.9-hectare ‘Pettineo plot features the oldest Frappato vines (60+ years) in all of Vittoria. They grow on 70 cm of fine orange sand over tufa (a porous limestone) and are a mix of alberello and guyot training. This site is the first of the three to be harvested. Arianna finds a forward fruitiness and fine, smooth tannins in this wine.

FL (Fossa di Lupo) – Just a few km. down the SP68 from the winery/estate vines in Bombelieri is Arianna’s original 6-hectare vineyard and winery in Fossa di Lupo. These vines are relatively young at about 15 years, alberello-trained and planted on a thin 25 centimeters of brown sand over limestone rock. Arianna notes the earthiness and salinity of this wine. (Side note: this vineyard is also the source for the Nero d’Avola in “Siccagno”).

BB (Bombolieri) – This home parcel is adjacent to the winery and the last of the three to be harvested. It consists of a few rows of 25-year-old, bush-trained (aka alberello) vines on a scant 25 centimeters of sandy white topsoil over pure limestone rock with almost no clay. The limestone holds water, slows down ripening, and contributes a firm acidity and structure. Arianna finds it to be the most austere of the trio.

About Arianna Occhipinti

Occhipinti is located in the Vittoria region of the southeastern coast of Sicily between the Mediterranean Sea and inland mountains. Owner, winemaker, and viticulturist Arianna Occhipinti founded the estate in 2004, bottled her first commercial vintage in 2006 and today works exclusively with estate fruit. Her 25 hectares are certified-organic and practicing biodynamic and feature only native Sicilian varietals: 50% Frappato, 35% Nero d’Avola, and 15% white varieties Albanello and Zibibbo (aka Muscat of Alexandria). The Frappato and Nero d’Avola vines range from 10-year-old guyot-trained vines which she planted all the way up to 60-year-old alberello-trained vines which she rented initially and was later able to add her holdings. Total production is approximately 10,000 cases annually.

Arianna started at age 16 in her uncle Giusto Occhipinti’s cellar–he being the proprietor of Vittoria’s most famous winery, COS–and loved it, enough to go to enology school and to jump right into her own production. She began with a mere one hectare of abandoned vines attached to a family vacation house. Though university imparted technical knowledge of a sort, the main influence on her ways in vineyard and cellar was in fact her uncle, who raised his wines as well as his niece on organic viticulture, harvest by hand, and native-yeast fermentations, none of which is typical of Sicily’s bulk-driven wine production. In Arianna’s own words: “Not irrigating, harvesting late, and not using fertilizers are the secret to making more elegant wines in the area. The freshness and minerality in my wines come from the subsoils. Any wine made from young vines or chemically grown vines feeding only off of the topsoil will have the cooked, hot characteristics people associate with wine from warm regions.”

There was never any doubt in Arianna’s mind about whether to pursue this natural approach in order to express the freshness of the Vittorian microclimate, the minerality of the chalky soils, and the purity of the best local grape varieties. She made a number of other significant choices in pursuit of this balance. Farming is biodynamic. There is zero irrigation in her vineyards in this hot, windy climate. Cover crops including fava beans and other useful plants grow between every other row. New plantings are massale selections only. Juice and wine are moved only by gravity. There is no new oak. Her flagship SP68 wines (white and red blends named for the nearby main road) are vinified and aged in small concrete tanks, with no oak of any kind and no punchdowns. The red is in all but name her version of a Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the DOCG blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola; she eschews the DOCG designation in favor of shorter aging for a fresher take on this regional signature. And for her next level of longer-aged wines from older vines, a pure Frappato and her 100%-Nero d’Avola Siccagno, there is no new oak–the use of which has been an attempt by some Sicilian producers to add a sense of gravitas to their wines for the international wine market–and the most gentle handling.

Arianna’s star has risen very quickly over the last decade in the wine world, and she is rightly regarded as a symbol of success in the world of biodynamic farming and natural winemaking. She has remained committed to those principles while evolving from her originally more dogmatic outlook. Below is her response to importer Jules Dressner’s question about her feelings on the term “natural wine”:

“I make natural wine, but this is a term I’m beginning to be less and less comfortable with because its implications are very complicated. I really want to stress that my main goal is to make a good wine that reflects where it comes from, and for me, the only way to successfully do this is to make the wine naturally. When I first started, people were just starting to talk about natural wine. It was very important to me to think about all these issues, and in those early years, I definitely had a more militant attitude about it. Making natural wine was a mission, something worth fighting for. Now that I’ve grown up a little bit, the mission is making wine of terroir. You have to respect the vineyards, and nature in general. When I wake up in the morning, I want to feel free. Making this wine is my opportunity to feel free. So again, my goal is not to make natural wine, working this way is a process to make good wine.”