Meet The Winemaker: Barone di Serramarrocco

As part of a new series, we'll be introducing you to some of the key winemakers we work with at Bon Vino.

Today, we'd like you to meet Barone di Serramarrocco, a remarkable and storied wine producer in Sicily. From fresh Grillo to remarkable Pignatello and Cabernet Sauvignon, Marco, the owner, is a part of Sicily's increased appreciation as a key wine-growing Italian region in recent years. Below, we discuss the vineyard's remarkable lengthy history, and which of his wines is his favourite (hint: it's the one dedicated to his father).

Your family has a long history in the wine business, but you worked in banking before moving into wine.

Yes Indeed, Serramarrocco, formerly the feudal Barony of Serramarrocco, has belonged to my family since 1601.

In 1624, Don Juan Antonio Marrocco y Orioles was elevated to be first Baron of Serramarrocco by King Philip IV of Spain and Sicily, in recognition of Don Juan Antonio’s valiant struggle to have given shelter and aid to the population ravaged by the black plague that swept through Sicily at that time.

Furthermore, the King granted him a royal domain to be held as a crown estate, renowned for its fine vineyards, and they were reserved for the making of wines for the Royal Court of Sicily. 

Despite the fascinating royal legacy, until 2000 my family treated winemaking only as a hobby, mostly for its own, and friends', consumption.

On the verge of the new millennium and after more than twelve wonderful and challenging years in London, working as a broker at Lloyd’s of London, I felt the irresistible call of the Sicilian wilderness. When I inherited the property as the head of the family, it was impossible not to accept the inescapable challenge to resurrect the winemaking heritage of our former barony.

What was the land like when you returned?

I found old vineyards of Pignatello, Nero d’Avola, Grillo, Zibibbo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, over 30 years old of age.

In the spring, this extraordinary fertile land it is as green as Ireland and highlighted with fluorescent-red poppies, in late summer, the earth is gold and beige with fields of winter melons. It is a felicitous piece of terroir for vine growing with its perfect altitude, plentiful sunshine, and cool nights.

The views, too, were and are quite impressive: at Mount Erice’s foothill, the vineyards overlooking the Egadi Islands plunging in the Mediterranean and, nearby, Segesta, an extraordinary perfectly preserved fifth-century B.C. Doric temple and Amphitheatre. Not too bad….

Serramarrocco’s land became the first PDO in the whole Province of Trapani – how did you achieve that and how important was it for your project?

I believed it was of paramount importance to identify Serramarrocco in its own rights.

Its geopedological characteristics, its microclimate conditions, its exposure, and last but not least its vine growing heritage of the Barony. For example, during the Pleistocene era, Serramarrocco used to be covered by sea. Nowadays we still find fossils of all sorts in the grounds.

This means an everlasting mineral-rich and alluvial soil available to the vineyards, which is crucial for their natural development. They benefit from an ideal breezy, maritime microclimate, and it is a windy area at an altitude of approximately 350 meters above the sea level, with a significant different range temperature between night and day.

In a nutshell, the achievement of having been recorded as the first PDO of the whole province of Trapani means that the connection of the vines to the place they are grown is strong, and this is key.

What were your key principles when creating your wines?

Serramarrocco is composed of approximately 60 hectares, with 22 hectares of high density vineyards which were replanted approximately 20 years ago.

Grape varieties, clones, rootstocks, density, were all selected to match with the complexity of each plot of land. Vines are being cultivated with a remarkable high density in order to allow each grape vine to express its very own varietal profiles, as well as being naturally enhanced by soil texture.

Moreover, the cultivation regime and grape growing training system have been applied with attention to a low yield production per vine in order to further enhance the concentration of the berries of each grape variety.

You grow a variety of different grapes, including some classic Sicilian varieties and some international varieties, how did you make those decisions?

Based upon the results of the study carried out on each land plot, we selected the most suitable vines to be perfectly matched with each individual soil composition, in order to produce wines with a highly defined typicality. 

My objective was and it is to enhance the biodiversity of each variety, being highlighted by the singular strength of the crus. Furthermore, the ideal climatic conditions allow us to produce wines of its own typicity and rare elegance.

Why is Sicily a good place to make wine?

Sicily can certainly be described as a vinicultural island. A real microcosm of our peninsula, Italy’s leading wine region, by legacy and by numbers. With its 98,000 hectares of vineyards, it leads Tuscany and Piedmont in wine production and eschews stereotypes about southern wine. The Trapani’s wine district, on its own, boasts over 66,000 hectares of vineyards making it the largest vine-growing province of Europe.

Due to its high elevations, airflow, and different soils, Sicilian wines have a distinctive Mediterranean personality, tremendous biodiversity with a freshness, minerality, complexity and elegance that sets them apart from other southern wines.

Do you have a favourite of your wines?

It is said that a great wine, to be as such, must have a story to tell. It is then up to that person drinking it to unfold that tale, that background. 

If I really had to make a choice amongst my wines, I must admit that I have a soft spot for Serramarrocco, my very first wine ever produced. It was dedicated to my father. Structure and character, elegance and curiosity. It is conceived like a classic Bordeaux blend, but does not lose its territorial identity. An impressive deep ruby colour is followed by complex aromas of red and black currants intermixed with hints of graphite, sweet tobacco, cherries, strawberry, cedar and subtle toasty oak. Refined and silky tannins, remarkable acidity and a persistent fruity finish enhance its elegant structure. It is produced with the very best selection of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and Cabernet Franc grapes, harvested by hand, and then aged 12 months in new oak barrels.

Worth a try!