The Sweet Wine of the Year in the Vini d'Italia 2022 guide goes to a passito produced by the only winery on Ustica.

Just over 36 nautical miles from Palermo, where the Tyrrhenian Sea is already very deep and intimidating with its cobalt blue waters, there is a mound of black lava beaten by impetuous brackish winds. Here, on the island of Ustica, Margherita Longo and Vito Barbera, agronomists, lead with great passion and solid competence – in the wake of a family tradition that dates back to the 1970s – Hibiscus, a small agriturismo farmhouse that is a pleasant resting place with comfortable rooms and operations centre (with energy supplied by a modern solar panel system) of the farm whose extent is only a few hectares. Farming is under strict organic regimen, and the farmstead produces the famous lentils of Ustica and a small quantity of wine, highly sought after by connoisseurs for the flavour, technical precision and strong territorial characterisation.

The company wine

“Our wine has a familiar imprint, or rather a tailored one, we do not practice marketing, our strength is only in the great quality of the labels” they explained. But the feedback that they’re getting today, goes beyond the perimeter of the island, “actually for some time now, the requests including from numerous tourists who stay on the island, also come from small operators in central-northern Italy, in a game triggered by simple yet effective word of mouth. Perhaps all this appreciation, which makes us proud, derives from the fact that these very particular wines are, beyond being considered very good, also a sort of ‘liquid postcard’: they evoke our lands in the Spalmatore and Tramontana districts, the fragrant scents of Mediterranean scrub, the intricate prickly pears that dot the fascinating landscape together with the countless terraces and beautiful dry stone walls. The wines are perceived as the authentic and positive expression of the fundamental relationship between the native  grape varieties (catarratto, grillo, insolia, nero d’Avola and zibibbo) and the extraordinary volcanic terroir on which they grow.” The news of the Tre Bicchieri awarded to Zhabib ’20, a passito wine, found Margherita and Vito (who personally take care of all the farming phases, from pruning to harvesting, as well as the bottling and shipments in their tiny cellar) rather surprised: “We didn’t think it could happen, it’s a dream come true. We are only two farmers” they smile “we operate outside of the dynamics of the wine market, and we are still the only wine producers on Ustica.”

Sweet wine of the year: Zhabib Passito ’20

Not only Tre Bicchieri, the Zhabib Passito ’20, in fact, also conquered the title of Sweet Wine of the Year 2022. The reason is clear: wine of rare grace, precious fruit of zibibbo grapes (Moscato d’Alessandria) grown on volcanic soil, it’s striking for its deep and brilliant golden colour, a prelude to intense and net scents that evoke lavender, myrtle, helichrysum, candied apricot and dates on an intriguing mineral background. On the palate it is refined and elegant, of incredible charm, sweet and lively, vibrant, superbly harmonious.

Agriturismo Hibiscus – C.da Tramontana – 091 8449543 – 339 5212822 – www.agriturismohibiscus.com

by Nini Aiello