Wines of the seas: along coastlines and around islands

27 August 2020

Italy is a relatively small country: the 71st largest in the world by area, around half the size of its neighbor France. But with its two large islands, Sicily and Sardinia, and its long boot-shape, it has the 14th longest coastline of any country.

As well as having an abundance of seaside, Italy is also the world’s largest producer of wine, and home to several distinct climates, all of which we’re exploring at Wines of the island, wines of the sea, which will be held on October 9 eat Eataly in Turin.


The effect that the sea has on the vines may seem obvious, but sensing these effects in the glass isn’t always so immediate. To highlight these marine influences we’ve chosen some producers and labels that best represent this deep bond between the sea and the vine. A connection which is unbreakable in Italy, being one of the countries with the largest number of vineyards within view of the sea.

The focus on local grape varieties and care for the land are the common themes which unite all the winemakers chosen for this workshop: six tasting which explore the variety of coastal and island wines on offer in Italy.

Heydi Bonannini’s vineyard in Palmaria. Photo: Possa.


We start in Liguria, on the island of Palmaria, where Heydi Bonannini, who runs the Possa company in Riomaggiore, cultivates enough grapes to produce around 1000 bottles of Parmeae per year. A blend of vermentino, trebbiano and albarola (a typical grape of the Cinque Terre), Parmaea is a macerated white wine, aged in steel and produced with grapes cultivated on the only vineyard on the island, which is just over half a hectare in size.


On the northwest coast, along the Adriatic Sea, we sample Venusa, made by Venissa on the island of Mazzorbo in Venice by the Bisol family. Dorona, a recently-rediscovered local white grape variety of the Venetian Lagoon, goes through a period of maceration that gives it body and structure. The maceration of white wines was once a highly-widespread practice among the winemakers of the Lagoon, who, not having underground cellars available, had to make sure their wines had body in order to ensure they could be easily preserved.

The vineyards of Cantina di Santadi.


We hop across to the island of Sardinia to taste Carignano del Sulcis Superiore Terre Brune 2014 made by Santadi. This cooperative has been active for over 60 years, and since ever the beginning they’ve been working to promote local Sardinian grape varieties, and in particular the carignano, of which Terre Brune is an excellent example. The wine is aged for 16 to 18 months in oak barrels and a further 12 months after bottling.


We proceed along the Amalfi Coast of Campania, where Costa d’Amalfi Per Eva 2017 is produced by Tenuta San Francesco, guided by the dynamic and energetic Gaetano Bove in Tramonti, near Salerno. It’s an assemblage of falanghina, ginestra and pepella grapes aged in steel: a mineral, saline wine with hints of citrus and Mediterranean herbs.


No tour of Italy’s seaside wines could be complete without a visit to Sicily, where we have wines from two producers to showcase.

Grape harvesting at the vineyard of Marco de Bortoli.

Marco De Bartoli is without a doubt one of the foremost wine producers in the Marsala region, where his Vecchio Samperi is one of the finest examples of Pre-British Marsala wine. The grillo grape, which can handle oxidative vinification, is the protagonist of the wine which requires at least 15 years of aging using the traditional perpetuo method and without the addition of cooked must, or mistelle.

Last but not least we present Salina Didyme 2019 made by Tasca d’Almerita, which starts its life in the volcanic soils on the island of Salina, one of the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily. The Tasca family have decided to highlight the links that this wine has with its land of origin by naming it Didyime, the ancient name of the island. It’s aged for four months in steel.

Tasca d’Almerita. The grillo grape, freshly harvested, are about to be taken by boat across the Stagnone Lagoon.

Six different but fascinating interpretations of extraordinary ampelographic richness of Italy’s coasts and islands.

by Tommaso Portieri,

The cover image shows the vines of Venissa, on the island of Mazzorbo.