Occhipinti is located in the Vittoria region of southeastern coast of Sicily between the Mediterranean Sea and inland mountains. Owner/winemaker Arianna Occhipinti's passion, energy and vision are infectious! She 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/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 leased vines. Total production, across all her wines less than 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. She loved it enough to go to oenology 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. School gave her some technical knowledge, though she credits her real knowledge to her uncle - who raised his wines as well as his niece on organic viticulture, harvesting by hand and native-yeast fermentations, none of which was typical of Sicily's previously dominated bulk wine market.
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 top soil 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. 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. Juice and wine are moved only by gravity. There is no new oak. The red blend in SP68 is a blend of Frappato and Nero d'Avola. It's a fresher take on these regional varieties.
Personally I'm a fan of her pure Frappato bottling, which uses no new oak. Arianna believes other Sicilian producers use oak only to add a sense of gravitas to their wines for the international wine market, but she believes the gravitas comes from deep in the soil. The Nero d'Avola is also a brilliant flagship wine.
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.