Growing Grapes on Linosa – A Project by the Istituto Regionale Vini e Oli

I’m lucky enough to attend various seminars throughout the year, some on a specific appellation or grape variety or a particular wine region, others on topics more about some aspect of the wine trade. Still others on experimentation.

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Last year at VinoVip Cortina I was able to participate in one on a host of interesting topics including the use of sulfites in wine and a new form of yeast as well as experiments that were done growing grapes on the island of Linosa, in the same archipelago as the more famous island of Lampedusa. Apparently the name for the grouping of three islands is the Pelagie Islands which also includes Lampione. Lampedusa is famous these days as the arrival point for most of the refugees who are fleeing African shores and trying to reach Europe through Italy. There’s much to say and write about this tragic topic but this is not the forum for that.

To me the area was also famous for its turtles, in fact I have a keepsake of one from Lampedusa that a friend gave me years ago, but Linosa was not somewhere that I thought about as a location for wines. The islands are also not so far from Gozo, an island that is part of Malta. Linosa had a glorious past under the Romans but in modern times has been very underdeveloped. There are only 400 people living on the island. In fact we were told there was no way initially to anchor the boat to get onto the island.

Turtle from Lampedusa

Of volcanic origin, it makes sense that grapes could grown on the island despite the extreme heat, thanks to the ever present breezes.
In this seminar, the Istituto Regionale Vini e Oli in Sicilia spoke about a project that began on the island in 2007 using small cultivations of Zibibbo (Moscato d’Alessandria) that were found on the island. The Istituto wants to aid Linosa both with giving it a way to prevent erosion and a means of making a living. While Pantelleria is considered to be an extreme place for grape growing, a number of wineries have been very successful there, while Linosa is considered even more extreme. It has both less rain, more humidity and strong and more consistent winds, we were told in the seminar.

I found the idea very interesting and it made me want to see what this extreme viticulture looks like. The vines are necessarily bush trained with that kind of wind which is true on most islands that grow grapes.

We tried a 2011 Passito made from Zibibbo. According to my notes, the wine was quite sweet with considerable residual sugar, 196 grams. It was made with the addition of dried grapes. Certainly not yet mainstream, I’d be interested to see which wineries look to work this land.

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