It was the perfect quid pro quo. On a recent trip to Sicily Jean-Paul, my local guide, and I were planning our visit to Tasca d’Almerita, a winery where I’d arranged a site visit and cookery class with the owner and renowned chef, Fabrizia Lanza. This winery was known to Jean-Paul but it was not one he’d previously visited.
As we were driving from Palermo to visit the evocative, Greek origin, town of Erice perched on top of the mountain, Jean-Paul asked if we could take a short detour.
A few minutes later we arrived at Feudo Disisa, a winery which has been owned and managed by the Di Lorenzo family for the past 200 years and known for the fine wine it produces. From the villa positioned on the edge of the escarpment the view out across the valley towards the distant hills was breathtaking and alone would have been worth the detour.
The name Disisa, I discovered, originates from the word ‘Aziz’ which is an Arab word meaning ‘splendid’; perfectly summing up the beauty of the land and those extraordinary views.
The estate was originally gifted to the Archbishopric of Monreale by King William II in the 12th Century.
The Di Lorenzo family open their doors for private tastings and their kitchen for lunch served on the verandah overlooking this amazing view. Combining the old traditions with modern technology and with great passion and commitment they produce some fine quality wines. Needless to say, thanks to Jean-Paul and his friendship with the family and the introductions he facilitated, it’s now an excellent additional inclusion in our itinerary for Sicily.
On the following day it was my turn to introduce Jean-Paul to another extraordinary family owned and run winery, this time located in the very centre of the island. The 200 year old, 500 hectare Tasca d’Almerita agricultural estate boasts an internationally renowned cookery school as well as an extensive kitchen garden for farm to table production and an extensive winery producing award winning wines.
Anna Tasca Lanza established the cookery school in the Casa Vecchie, a traditional 19C villa set among the vineyards, on the family estate in 1989. In 2006 her daughter, Fabrizia Lanza, returned to Sicily to take over the school after 25 years working in museums as an art historian.
Having left the busyness, energy and visual overload of Palermo it was wonderful to arrive at this beautiful and peaceful location deep in the Sicilian countryside. We arrived to find Fabrizia relaxing in the central courtyard arranging flowers just picked from the cottage garden.
Coffee was followed by an opportunity to work with and learn from Fabrizia as we prepared and cooked lunch. All the ingredients are locally produced and menus based on traditional local recipes.
As Fabrizia describes the food we are preparing she shares the history, anthropology and traditions behind each dish. As she says ‘’taking a journey through our island’s landscape of food means discovering the thousands of Sicilies that have developed under millennia of Italian, Spanish, Greek, North African and Arab influence”.
A leisurely three course lunch, great conversation and some fine Tasca d’Almerita wines is followed by a tour of the kitchen garden. It’s bursting with flowers, ancient roses and herbs as well as having an extensive vegetable garden and an orchard of endangered fruit trees with everything nurtured using organic principles.
On this occasion, unfortunately, we had only arranged to visit for the day. It was very hard to leave. Fortunately the Casa Vecchie includes a number of accommodation rooms as does the main villa situated a stroll up the hill in the middle of the vineyard so our next visit will include an overnight stay, more wonderful food and wine and the opportunity to wake up in peace and tranquillity deep in the Sicilian countryside.
To learn more about Nero d’Avola Wine which is produced from the most important and widely planted red wine grape variety in Sicily click here www.wine-searcher.com/grape-323-nero-d-avola