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Zibibbo is one of the rarest grapes in the world with a triple attitude: it is a wine grape, a table grape and a raisin grape. Its extraordinary adaptability is the main reason for a long history that dates back 5.000 years.

The Zibibbo has been cultivated in the Mediterranean area since immemorial times, and has crossed hundreds of centuries without significant genetic modifications.

fertile crescent mapThe scientific name of Zibibbo is Muscat of Alexandria: the name itself suggests that this grape variety was cultivated in ancient Egypt, either after being imported there or indigenously developed from trade contacts between the populations of the Fertile Crescent area.

Archaeological evidence suggests that winemaking existed during the Egypt’s first dynasty (3000-2890 B.C.) and greatly developed throughout time, as this beautiful picture found in the Tomb of Kakht at Thebes demonstrates.

uva vino antico egitto


Zibibbo was later brought to Sicily and other colonies by the Phoenicians (in red) and the Greeks (in blue) and became one of the most interesting varieties of Western Mediterranean around the 800-700 B.C.

During the Roman Empire, the variety managed to make its way to Northern European regions (in green).

zibibbo mediterranean adaptation

 

fondaco dello zibibbo

Rather than being called Muscat of Alexandria, this ancient grape is known in Sicily mainly with its Arabic appellation, Z’bīb, which simply means “dried grape" or "raisin”.

The legend says that the Zibibbo was the grape that easier than others survived the Arabic domination: the Sicilian Arabs had the right to grow this vine for making raisins to enrich their super tasty culinary preparations, but did not disdain to make and drink good wine.

Wine consumption was actually forbidden for religious principles, but widely tolerated at that times: this beautiful illustration kept in the Salinas Museum in Palermo portrays "The Zibibbo Tavern”, and wine is the subject of numerous medieval Arabic poems.

 

Zibibbo: geographic distribution

This grape grows today not only in Sicily, but also in different European Countries as well as in South Africa, California, Australia, and South America, with over 200 synonyms registered.

The most part of the Sicilian Zibibbo is cultivated in the province of Trapani. Pantelleria, a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean, has become part of the UNESCO World Heritage for the traditional viticulture methods still used for the vines’ training.

 

Characteristics of Zibibbo

Zibibbo is one of the few existing aromatic wine grapes. Like Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, its berries contain high levels of organic compounds called terpenes. Zibibbo, in particular, has a super concentration of linalool, geraniol and nerol, all of them responsible for the wines' intense aromas.

It is a resilient variety: while sensitive to extreme humidity, it is resistant to drought and hot climates, and that’s why recent studies suggest that Zibibbo is among the most interesting varieties to consider in an era of climate change.

 

Zibibbo: tasting notes

Due to its long history of adaption to different terroirs, the Zibibbo has a great intra-varietal genetic variability. That means that its clones show distinctive characters that change from place to place.

Two main biotypes have been identified in Sicily.

zibibbo biotipiBiotype A produces golden-yellow loose bunches. Its grapes have higher alcohol potential and milder acidity, and can be successfully used for making wines with solid structure and great longevity.

Biotype B has green berries and a medium compact bunch. Its wines generally have a lower alcohol level, a higher acidity, and a thinner structure.

Being Zibibbo a triple attitude variety, the wines can be incredibly different and unique.

From light dry wines that show a nose of white flowers and citrus fruit, to more intense orange wines with a stunning palate of figs, apricot and candied orange peel, to complex dessert wines with dominant honey, dates and nuts, a Zibibbo tasting is always a fascinating experience.

 

Serving tips and food pairing

The most appropriate glass for Zibibbo depends on the wine’s structure. A regular white wine glass is perfect for light and crispy wines, while a large glass with a wide opening is more suitable for richer orange wines. A tulip shaped glass is the best choice to appreciate the complex aromas of a passito.

Pairing Zibibbo with food is easy, and always very successful: from fish and seafood to white meat, to a wide range of matured cheese, the perfect combination will depend more on the wine’s style than just on the varietal. Furthermore, considering that many Zibibbo wines can age for 10+ years, the best way to find great pairings is personal, enthusiastic research.

 

WINE SHEETS

Btg Ammano

Ammàno 
Vino bianco

 

MORE RESOURCES ON ZIBIBBO

Info GrilloWant to know more about Zibibbo?
Watch and download the complete infographic by clicking on the picture.
Feel free to use any of the information and pictures included in this article for your studies or presentations, by citing the source.

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Tags: #SicilianWine, zibibbo, infografica, sicilian grape varieties

THE SHORT STORY

THE SHORT STORY

Grape variety: Inzolia grown in Dietro le Case vineyard
Soil: clay soil with calcareous components, very rich in limestones and sea minerals
Vineyard: planted in 1960s, head-trained bush vines
Winemaking: skin contact for 48 hours in steel tanks
Alcoholic fermentation: spontaneous, with wild yeast
Malolactic fermentation: spontaneous
Refining: 4 months on fine lees, in steel tanks
Aging: one oak barrel, where it ages in perpetuum with its sediment
Average production: a few dozen bottles every some years

Download wine sheet

WINEMAKING

The grapes are handpicked the first half of September, when they are fully ripe. The traditional pruning system - called "a pezzo e spalla" - and the age of the vines, allow slow constant ripening cycles and a great aromatic concentration.

The fermentation is spontaneous, with 2 days skin contact. After soft pressing, the fermentation continues for 8 days in steel tanks. After malolactic is completed, the wine refines on fine lees for about 4 months and is then racked into one single oak barrel, where it ages in perpetuum with its sediment.

The wine is bottled directly from the barrel no more than 2-3 times every decade.

TASTING NOTES

Altrimenti has a bright amber color, enlivened by golden hues. Its nose is predominantly tertiary, where fruity notes of apricot and ripe figs blend onto an intense and aromatic herbal background, enriched by roasted and dried nuts.

It is dry and full bodied to the palate, with a distinct savory personality that harmoniously meets a tannic finish.

SERVING TEMPERATURE: 54 - 58 °F
Pour Altrimenti in wide glasses, at a fresh but not chilled temperature.
Please avoid freezers and blast chillers, as well as a prolonged time in your home refrigerator: this wine is not filtered nor fined, and any temperature below 40 °F will mortify its complex aromas.

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