Arianna Occhipinti: Viticultural renaissance woman

Sicily’s history with wine stretches back far enough that it’s said the Greek god of the grape harvest, wine, ritual madness, and ecstasy Dionysus (also known as Bacchus) himself brought viticulture to the region. What’s known for certain is that wine has been cultivated in the area since 1,500 BCE, when Mycenaean traders grew grapes in the Aeolian Islands. When the Greeks began to settle in Sicily in the 8th century BCE, they continued the tradition, introducing several new grapes to the region. Since then, Sicily has become known for wine more in terms of quantity than quality, but an oenophilic revival featuring bold new winemakers like Arianna Occhipinti is changing everything.

“In a region where the wines have been ponderous for decades, I started producing 10 years ago with my personal and atypical style for the region at that time. Wine is now the engine of a renaissance or Sicily as a symbol of beauty and good things,” says Occhipinti. At her vineyards in southern Sicily, she farms grapes biodynamically to avoid any and all chemical manipulation, including and especially pesticides. Occhipinti believes firmly that her grapes need to be at their healthiest for the harvest. “I am a farmer and proud of it. I love the natural aspect of the wine,” she says. “Thanks to it I feel in contact with the land and with nature.”

Biodynamic viticulture requires more attentive work in the vineyard. It embodies the absolute ideal of ecological self-sufficiency, viewing the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system.  By staying as natural as possible and finding ways to work around contemporary chemical agriculture, Occhipinti aims for a true image of the terroir from every grape. “Each one has something to communicate,” she asserts. “For me, going into the vineyards in the early morning is an amazing sensation of freedom.”

At Beaujolais, we serve Occhipinti’s SP68, both the white and the red. These blends are meant to be enjoyed young. They’re known for being fresh, bright, and surprisingly complex, with long-lasting floral, fruit, and mineral notes. They are gorgeous and multifaceted wines, which pair wonderfully with our lamb and rabbit dishes, among others. Enjoy these nectars of the gods grown naturally from the same earth the ancients danced upon during those Dionysian days.