Archaeological finds show evidence of thriving wine production in the hills of Messina, on Sicily’s eastern shore facing Calabria in mainland Italy, since the fourteenth century BC. At the beginning of the 20th century, phylloxera significantly reduced production until it reached a low point in 1985 and risked disappearing altogether. The Faro DOC and its ancient grape varieties indigenous and unique to this area – Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, Tignolino, Palumba, Coré, Acitana, Galatena, Calabrese – risked slipping into extinction.
Pioneering wine and food critic Luigi Veronelli had researched the area’s native wines and was distressed by the situation. He reached out to a seemingly unlikely source – architect Salvatore Geraci, who was was busy earning a well-deserved reputation for monumental restoration projects across Sicily and southern Italy at the time. But as a native of Messina and aficionado of all things Sicilian, Geraci had penned an emotional article about Faro after inheriting his grandfather’s estate in the heart of the Faro zone. Logically, Geraci intended to restore the 18th century villa that crowned it, but when Veronelli read the article he urged him to focus on what he saw from the villa itself – his grandfather’s vineyards. They were in need of their own restoration, and in that lay the very salvation of the Faro DOC.
Mr. Geraci’s winemaking philosophy is as simple and straightforward as his preferred architectural design: the wines must be of the highest quality attainable, using native grapes exclusively, to attain a wine that is quintessentially Sicilian and speaks with a sense of both this special place and its unique fruit.
Just as the restoration of an ancient edifice brings new life to the area surrounding it, the success of Palari have had their implication for Italian wines in general, Sicilian wines in particular, and specifically Nerello Mascalese. Journalist Tom Maresca declared that “Until Mr. Geraci made a success of it and growers on Etna began taking it seriously, Nerello Mascalese languished, just another old-fashioned grape that the benighted contadini liked. Now connoisseurs speak of it respectfully as one of the bright lights of Sicilian viniculture.”