Did you know that Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world? All that art and nature… wonderful, right? But how can one little country afford to preserve and promote all that beauty? We all have to pitch in, that’s how! And the world of wine is doing its part. Those who are truly successful give back. That’s why over the next few months, I will highlight some of the producers who are lending a hand to preserve and promote Italian culture.
Wine in the Service of Art
On a recent jaunt to Sicily, I was able to visit some of the places where the famed Sicilian winemaker Tasca d’Almerita is cultivating Italian culture. Like for instance on the island of Salina, part of the Eolian Islands UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Aside from the little corner of paradise that is Capofaro with its vineyards cascading into the sea (and yes, that is Panarea and Stromboli in the distance), Tasca sponsors the Salina Doc Fest. This film festival’s name plays on the wine appellation DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and the word ‘documentary,’ which is what the Festival is all about. The Festival takes place on the island of Salina from June 7 – 12 (hooray! you’re still in time to attend!)
Begun in 2007 on an idea by Giovanna Taviani (daughter of Vittorio Taviani, one of the famous Taviani Brothers. Remember The Night of the Shooting Stars?), this festival attracts big names to the island (Nanni Moretti and Martin Scorsese among them.) The prize for the best documentary voted by the jury is in fact the Premio Tasca d’Almerita.
Back in Palermo, the family has a long tradition of supporting music, in particular opera. An ancestor of Conte Tasca d’Almerita actually hosted Wagner at the family Villa in Palermo for many months.
Wagner must have been inspired, because he wrote most of Parsifal there. Palermo’s majestic Teatro Massimo opened again in 1997 after 23 years and a massive restoration to which the Tasca family contributed. Today, the Amici del Teatro Massimo or Friends of Teatro Massimo, is headed up by President Costanza Tasca Camporeale.
Let’s not forget, however, that it is wine that is making all this happen!
Here, some images of the 500 hectares of Regaleali, Tasca’s sprawling estate in the heart of Sicily, which is also the beating heart of the Tasca family’s winemaking business.
But perhaps the most unique of the Tasca endeavors is what is happening on Mozia.
The island of Mozia, just off of Marsala, is an island-museum-vineyard. It is also home to the Fondazione Giuseppe Whitaker, named for the Englishman Joseph Whitaker, one of the first foreigners to fully appreciate the marvels of Marsala, both the wine and the place. In fact, he bought this island, once a Phoenician stronghold, and built a home. The island is magical, an archeological site of inestimable historical value, enveloped by vineyards.
Starting in 2007, Tasca d’Almerita has been using the Grillo grapes grown on the island to make a delicious dry white that is one of the ‘new’ Sicilian discoveries (organically grown). You can imagine the effect of the sandy, saline terroir on this white wine; the Grillo grape is one of the four used for Marsala, but here it is expressed in a complex, fruity and floreal, dry white suitable for aperitif or fish dishes. Here the great late Giacomo Tachis also left his mark, having consulted on the project. The much-needed revenue is helping to finance the archeological site.
When I visited, an artist was setting up a sculpture/installation in the fields among vineyards and ruins – in a panorama that literally takes your breath away, with views onto the Egadi islands (Favignana, Levanzo, and Marettimo).
From cinema to music to antiquity, Tasca is nurturing Italian culture just as it nurtures the vines in its vineyards, with exquisite care and love.