Monreale. The Northwest of Sicily draws the traveler seeking the encounter with the beauty of the Conca d’Oro (the valley beyond Palermo), the variety of cultural influences, Arab, Norman and Byzantine, Medieval Cathedrals and so much more.

As of the 2001 vintage the area now boasts its own D.O.C. taking its name from this small town which in turn takes its name from the natural splendor that surrounds it-Mons Regalis a.k.a royal mountain.

The Monreale D.O.C.came about after long periods of restructuring, replanting and careful consideration, the premise being a move towards the production of higher quality wines rather than higher quantity ones. This movement echoing that taking place at large in Italy. Thus the indigenous varietals were joined by their international counterparts.

D.O.C. regulations state that Rosso wines must include 50% Nero d’Avola and Perricone with the balance made up by other local red varietals while Bianco must be 50% Cataratto and Ansonica or Inzolia with the other 50% made up by other local white grapes. On the other hand if a bottle is to carry a varietal distinction it must contain at least 85% of that varietal, the other 15% coming form a long list of permitted blending grapes. As one could imagine the permutations are almost endless. The list of permitted grapes includes Ansonica or Inzolia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Calabrese or Nero d’Avola, Cataratto, Chardonnay, Merlot, Perricone, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero, Sangiovese and Syrah.

Fortunately the quantum leap to quality wines has been spearheaded by a few visionary houses. Among these there is a favorite here at Babbo, Spadafora. The family traces it origins back to the 13 th century and the 100 hectare (250 acre) estate is currently overseen by Francesco Spadafora. Currently we are featuring their Don Pietro as a part of our quartino program. This wine is a blend of Inzolia, Cataratto and Grillo. These indigenous grapes are harvested late in August to preserve the delicate balance between lushness and acidity. A gentle crush is followed by fermentation in steel and 6 months in French oak barrels. The resulting wine is both fresh and unctuous with bursts of bright and tropical fruit buffered by a pleasant almost saline quality, no miracle here due to the estate’s proximity to the Mediterranean. Spadafora also releases notable productions featuring Syrah and Cabernet, look for these in the coming weeks as part of our quartino program.