Wine, Women & …

December 1, 2010


Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey by Robert Camutoxx


I knew I was going to love Robert Camuto’s Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey the moment I flipped it open. One of the dedication pages reads:

To the hope that

Sicily remains

an island

Amen! I wanted to reach through the pages and hug the author. (See my post on the dreaded Berlusconi bridge.)

But I digress. Here’s what you need to know:

:)Sicily is in the midst of a wine renaissance;

🙂Palmento–an entertaining romp through Sicily’s vineyards–will teach you all you need to know about her wines (and a lot about the new face of Sicily);

:)To be eligible to win Palmento all you have to do is add a comment on ANY of my blog posts between now and December 8, when the random drawing will take place. The winner needs to have an address either in Italy or North America. Thanks to the University of Nebraska Press for donating  this book!

If you’re a fan of Sicily or a fan of wine, you’ll enjoy Palmento. The title refers to the tall old buildings that house rustic winepresses and are scattered around the island (now illegal to use because of those pesky EU regulations.) The author tools around in a Fiat Panda, bumping into old palmenti, hobnobbing with vintners and oenologists (pronounced eenologist, I just learned), swigging vino, and tucking into luscious meals. He writes beautifully of wine, food, and the characters in the Sicilian wine business.

One of whom is Arianna Occhipinti, the young woman below in white, whom I met two summers ago in the seaside village of Porto Paolo.  (The woman in pink is Roberta Corradin, one of Italy’s top food writers.) Palemento devotes a chapter to Arianna, “a reed of a woman with dark hair that flowed to the middle of her back, black Byzantine eyes, and the intense concentrated look of a girl who has been up at night experimenting with alchemy.” She cultivates Frappato and Nero d’Avola grapes in the Southeast Sicilian town of Vittoria, in a completely organic way, never irrigating her vines, and, “is on the verge of becoming something of a winemaking star among the alternative wine set in New York and San Francisco…a young woman who chose to stay on the land of her ancestors and challenge the thinking of the contadini of her grandparents’ generation.”  Here’s a link to Arianna’s blog.

Arianna Occhipinti, Sicilian winemaker, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicily’s vibrant new wine culture includes anti-Mafia winemakers (Libera Terra), new wines from Marsala, and, of course, the special wines of Mount Etna. Writes Camuto, “I went to Sicily in the winter of 2008 to explore and write about an emerging wine scene. What I discovered in more than a year of travels to the island was more than a fascinating, teeming wine frontier; I found something close to my own heartbeat.”

Amen, brother.


For a quick mini-lesson about Sicily’s wine renaissance, see this article from Best of Sicily Magazine.

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29 comments to Wine, Women & …

  • Suan

    Sicilia…un Paradiso!
    My father was born in Messina and my heart longs to be there!


  • Lisa

    I am trying my best to move to Sicily and if all goes well, I could be there as early as February. Your blog has been a treat. I can’t wait to learn more about Sicilian wine.

  • liz

    Havivng just recently acquired my dual citizenship, Italian/American, I find myself wanting to know as much as I can about the beautiful Island of Sicily where my grandfather was born. My family and I are always in support of Sicilian wines. We tend to favor them over all the rest when wine shopping. It would be a pleasure to own this book that you are giving away…and reading all the comments has me yearning for a glass of good red wine and a trip to Sicily…

  • Brian

    Oh my oh my! I’m off to the wine store in search of Sicilian wine.

  • Jann, I marvel at how so many of your readers/fans(!) know Sicily or have familial connections there; whereas for me, who has no first-hand knowledge or connections, you have presented such vivid images and intriguing tales that I feel I have a sense of the place and cannot wait for an opportunity to BE there and experience first hand. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Matt Grippi

    I am enjoying your Blog about Sicily. Great photographs. Also interested in the wine culture that is emerging. I hope to travel to the land of my ancestors this next year. Keep up the good work.

    • Jann

      Hi Matt, thanks for reading! Keep us up to date with your travel plans for Sicily! Would love to know where you decide to go.

  • richard losacano

    Great article! I just finished reading Camuto’s book for the second time. This past spring and summer I stayed in Linguaglossa and thoroughly enjoyed reading Camuto wonderful description of the wine people of the Etna region. Beware Etna Rosso is powerful stuff!

    • Jann

      Hi Richard–I’m dying to get to Linguaglossa and all those little places on Etna, especially now that I’ve read the book. Funny coincidence: We just bought our first bottle of Etna Rosso–haven’t opened it yet, but we will beware! 🙂

  • Love the book and your website and Sicily and Arianna and her sister Faustina.

    • Jann

      Hi Faith, thanks so much for your comment. I’ve been seeing your name all over the place recently and can’t wait to read your books. And what a beautiful and luscious site you have!!!

  • Karen

    I am in the middle of reading this wonderful book having started it while I was over there picking olives… Camuto is a gem and I want to read him slowly. For someone who feels passionately about the island, he articulates so well how it never fails to take my breath away. Read it with a glass of Nero or a crisp Passito from Lipari or Salina at your side.

  • catherine Billups

    I just found the book on Amazon so I am ordering it. Not yet on Amazon Italy which just started and does not offer a lot. Thanks for the tip.

  • I met Arianna Occhipinto a few years ago at a biodynamic tasting at the London International Wine Fair. She is inspiring and her wines seriously impressive. Sicily is one of the very few wine regions along with Sardinia and Friuli, that I haven’t vivited yet. It’s just so far away, it’s practically another country! But I’d love a copy of that book, which would come in useful for the tastings I do here for foreigners.

    • Jann

      Hi Heiko–I should tell readers that you’re the go-to guy in Tuscany for wine tastings.

      But actually, folks, you don’t have to “go to” Heiko. He will come to you, in whatever villa or palazzo or cabin you’re staying in Tuscany, for a “fun and informative wine tasting evening.” I can tell from following Heiko on his “Path to Self Sufficiency” blog that when he says fun, he really means FUN!!!! (With a little “wild” and “crazy” thrown in for good measure.)

    • Thanks for the plug, Jann! I’m a firm believer that wine and fun go hand in hand. While studying for my Master of Wine there were far too many boring academics arounds. Not my scene at all!

  • Thank you for priming the pump and whetting my appetite for more with those tantalizing excerpts from the book! By the way, we tootled around the switchbacks of Calabria in a rented Panda Fiat–a humble but great little car.

    • Jann

      My favorite kind of car in Italy-a teeny-tiny, old, humble one where you don’t really have to worry much if you tear off a side-view mirror or two.

  • Lynn G

    Let’s share a bottle Nero d’Avola real soon!!!!!!!!!

  • amy

    What a timely post! I’m sad to say we’re moving back to the States, our 3 year tour on this wonderful island has come to an end. Today we sent off our wine shipment to meet us at our new home in Seattle, WA. 217 bottles of mostly Sicilian wines- lots of Nero d’Avola and a little limoncello for good measure. I’m going to HAVE to buy this book. Thanks for telling us about it.

    • Jann

      Amy–you know how to live!!!! Shipping 217 bottles of wine from Sicily to WA… I love it! 🙂

      I’m sorry to hear you’re leaving the island–I liked having you “around” even though we never met… Best of luck with your re-entry. I’m sure you’ll miss the sun and so many other things… Arrivederci!

  • Yay! I’ve been wanting to learn more about local wine! I guess I’ll wait until after the drawing announcements on the 8th before I buy it though 😛

  • I need to get beyond table wine 🙂 Thanks for the give away!

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