Centonze Srl: a family of winemakers, a selection of the best Sicilian terroirs, indigenous Sicilian grape varieties, wines made from certified organic vineyards

This is a very special company which is owned and managed by the Centonze family, Giovanni together with his son Nicola, his daughter Carla, his granddaughter Martina (the daughter of Nicola) and his brother Gino.
Centonze Srl is much more than a company of wine merchants or “négociants”: although the family does not own the vineyards from which the wines are produced, every year vineyards,  in the most representative terroirs of Sicily are selected, the grapes are vinified and the wine is bottled with the company’s label. All phases of production are followed by Nicola Centonze. All this is made possible by Nicola’s work. In the following please find all the details.

The Centonze family

Giovanni Centonze is an oenologist who has worked for various Sicilian wineries and he is the former president of the Association of Sicilian oenologists.

Nicola Centonze: Nicola is an oenologist. He graduated at the renowned University of Conegliano Veneto and he now successfully consults for many estates throughout Sicily and in other Italian regions.

Martina Centonze is studying oenology at the University of Marsala and is a trained sommelier. Martina is responsible for marketing, especially abroad, with her grandfather Giovanni.

Carla Centonze is a wine technician and manages the family’s wine shop in Marsala, together with her uncle Gino.

Gino Centonze is the manager of the wine shop of the family in Marsala

The history of the company

The company was established in 1998 by Giovanni and Nicola who implemented their project of choosing the best that Sicily could offer every year and turning it into a modern wine which could satisfy the most demanding customer. The logo of the company is the “onza” or “oncia”  coin, an ancient coin that was used in Sicily and that is a symbol of prosperity. It is designed on the labels of the wines.
In 2015 a wine shop was opened in Marsala called “Le 9 Sorelle” (“The 9 sisters”, named after the 9 Sicilian provinces). Here high quality Sicilian wines, oil and food products are sold. Gino Centonze manages it together with his niece Carla.

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The indigenous grape varieties from which the wines of Centonze are made

The wines are mainly made with indigenous Sicilian grape varieties: Frappato, Nero d’Avola, Grillo, Zibibbo. This year a wine exclusively made with Syrah was bottled, as this international variety is now well integrated in Sicily.

Some info on the grape varieties

The red grape varieties

Frappato probably dates back to the XVII century and it originated in the area of the town of Vittoria in the province of Ragusa, eastern Sicily. It goes into the blend (maximum 40% according to the production regulations) of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the only DOCG wine in Sicily, together with Nero d’Avola. The wines are characteristically pale red, with a low tannin concentration, they have a good acidity and fruit and flower notes.

Nero d’Avola is one of the most important Sicilian grape varieties. It originated from the area of the small town of Avola, in the province of Siracusa. It is also known as “Calabrese”: the name has nothing to do with the region of Calabria, but it derives from “calavrisi” which means “that came from Avola” in Sicilian dialect. It is grown throughout Sicily except for the area of Mount Etna. Up to a few decades ago, the wine made with this grape was extensively exported to other Italian regions and to France and used in the blend of wines that needed more body. The wines are cherry red, the nose is complex with fruity, balsamic and mineral notes. They are full in the mouth, with fine and powerful tannins.

The white grape varieties

Grillo probably started being grown in Sicily after the invasion of phylloxera at the end of the XIX century. It is named after “grilli”, the Sicilian name for grape seeds. It is mainly grown in the area of Trapani. It was abandoned for a long time as it is not a very productive variety, but, due to the high quality of the wines made from this grape, it is now being grown again.
The wines are an intense straw yellow, notes of dried flowers, cassis, grapefruit and hay on the nose, in the mouth they are dry and fresh.

Zibibbo or Moscato d’Alessandria is part of the large family of Moscati which are among the oldest grape varieties in the world, grown by the ancient Greeks. The Moscato grapes were maybe imported from the Orient to the Mediterranean Region. The main area where this grape variety is grown in Sicily is the Island of Pantelleria where the famous “passito” is made, but it is also grown on the main island of Sicily from which excellent dry wines are made.

 

The work of Nicola Centonze

Nicola, as previously mentioned, works as an oenologist for a large number of estates throughout Sicily and in other Italian regions. Each year he drives for 50,000 kilometres around the island! Therefore, he has the experience and the know-how to select the most representative terroirs and the best vineyards from which the wines of Centonze Srl are made and bottled. He follows the whole production process: from the grape cluster to the bottle.

Viticulture and the criteria for the choice of terroirs and vineyards

Nicola’s criteria of choice are very strict: only vineyards standing on soils that are not too “generous”, so that the fruit and the canopy of the vines are well balanced. This without being too extreme: it is not necessary to have just 1 kilogram of fruit per vine. Viticulture is environment friendly and all the vineyards are certified organic. There is maximum respect for the characteristics of the various terroirs and for the vines. The vine training systems are mainly espalier, i.e. guyot and cordon spur. The aisles between the rows of vines are tilled in order to keep the moisture in the ground (the climate in Sicily is hot and dry). The harvest is mainly carried out by hand. To be flexible is very important for Nicola.

The vinification process

The aim of Nicola is to carry out a clean and even vinification and he compares his work as an oenologist to a helmsman of a sailing boat: the speed of the boat must only be corrected, the boat must be steered without going against the sea and the wind. In fact a minimum handling philosophy is followed.
The wines are vinified and matured in steel vats with temperature control. No wood is used in order to maintain the characteristics of the grape varieties as much as possible.
The alcoholic fermentation and maceration with the skins of Frappato lasts for approximately 5-6 days, while it lasts for approximately 8 days in the case of Nero d’Avola and Syrah.
The vinification of the wines is carried out either in the cellar of the estates, where the vineyards stand, or in the cellar of estates where Nicola has a good working relationship.

 

The philosophy for wine production

To respect the grape variety without upsetting its balance. To work with yeast that has been selected in the area where the vineyards stand. Nicola believes in respecting the consumer offering wine (which is also a beverage and food) that is genuine, drinkable, pleasant, made sensibly and with an even quality each vintage. His aim is to make wine with only a few, but well done interventions.

 

The certification for organic viticulture

Suolo e Salute of Bologna is the company that certifies and supervises the vineyards that are managed following the protocol for organic viticulture.

 

The Wines

Red wines

Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG
Blend: Nero d’Avola and Frappato
Production zone: Vittoria (province of Ragusa)
Average production/year: 12,000 bottles

Vittoria DOP Frappato
Blend: 100% Frappato
Production zone: Vittoria (province of Ragusa)
Average production/year: 16,000 bottles

Sicilia DOP Nero d’Avola
Blend: 100% Nero d’Avola
Production zone: Western Sicily
Average production/year: 20,000 bottles

Sicilia DOP Syrah
Blend: 100% Syrah
Production zone: Western Sicily
Average production/year: 6,000 bottles

White wines

Sicilia DOP Grillo
Blend: 100% Grillo
Production zone: Western Sicily
Average production/year: 10,000 bottles

Terre Siciliane IGT
Blend: 100% Zibibbo
Production zone: Western Sicily
Average production/year: 6,000 bottles