Monday, March 03, 2008


They may sleep with the fishes, but they're the toast of Sicily:
Wine produced in hills once tainted by Mafia ownership will hold a place of honour at Italy's most prestigious wine festival this month. Vinitaly will showcase Centopassi, the first-ever series of wines made entirely from grapes grown on lands seized from Mafia bosses.

....Vinitaly, which opens in Verona at the end of March, is a key date in the global wine calendar and an ideal opportunity to attract foreign interest.

A limited-edition white vintage, Cataratto in Purezza, occupies pride of place in this year's Centopassi collection. Just 15,000 bottles have been produced, which organizers hope will be snapped up at Vinitaly.

Cataratto in Purezza is the third wine in the Centopassi series, which is named after a famous Italian film devoted to the life of anti-mafia crusader Peppino Impastato.

The name of another campaigner killed by the Mafia, Placido Rizzotto, was given to the collection's two other wines: a white made from Chardonnay and Cataratto grapes and a red from Nero d'Avola and Syrah.

The vines are located on estates on the slopes of Monreale, not far from the Sicilian capital Palermo.

Although the soil is ideal for growing grapes and Monreale has long produced quality wine, those involved in the project say it has been hard work.

''It is relatively easy to return a land to agricultural use but restoring a destroyed vineyard is an arduous task, both technically and economically,'' said agronomist Federico Curtaz.

The wine is the result of work by two different cooperatives, Placido Rizzotto and Libera Terra, which were allocated the estates by a public consortium called Development and Legality.

Development and Legality was set up seven years ago, after a law was passed allowing local authorities to turn seized Mafia property over to cooperatives for socially beneficial projects. In addition to wine, youth cooperatives have started making pasta, olive oil and honey on the lands, and thanks to an agreement with the Coop supermarket chain, the products are now being sold all over Italy.

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