Though the EU has passed legislation making the use of palmentos illegal, these traditional stone buildings using gravity only systems are not just part of Etna’s ancient winemaking history.
On a sunny fall afternoon the I Vigneri crew arrived at Salvo Foti’s beautifully restored palmento in Milo for their annual foot pressing celebration. Crate after crate of the morning’s harvest of grapes were thrown onto the palmento floor while friends and family gathered to watch this ancient ritual of winemaking come to life.
Having spent the day before with Foti in his Passopisciaro vineyard, he shared some of his philosophy about putting the knowledge of traditional winemaking back into the hands of the people.
“For me it’s important to know the people who produce the food and the wine. It’s important we give the people the instruments to understand.
Twenty years ago, fifty years ago – working in the vineyard was the lowest job. I said to my team; this is a problem but this is also an opportunity for us. If we become the professional viticulturalists, we will have the knowledge. If you want change, it’s important that change comes from the common people – man by man.
My grandfather taught me that it’s very important when you finish your day you are tired, but happy. Your work should be rewarding. For me it’s a good life and it’s very important to continue the tradition.
Salvo Foti is one of the most universally respected wine makers, agronomists and consultants on Etna today. He has made many important contributions to preserving, sharing and teaching traditions – from the palmento pressing, to alberello vine training, to restoring ancient terrace systems and even re-creating the local winegrower’s and producer’s guild from 1435 – I Vigneri.
Before we left his vineyard, Salvo shared one of his many viticulture books with us – Preparing Vines for Grape Frutification and Fruit Growth. It’s a beautiful story that begins with what feels almost like an ancient myth – the tale of two Sicilian brothers working together to save their family vineyard. It goes on to explain everything from mineral absorption to root systems. Here is an excerpt:
“This was the vineyard of Cirasella, the most beautiful, where he and Pippo had spent the best days of their lives. This was the vineyard where their father had taught them how to cultivate the vines and grow the grapes, the vineyard where they had taken their first love stories, their first girlfriends, and where they had always been together.
Jano couldn’t take his eyes off of the stars. Tears started to run down his face, weaving down through the wrinkles on his cheeks. He wanted to go back in time and rewrite the past. His story. His brother’s story. The story of Cirasella.
Part wine producer, historian, poet, teacher, philosopher; Foti seems to be a man on a mission to preserve the true roots of Sicilian wine making and culture.
I Vigneri di Salvo Foti • L.go Signore Pietà, 17 • 95036 Randazzo, CT