guntherOrganic grape grower and vintner Gunther Di Giovanna came to New York this week with his wines for a tasting at ‘inoteca Vino e Cucina in the Lower East Side. Articulate, and poised and clearly devoted to organic growing, Gunther shared six of his vintages. ‘inoteca brought out plates of Italian cheese, salami, spreads and breads as well as organic olive oil from Gunther’s Sicilian farm.

First up was a 2008 Grillo. This uncommon white grape was fruity with a well-balanced acid profile, and a nicely rounded body. It had a bit of a Chardonnay profile in terms of color and density.

Next was a 2007 Grecanico. This was lighter and a bit more fruity. It was lovely and clean and very well balanced. At 12.5% alcohol, it was more than a “summer thirst quencher” but less than a serious wine that would be paired with, say, lobster.

Our third taste was a beautiful 2008 Gerbino Rosé from another uncommon grape, Nerello Mascalese. Gunther was like a proud father when he spoke of this wine, which is fermented in the vat as a rosé, rather than being a blend of red and white wines. He really likes its soft, round quality and clean fresh fruity flavors. He says it goes well with sushi and pizza. As Sicilian weather varies so little from year to year, the vintages do not vary greatly either. We found it an easy-to-like-rose with just enough body to make it interesting.

Next came the reds. We tasted his 2006 Poggionotte Nero d’Avola while Gunther explained he was trying to express the grape without manipulation or oaking. He loves this Sicilian mainstay varietal and wants his wine to be bold and clean. We agree and our notes were all favorable: elegant, soft, and complex were characteristics observed. This is his terroir wine.

He then poured his “market to the world” wine, a 2007 Gerbino Rosso. It is a field blend of 35% cab, 35% merlot 15% syrah and 15% nero d’avola. It was fine and, being organic, delighted us to think that he was providing an easy-drinking answer to conventional wines being sold at this price point ($12). He told us every winery needs one of these for the mass market or “a wine bar.”

His true baby came last, the second use of the Nerello Mascalese grape, this time as a red. This is a rich, well structured, very dense wine. Hints of spices like cinnamon came through, along with the flavor of blackberries. The strength of the wine was tempered by its smoothness and was clearly in oak long enough to reduce the tannin spikes. We really liked this wine and imagined ourselves in a wintry season watching a fire while eating a smoked meat plate or a bowl of pasta with a meat ragu.

Gunther is a modern man who has always been an organic grower, as the Italians say “da sempre.” He is a great spokesperson for his island and his vineyards and added so much to the enjoyment of his wines. The attendees, an attractive young crowd of downtowners, seemed to agree.

The event was under the direction of Joe Denton, co-owner of ‘inoteca. Read our interview with Joe here.

Photo of Gunther Di Giovanna by Suzannah B. Troy.