Meet Ivan Cappello, a winemaker born and raised in the colourful port city of Marsala; located in the western region of Sicily. I decided to reach out to Ivan, because of the unquestionable passion he has for making wine and his beloved region, which is inspiring and contagious. The world needs to hear more about Marsala wines. When I hear Ivan speak about the fortified wines of Marsala, I am curious to immerse myself in the wines. There is an underrated culture when it comes to Marsala wines. Visionaries like Ivan, see beyond the misconception of Marsala wines being produced just for cooking.
He is an ambassador of his people, reminding us that the culture in Marsala stands proud since many centuries, preserving aged fortified wines that are of great quality, and of intriguing taste. Fortified wines are of high alcohol content, in the case of Marsala, some can also be sweet. But for the wine curious like you and me, we want to know learn more about Marsala wines beyond the glass. I want to be transported through time and history, I want to create emotions, and understand Marsala’s profound wine background.
Ivan has worked around the world, including New Zealand. He, like many Sicilian winemakers, is on a mission to promote Sicily’s unique and diverse wine history across their world. As for the case of Ivan, it is his desire to incorporate his worldly winemaking experience into his city, and his Sicily in hopes of prosperity and great change!
Yumi: Where are you from?
Ivan: I’m Ivan Cappello and I come from Marsala, a city in Western Sicily who gives the name to the most famous Italian fortified wine
Yumi: How long have you been making wine?
Ivan: My family is involved in viticulture from many generations, so I started harvesting grapes since I was a child, about 4 or 5 years old, great memories! I have done my first vintage at winery when I was 18 years old.
Yumi: When did you get the winemaking calling?
Ivan: I’m pretty sure that the family experience and my grandfather gave me this wonderful passion, I decided to become winemaker when I was 10 years old, for this reason I chose to study viticulture and oenology
Yumi: Describe Marsala the region and the wine?
Ivan: Historically Marsala has been one of the biggest commercial successful cities in producing wines between 18thand 20thcentury, so the wine region of Marsala is very big as all the territory of The Trapani’s provinceexcluded Alcamo city and Egadi Islands just for supply the big market request. You can imagine that we had up to 50.000 hectare of vineyards for Marsala wine for around 70 years. The Marsala wine has a large classification with the potential of 27 different types. But the most sold and important are just 6 to 7 types. The most important types are Virgin Marsala, SOM Superior Old Marsala, GD Garibaldi Dolce, Superior Reserve, Semi-sec types.
Yumi: What’s the wine culture in Marsala, Sicily?
Ivan: Marsala is a historical city of wine in Italy, for this reason you can easily breathe the wine atmosphere around the city centre, it’s full of wineries and the countryside full of vineyards. I love telling a special element about Marsala city. The city centre is closer to the port. Marsala has around 21 wineries in the city centre, the reason is because the only way to ship wine on 18th-19thcentury was by the sea.
Yumi: What makes Marsala wines unique?
Ivan: Marsala is one of the few wines around the world that has fascinating story and in fact, more importantly it’s a wine that can survive in bottle for centuries. My suggestion when I speak about Marsala wine is buy a good bottle, save and forget it. Try to drink than bottle of wine after 50 years, you will find, for sure, a better wine.
Yumi: I see that everyone that I have met from Marsala is extremely passionate about the winemaking culture in Marsala, what makes it so special?
Ivan: We know the we are part of a big history that began a long time ago since the Phoenicians period in Mozia around 1100 B.C. (3000 years ago). Wine is culture, is history, is roots, is economy, is everything in Marsala.
Yumi: What is the constant challenge in educating people on Marsala wines?
Ivan: The classification of Marsala wine is too complicated. We can have 27 types that we can produce with different “ingredients” like wine, alcohol, cooked must and fresh grape must. The biggest challenge is to explain in simply way how we produce Marsala wine and all the different types. When we do it, then the people fall in love for Marsala wine.
Yumi: What’s your opinion on the future of the region of Marsala when it comes to winemaking?
Ivan: Marsala is a historically known wine, very easy to produce. The only secret is the Sicilian grapes we use to produce Marsala wine, which can reach naturally 16/17° of alcohol. Marsala wine can be done on any southern part of the world, but what makes it unique is the history attached to the wine, the history of Sicily and the grapes grown in the region, and this is one of the reasons to understand why this wine will never die