Ayunta’s winemaker Filippo Mangione has a very simple philosophy: “only grapes, only time and a small amount of sulfites. No other additives.” His yields are low and all of his farming is done by hand or small machine; each of the very old vines on his property is unique and requires a specialized approach. It’s not surprising that Filippo is such a traditionalist—he has generations of old-school winemaking in his blood. But after his grandfather passed away in the 1960s, the family vineyards and winery were sold off and the Mangiones were left without an estate. Still, Filippo enthusiastically carved out a place for himself within the wine industry, working in restaurants, in sales and exports, and in journalism. But the pull to make his own wines and revive his family’s legacy was strong, and he found himself unable to ignore it. In 2011, he purchased a vineyard plot planted in the early 1900s on Mount Etna in his native Sicily.
Ayunta grows primarily red grapes, but plantings of indigenous white varieties are interspersed—hence name “Piante Sparse” (stray vines) for this wine. Filippo has had to carefully map out the locations of these white grapes and track their ripening; this is somewhat of a Herculean task, since each variety reaches its optimal ripeness at a different point in the growing season. Because of this, Ayunta only produces Piante Sparse in the best vintages—when the grapes have ripened just right and achieved perfect balance. In 2016, only 330 cases were made of this ripe, nutty, intense, and waxy blend of Carricante, Cataratto, Inzolia, Zibibbo, and Minella Bianca spontaneously fermented in stainless steel. Notes of almond, tangerine, and herbs add interest and complexity to a beautifully textured, concentrated white wine.