Tradition and innovation

This month we visit the wine cellar of Osetra Bay for sommelier Franceso Sibilio’s top six wine picks.

“It’s common to find a bottle of wine on a family table in Italy. It’s also common that the kids will be permitted a glass of wine by Dad, albeit with a splash of water! Apart from the obvious effects of the alcohol, it serves to make the young, still far off from drinking age, feel a little bit more like an adult, if only for a short while,” says Francesco.

“That’s how it started for me and even at that age, a fascination began with how the wine gets from the vine to the table.”

A few years later after schooling, Francesco decided to travel the world’s wine regions, beginning as far away from home as he could, harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Kingston on Murray, in South Australia.

From there he moved to the UK to do a Wine and Spirit Education Trust course, where he also worked for the Hotel du Vin chain.

“I gained further sommelier experience in various Italian restaurants throughout the world and it was upon my travels through the Americas that brought me to enjoy great Malbecs, and the wine regions of Chile and Argentina where immigrants from the boot (Italy) and Spain brought passion to their new homeland, a skill for making wine that makes you feel like you are at home,” he says.

Francesco also toured North America, the regions and sub-regions of Washington state, California, Niagara in Canada and Central Europe where, he says, countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia are all putting themselves on the global map of successful viticulture. There are notable wine producers in countries as unlikely as Guatemala, he confirms.

“I enjoy new varietals and new worlds, new modern techniques and concepts of winemaking. I love to try a different wine every time and its new characteristics, appreciating these nuances with each sip, knowing the hard work that it takes to produce a good bottle of wine,” he confirms.

“I care little for wine scores and names as I believe wine is a passion, which evokes emotions and memories and affords one the opportunity to assemble good company with which to share it.” Francesco says he particularly enjoys Spanish wines as well as those from Washington State and he would love to see rosé and dessert wines more appreciated and more considered.

The wines

It’s from Argentina that two of my favourite wines come from: a white Torrontes, aromatic and light, considered the Pinot Grigio of South America. I prefer the ones from the Salta region 20 hours driving north of Mendoza. A great example is the Pietro Marini 2009 from the Bodega el Transito that we have in 
Osetra Bay.

For a red, it has to be Malbec of course: inky, lightly velvety and perfect for asados con amigos, sorry I meant barbecues with friends!

Pietro Marini 2007 from the same winery, Bodega el Transito offers a slightly spicier and lighter example.

I should say that my palate has been spoiled by the ripe fruit and rich red wines that my region Puglia (the heel of the boot) produces.

From Italy then are my other two red picks: Negroamaro which is an indigenous varietal of Puglia, black and bitter being the literal translation. A rustic, medium body but with a rich and hearty bitterness. There are not many examples available in Cayman, but I proudly brought a few bottles of the ‘0 Zero’ Menhir Salento from home and they too are available at Osetra Bay.

On the other hand, there is the Amarone della Valpolicella, a stalwart of boldness and richness that is to die for. The Bertani 2000 is a clear and enjoyable choice.

For whites, the Albarino from the Rias Baixas region of Spain has an elegant body, tropical fruits and is crisp and lingering. A stylish and easy drinking one is from producer Paco and Lola.

I like the idea of organic wines and that’s why my third white wine choice falls on La Corte del Pozzo Pinot Grigio. It offers intense notes of tropical and stone fruits which are persistent on the palate yet light and maybe it makes you feel a bit healthier to know that the production 
is organic.


Osetra Bay’s sommelier Franceso Sibilio