Cantine Pellegrino is one of Sicily’s most important and prosperous wineries. Today they are one of very few families who can trace their lineage back to the original 19th Century founders of the Marsala tradeOver the years the Pellegrino family married into the Alagna, Renda, Tumbarello & Bellina families, who today collectively manage the company. Pietro Alanga is Pellegrino’s President and Benedetto Renda its CEO. Recently they welcomed the 6th generation to the family business. In 1880 Paolo Pellegrino, local notary and vine grower, founded his winery in the heart of the city of Marsala on the West coast of Sicily. With the help of his son Carlo, he built the company up from nothing into one of Sicily’s leading Marsala producers. After the death of his father, Carlo took the reigns of the company, assisted by his wife Josephine Despagne, daughter of a famous Sauternes oenologist Oscar Pierre Despagne. Josephine brought with her a wealth of winemaking knowledge and together they continued to build the company. Today the company has 150 hectares of vineyards, and 3 wineries all of which are solar powered. Pellegrino have been instrumental in putting Sicily on the winemaking map, with the family’s Marsala, fine wine and sweet Pantelleria wine, all of which are exported around the world.
Pellegrino are 1 of only 3 of all the original 19th Century founders of the Marsala trade still be in existence.
Marsala Wines: Sicily’s most famous wine, Marsala, has been at the heart of Pellegrino’s success. This fortified wine was first “invented” in 1773 by John Woodhouse, an Englishman with a penchant for Sherry, Madeira and Port wines.
On a visit to Marsala he saw great potential in the region’s still wines so he had them fortified and shipped to England. This new wine met with great success, and by 1796 Woodhouse had set up a cellar and winery in the town. Soon to follow was English merchant Benjmain Ingham, who founded his business in 1812, marking the start of a booming industry.
The 20th century saw decline in the Marsala market and it is testament to the strength and success of Pellegrino that they are 1 of only 3 of all the original 19th Century founders to still be in business. Incredibly, of these. they are 1 of only 2 that have kept the company in the family. Today they are unquestionably one of the leading Marsala producers – championing the wine’s revival with high quality, aged, blended, and Vintage Oro and Ambra styles all made from the islands indigenous grape varieties. They are also one of the only producers to make a Rubio style from the island’s indigenous varietal, Nero d’Avola.
Terre Siciliane Wines: Pellegrino have also used their winemaking expertise to produce unfortified white and red wines from the Marsala region. The family have always recognised the importance and uniqueness of the region’s terroir and indigenous varietals. In 2010 they started exhaustively researching and experimenting with these varietals in their 150 ha’s of vineyard. The result was the “family estates” range, launched in 2014. The range is comprised of 4 different estates, each planted with a single grape varietal. Salinaro – “vineyard by the sea” has 14 ha of vineyard metres from the sea with a climate that is perfectly suited to producing fresh and aromatic white wines made from Grillo. Kelbi – “lush garden” has 19 ha of vineyard planted at an altitude of 150m, which helps to moderate temperatures, making it perfectly suited to full bodied white wines made from Cataratto. Gazzarotta “brown & productive land” has 90 hectares located further inland, where temperatures scorch the brown clay limestone soils, making it perfect for rich reds made from Nero d’Avola. Rinazzo “harsh desert terrain” has 11 hectares of low lying vineyard which is even hotter than Gazzarotta. Here the soils were formed from an ancient seabed which helps to preserve water during the intensely hot summer months. It is perfectly suited to low yielding Syrah grapes. In addition to the family estates range Pellegrino also produce “Diantha” and “Gibele” 2 aromatic whites producing using Zibbibo and “Tripidium” their flagship Nero d’Avola red.
Pantelleria DOC Passito: The family are also the leading producer of Pantelleria DOC sweet wines. These luscious passito styles made from Zibibbo are widely regarded as Italy’s finest sweet wines. They are produced on the tiny, volcanic island of Pantelleria which lies 100km southwest of Sicily and 60km east of the Tunisia. Here viticulture has been practiced for 2,500 years and incredibly the method remains virtually unchanged. To provide shelter from island’s high winds the vines are head trained into bush vines and grown in small hollows in
the soil known as ‘Conca’. The vineyard is then encircled by a dry stone wall made from the island’s black volcanic rock. This ancient practice received UNESCO world heritage status in 2014. Pellegrino have invested heavily in viticulture on the island, building a state of the art winery at great expense in 1992. Today they are responsible for 80% of all the grapes produced on Pantelleria.