Nino Barraco

Grillo, Zibbibo, Cattarato, Nero di Avola and Pignatello from Nino Barraco in Sicily

Nino Barraco in Marsala. Photo: Simon Woolf

 who? what? when? where? why? how?

who grows the grapes at Nino Barraco? who makes the wines?

“My challenge is to bring back this region, where vine growing and wine making has been done for thousands of years, to the level that used to be accomplished and deserves, steering away from production methodologies that, for too long, aimed to make quantity over quality wines… It is necessary as well to re-educate the consumer to wines from this region that are truly the traditional ones. I want to bring back the emotions of this terroir.” Nino Barraco

Nino started the winery with his wife Angela and they make all decisions from the vines to the cellar.

Natural wines from Nino Barraco in Sicily.

Nino Barraco in Marsala.  Photo: Paolo Bernardi

what wines do they make at Nino Barraco?

Nino grows Grillo, Zibbibo, Catarratto, Nero D’Avalo and Pignatello on his family’s small estate in Marsala.

The wines at Nino Barraco are unlike anything else in Marsala and can surprise people whose expectations are of thinner, less expensive, unremarkable wines.  There are many parallels here to the world of Muscadet where expectations can be so low and pleasure can be so immense if one seeks out single vineyard bottlings and conscientious farmers. 

Organically grown wines from Nino Barraco at Candid Wines

Cataratto, Pignatello, Grillo, Nero d’Avola and Zibibbo from Nino Barraco

Where so many Grillos from the area are light and destined for a large glass on a hot day, Nino’s version is broad and deep.  It’s a good place to start when considering the property because it is so totally unlike anything else you are likely to find from the grape. The salty finish on the wine, packed with umami, is what sets this apart.

Whites from the local Catarratto and Zibbibo grapes, both of which will surprise anyone familiar with the thinner versions normally produced in Sicily.  Nero D’Avalo and Pignatello are the red grapes, both of which are fermented in stainless steel to showcase the grape alone.  In each case, the result is a wine that is slow to open and reveal itself, but which is very much worth the wait.  The Pignatello is unlike any red we sell, and unlike anything we’ve tasted. Read more detail here: Nino Barraco via VinUS.

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when did the Nino Barraco winery start ?

A college student walks into a wine bar…

In the US, this joke ends with cheap beer and a fake ID.  In Palermo, Sicily, the story ended with Nino Barraco selling the atypical white wine that he made while on vacation from his university studies to one of the region’s most well known Bistros.  Right place, right time: the wine’s popularity with the locals took off and garnered a cult following in the area. Nino abandoned Political Science, and, with his wife Angela launched their small winery in 2004.

where is Nino Barraco’s winery?

The Barraco winery is in Marsala on the western edge of Sicily.  Nino describes the challenges he faces as a winemaker and grower working in this warm climate:

“In an area where the proximity to the sea and high temperatures are present, bringing low acidity to the grapes and furthermore with the presence of scirocco (a hot wind blowing from North Africa near desert) just before harvest time, it is necessary to re-think the vineyards management the ratio between leaves and grapes, by doing basically the opposite of what vines made to make Marsala wines used to do in the past generations. Green harvest is a must, canopy management by leaving more leaves as well.”

Natural wines from Sicily

Early Spring at Nino Barraco, Marsala Sicily.

why is Nino Barraco a Candid Wine?

Nino’s efforts run parallel to a number of our favorite producers in his focus on reviving a region whose reputation has been damaged by the commoditization of it’s produce.  Like our friends in Muscadet and the Languedoc, Nino’s wines don’t resemble those of his neighbors.  His dedication to organic farming and quest to capture the flavors locked in his soil would be easily recognized and respected by Jon Bowen at Sainte Croix or Fred Niger at Domaine de l’Ecu.

Nino Barraco Organic Marsala

Nino Barraco in Marsala. Photo: Simon Woolf, The Morning Claret.

Nino’s wines are of great interest to us at Candid precisely because they are so different that what most growers choose to produce in the area. Simon Woolf of The Morning Claret describes his first experience with the wines thusly:

The Baracco expressions of traditional West Sicilian varieties (also Catarrato, Inzolia, Nero d’Avola and Perricone) are bold and unusual. The Grillo has 4 days of skin contact before being allowed to ferment naturally – no added yeasts, no temperature control, and virtually no added sulphur. It’s a dark amber colour, with delicious spicy complexity and a terrific fresh salty finish.

The wines are as delicious as they are surprising.

how are Nino Barraco’s wines made?

Barraco’s winemaking focuses equally on the potential of individual grape varieties and of individual vineyard sites.  His version of Pignatello grape (also known as Perricone) typifies this approach as the grape is traditionally blended with other red grapes and almost no one makes it as a stand alone wine.  The grapes comes from a vineyard in Contrada Giudeo in Marsala and almost nothing is done in the winery other than destemming.

Importer Paolo Bernardi of VinUS describes the process, which is more or less the same for all the reds. 

Wine making facilities at Nino Barraco in Marsala, Sicily.

The winery at Nino Barraco.

“Grapes are destalked and the grapes are left macerating for 4 days average in the tanks. After this, grapes are squeezed, via a basket press, and the juice is then moved to a tank where the fermentation takes place by itself. Wine then goes through malolactic in the same tank. Only at the completion of the malolactic, Nino will add a minimal amount of sulfites to stop any further spoilage. The wine then rests in tanks until May when it gets bottled, without filtration or clarification.”

The results are unexpected.  The wines have a depth and a richness that lead us to think that they were fermented in neutral oak as they are far more generous than most.  If you’ve enjoyed one of Ecu’s Granite bottlings and know how much more layered and powerful the single vineyard expression of Melon de Bourgogne can be as compared to most Muscadet, you will be prepared for the difference between Nino’s wines and those of his neighbors.


Map of vineyard sites at Nino Barraco

Map of Sicily and Nino Barraco’s location via VinUS.