Giornale online di enogastronomia • Direttore Fabrizio Carrera

From New York, with a one-way ticket, Melissa discovered wine & love

19 Novembre 2014
Melissa_vendemmiahp2011 Melissa_vendemmiahp2011

>In the midst of the wine, there’s a ‘she’ and a ‘he’.

But the story is more interesting because she is a young American woman who leaves New York, work and all, to move to Sambuca di Sicilia in the province of Agrigento.  Seems like the perfect opening lines for a film script, or better yet, an American romantic comedy?  Certainly, but this isn’t fiction; this time the story is true.
I meet Melissa Di Giovanna in Palermo. We sit together over a coffee and my first thought, seeing her beaming, is to ask how a New Yorker decided to permanently move to a little village in Agrigento. She looks at me and smiles. “First for love and then for the uniqueness of this land…and the wine also helps. ”  So began the interview and her story.

Melissa is now the wife of Gunther Di Giovanna, producer of wine and olive oil, along with his brother Klaus, who export abroad mostly. Their company is located outside Sambuca di Sicilia, with over 120 acres of vineyards and 6,000 olive trees.  About 85% of their production, oil and wine (about 250,000 bottles of wine divided into a range of four whites, two roses and four reds) end up in Germany, Holland, Belgium and other countries in Europe and America.

And from here, from America, Melissa arrives. Let's go back to tell her story. In front of the café, in Palermo, while raining, she continues to talk.  During her studies of art in Philadelphia, she arrives for the first time in Italy to do a semester in Rome, learning a bit of the language and then after graduating moves to New York where she begins working in an Italian wine bar, from 4 pm to 4 am, the context of the passionate.  Meanwhile she becomes a sommelier and falls in love with Italian food. Wine becomes part of her life so much that she then begins working for a distributor, that deals with the import of Italian high-end wine and products.  Here her fate begins toward the path to the village in Agrigento. During a wine event organized in a villa in the hills of Sienna, Melissa first meets the Sicilian producer.  After the first meeting the second is three years later. Followed by a harvest in Sicily; the island, the sea, its extraordinary atmosphere, friends and family do the rest and when leaving Sicily Melissa discovers that her life is changing.  Back to New York to her regular life and also a promise of marriage that she can no longer maintain. Sometimes life presents strange surprises, where one needs courage and she had a lot of it. Now that she is married to Gunther and has two children, Aurelio 3 years and Biagio 3 months, with Sicilian names of course, she is happy. A similar fate also happened to her in-laws, he Sicilian her German who came to Sicily for love.

Is it Sicily that wears the clothes of Cupid?  “I immediately loved this land, its countryside, the sea, the link to family and traditions,” she says “Here you live well. I don’t miss living in New York, the quality of life is better here. The only negative aspect here is doing business. In New York we run, it produces, everything is in turmoil. In Sicily, if you send an email you get a response with all the calm of the world, maybe three days later. And it is normal. Now I know,” says Melissa. Even with the organization and rigor of the German family in the winery, we are still in Sicily for better or for worse, you adapt to its strengths and weaknesses, and private life becomes virtue, frenzy gives way to calm. So Sicily for Melissa could be called slow. It is the island where time passes slowly.  In the kitchen they prepare traditional dishes including caponata, loved by the New Yorker. For now she is divided between children, the winery and traveling abroad with her husband. Between the couple, her resourcefulness and desire to dare meet his prudence as he occasionally gives in to the advice of his wife. With this balance they have many goals to achieve. “To the east and Brazil, travel and to conquer new markets,” says Melissa. When their children are grown, they are free to follow whatever they want, just as their parents did.  With Christmas approaching, “Its a time that I prefer to spend in New York. It is more cheerful, bright, colorful, you breath the real atmosphere of the festivites like nowhere else in the world, but we’ll be in Sicily because the island is my home now and I'm happy” she says, smiling as she sips her coffee.

We’ll next meet in Sambuca or at next years Vinitaly, where Di Giovanna will be present in an exhibition space dedicated to organic wine, organized thanks to the collaboration of FederBio. There we’ll meet the couple and taste the wines of the estate originally planted in the 1860’s by their great grandfather, then developed by Aurelio & Barbara and sons Gunther & Klaus in the 1980's with an in-depth study of micro-climatic conditions, identifying the most suitable varieties for their terroir.  This resulted in five vineyards (Gerbino, Paradiso, Miccina, San Giacomo and Fiuminello) where native and international varieties alternate, expressing in a unique and unrepeatable essence this part of Sicily, which for this story have played a role as the undisputed protagonist.

Francesca Landolina