Empson & Co.

Empson & Co.

We’ve known the irresistible Gianfranco – his enthusiasm and humor, his passion for fine wine and this amazing island of Sicily – through Carlo Hauner, of Salina fame.Today, Gianfranco has a winery of his own, in partnership with Filippo Pistone and Italian soccer champion, Andrea Barzagli.  Set in the northeastern corner of the triangular island, near Messina, it focuses on a single, tiny, quality-driven appellation: FARO.  (Total hectares under vine in the entire appellation: 20!)

The Faro DOC as such was introduced on

December 3rd, 1976. The local wine, however, is extremely old – the DOC name itself comes from an ancient Greek population, the Pharii, who settled in this spectacular nook of the Mediterranean and grew grapes as far back as the fourteenth century B.C.!  Not only is Faro one of the world’s most ancient wine areas; it is also one of its tiniest appellations, entirely contained in the district of Messina and the breathtaking messinesi hills wedged between two seas – the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian, joined by the Messina Strait. It is a 100% native appellation, exclusively from indigenous varieties that find their ideal home on messinese soil, ranging from dark, compact, slightly acidic at the higher altitudes and alluvial towards the coast.

Gianfranco’s winery is at Faro Superiore, high up over the Messina Strait, where the hillsides’ gradient is as steep as 70%.  It was named after two «casematte» or casemates (a.k.a. pillboxes) from World War II, which served as observatories and defensive structures at that time.  Today, in fortunately peaceful times, the casemates are content to watch over Gianfranco’s largest vineyard (2 hectares). Le Casematte total surface is 7 hectares of terraced vineyards, between 250 and 370 meters above sea level. Pristine and remote, these vineyards benefit from the constant sea breezes of the Messina Strait, notably the Sirocco wind during summer. Great temperature excursion gives the wines wonderful aromatic qualities and a freshness running through the entire range.

The sandier, calcareous & clayey soils here combined with the particular micro-climate and situation of the vineyards endow Gianfranco’s wines with amazing elegance and fragrance.  These are big, luscious wines that simultaneously show distinctive balance and harmony.