Salvatore D’Amico: Pioneer and Keeper of Tradition on Salina

Salvatore D’Amico is a long-time advocate for organic wine and capers on the Aeolian Island of Salina and a representative of Slowfood. In this portrait “Men of the Island”: Salvatore (left), his assistant, Giovanni, Giovanni’s son, and Giovanni’s Uncle Aldo. They seem to be from another place in time.

The entrance to Salvatore’s cantina is almost hidden behind this blue gate in the tiny town of Leni. It is perched at an altitude of 400 meters between two ancient volcanoes at one end of the valley by the same name. (Read more: Volcanoes and Valdichiesa) IMG_0043

Salvatore, whose full name translates to “Saver of a Friend”, picked me up at the ferry in his island vehicle. We wound up a steep hillside, making hairpin after hairpin curve to get to Leni.

In one direction, the volcano loomed above.

In the other, I could see the islands I had just passed in the ferry: Lipari (closer) and Vulcano.

The main door into the cellar is arched, made of stone, dating back centuries…

With a wine goblet carved into the door.

That afternoon Giovanni, was bottling wine using a traditional machine for putting in the cork while Salvatore supervised and told me about the cellar.

He explained that he has special dispensation from the authorities to keep his traditional bamboo cane ceiling and to use the century-old stone vat (palmento) for fermentation. (No photo because the cellar is small and when grapes aren’t fermenting, it’s used for storage.)

After fermentation, Salvatore keeps his wine in wooden barrels, none to large to pass through the narrow front door.

He is best known for his Malvasia delle Lipari DOC, a traditional passito where the grapes are dried before pressing to concentrate the sugar. Salvatore’s was not too sweet, a rich blend of fruit and honey.

His red, Tenuta di Ruvoli Rosso di Salina IGT is made with Etna varieties: Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio with another native grape, Corinto. It conjures up aromas and tastes of dark cherries with lots of minerality and a kind of wild earthiness.


Salvatore makes an unusual grappa by distilling his passito wine with a bagnomaria, which means the wine is heated with hot water instead of a flame. This gentler system creates a gentler wine.


That evening, I went with Salvatore and his wife to eat with their neighbors on a characteristic island terrace…


And to taste Salvatore’s Valdichiesa Salina Bianco IGT made from Ansonica (Inzolia) and Cattarato, native grapes mostly grown on the western side of Sicily
It was fresh, clean almost salty with minerality from the volcanic soil and sea breeze.

The evening ended with an epic thunderstorm which shut off the lights. Finishing dinner by candlelight seemed somehow appropriate after learning about the traditions of island wine and capers at Salvatore’s cantina.

Contact Salvatore for information on buying products, visiting the cellar or staying in the simple, characteristic rooms/houses that he rents to visitors at reasonable prices.

Azienda Agroagricola D’Amico
Tel: +39 090 9809123
Cell: +39 335 7878795

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