Tag Archives: Sicily

Planeta – 8/05/2012

Carricante 2011
Comes from the Etna estate, and includes a very tiny but important percentage of riesling. On the nose it had a touch of apricot kernel and green olive over the vibrant peach blossom, and on the palate was elegantly fresh, balanced and restrained with an interesting texture that I guessed came from the altitude (870 m above sea level) and the different soil composition.

La Segreta Rosso 2011
Made from fruit coming from the Menfi and Noto estates, and is a blend of 50% nero d’avola, 25% merlot, 20% syrah and 5% cabernet franc. Smelling the wine made me immediately think of Bolognese pasta sauce, with lovely ripe red tomatoes, dried basil, and very subtle roasted meat, combining with the plum and blackberry fruits, and on the palate was generous and soft in tannins with good focus and freshness of acids, a very uncomplicated but high-quality entry-level wine.

Cerasuolo di Vittorio DOCG 2010
A lovely light and brilliant vermillion colour, had very pure and intense aromas of florals and sweet red fruit, and on the palate combined delicate spicy red earth with vibrant yet light and fresh personality.

Santa Cecilia 2007
100% nero d’avola coming from the Noto sub-region, which is the reputed home of the variety. Quite dark and full in both colour and character, showing sweet plum and myrtle elements, great power yet elegance, freshness with generous and juicy tannins. The most appealing thing about this wine was the well-handled oak (none new), which better expressed the nuances of the variety and site.

The tasting room at the Planeta Vittoria estate

The tasting room at the Planeta Vittoria estate

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Morgante – 9/05/2012

Morgante Nero d’Avola 2010
A nose of sweet juicy blackcurrants and blackberries, with very plummy and sweet oak notes too, whilst on the palate was very unctuous and rich, introducing chocolate and cassis elements, mellowness boldness and slightly spicy.

Don Antonio 2009
Had similar fruit characters but in a more serious vein, and also showed violets and earthy characters on the nose, whilst on the palate was both toasty and succulent, showing balance, integration of oak and alcohol with fruit, and dense tannin structure.

The two wines made by Morgante

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Donnafugata – 10/05/2012

The entry level white wines (Anthilia and Vigna di Gabri) were fresh, light and crisp with good vibrancy, texture and clean fruit.

Lighea 2011 (100% dry moscato d’Alexandria)
Classicly intense moscato nose of roses, musk and turkish delight, but was very clean, fresh and zippy on the palate.

Chiaranda 2008 (50% insolia, 50% chardonnay)
A very ripe tropical pineapple nose showing malolactic and oak characters, and on the palate was very rich, fat, creamy and crunchy, in a Californian style which was style a reflection of Sicily.

Sherazade 2010 (100% nero d’avola)
Notes of red currants, plums and slight spice on the nose, and juicy fresh red fruits and delicate earth notes on the palate with some great mellowness of tannins.

Tancredi 2008
Cabernet sauvignon-led wine which had a very familiar nose of cassis and tobacco, and whilst very oaky wasn’t as tannic as I expected, quite tight and firm without much extension on the palate.

Mille Euna Notte 2007 (90% nero d’avola)
Wonderfully dense earthy black olive, dark cherry, blood plum and violet aromas, and on the palate showed elegance and restraint whilst having concentration and uncluttered structure.

Kabir Moscato di Pantelleria 2010
Very fresh and bright with vibrant fruits, but also was quite complex with some sea salt and nutmeg elements, and reminded me of a good moscato d’asti without the bubbles.

Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria 2009
Wonderful nose of treacle, tea, caramel, Arabic smoke and rose-water, and had wonderfully concentrated oxidative complexity. On the palate it showed the raisined fruit character well, with dried apricots, walnuts and almonds, but still had plenty of freshness to it.

Barrels in the cellars of Donnafugata

Barrels in the cellars of Donnafugata

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Planeta – 11/05/2012

Brut Metodo Classico 2010
Made entirely from carricante in its indigenous area of Etna,  fresh, fruit-driven with slightly spicy and peppery notes on the nose combining with the golden delicious and citrus notes, and on the palate was brisk with good persistent bead.

Alastro 2011
Made entirely from grecanico grown at the Ulmo estate. Quite viognier-like, with apricot blossom and citrus, freshness and viscosity with good approachable acids.

Alastro 2010
More closed and had a honey and seashell element on the nose, with salty complexity and elegance.

Cometa Fiano 2010
A very ripe tropical nose coupled with an oily salty citrus complexity, with fantastic texture and depth and great breadth of oak.

Rosé 2011
Made entirely from syrah grown on the Menfi estate. Bright fresh raspberry and cherry notes, full flavoured and vibrant with good acids and some slight fruit-sweetness.

Plumbago 2010
100% nero d’avola from Ulmo, and whilst full and deep in dark fruit characters, also had very fresh spiciness and bright tannins and acids.

Passito di Noto 2010
Was surprisingly light and clean, with very minimal sweetness and viscosity from the drying of the berries and residual sugar.

Budburst starting at the Planeta Sambuca estate

Budburst starting at the Planeta Sambuca estate

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Heart & Soul (Sicily, Italy – Day Four)

To say that Sicily is diverse is an understatement. There is a very good reason why Sicily has the longest harvests in the world, often taking 90 days. For this reason it is impossible and pointless to think of Sicily as one region, which makes me question the logic of creating a new DOC for all of Sicily. In other large and diverse Italian regions like Tuscany, Piedmont and Puglia there are only IGT classifications for the entire region, no DOC which is usually an indicator of quality. A DOC just for Sicily would merely serve the large wineries to continue blending fruit from anywhere on the island, and charge higher prices for it. My suggestion would be to continue highlighting the sub-regional diversity of Sicily by creating a number of DOC and/or DOCG classifications for many of the best areas, to add to the small amount of DOC classifications, and only one DOCG (Cerasuolo di Vittoria). I have absolutely no issue with wineries using fruit from different parts of the region, much like they do in Tuscany or Veneto, but to imply that Sicily is one homogenous region is a fallacy and should be designated merely as IGT as it already is. One of the wineries that would possibly agree with me is one that I visited earlier in the week and returned to on my final day to one of their other estates. This winery is Planeta.

The walls of the Planeta Ulmo Estate

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“Marsala and coke, good choice!” (Sicily, Italy – Day Three)

When I think of Marsala, usually the first thing that comes to mind is the quote used as the title of this post, from the Australian film Chopper starring Eric Bana. The quote comes from a scene in a nightclub where Chopper’s girlfriend orders a marsala and coke, to which the character Neville Bartos congratulates her on the wise decision. It wasn’t until I learnt what marsala actually was that I realised the cultural significance of this seemingly innocent exchange. Marsala is a wine coming from the town of the same name in the south-western corner of Sicily, made usually from white grape varieties (partly explaining why there are more vineyards planted to white than red on the island), and fortified similar to sherry. The wine was discovered by an Englishmen, much like port and sherry were, and were fortified and sweetened to appeal to the English market and allow them to survive the transportation. Marsala at one point was a very famous wine, and many houses were established in the 19th century, some of them English. As demand and production increased, the quality went down and marsala began to not be taken very seriously, much like other fortified wines. Unlike port and sherry the reaction was not to increase quality, but to introduce new flavours like egg and almond, and it was about this time that in Australia marsala was used in one of two ways. It was either used as a mixer in bars, purely for its alcoholic function, or in cooking. Now it is only really used for the latter, and the market is tiny. There are still dedicated houses that produce reasonable volumes of commercial marsalas with a little premium sometimes aged wines, and there are very small and passionate producers fighting an uphill battle to return the Marsala name to its former glory. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any marsala producers to welcome me, so I got to see the town by the seaside and catch up with an Italian wine blogger and journalist I had met in Vittoria for dinner. I also visited one of the most famous modern Sicilian wine brands, Donnafugata.

Donnafugata winery in Marsala

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These things happpen (Sicily, Italy – Day Two)

Well I guess it’s to be expected that when you spend about 13 months driving around the world, with already at least 50,000km driven across three continents, there are going to be complications with cars. In a rental car in the Salta region of Argentina I had a navigator that wouldn’t charge, and driving on an unsealed national highway I got a puncture without realising, damaged the wheel and had to pay $200 for a new one. In Germany I attempted to buy a used car far too cheaply, that turned out to be a lemon and lasted only 4,000km. Thus I was forced to rent a car in Milan that I would return in Palermo (Sicily), driving for 32 days across 11 regions, then fly back north for the next leg in the South of France. I accidentally booked the return date a week too early, and had to have it amended over the phone. I didn’t realise they changed the terms, so that rather than having unlimited km I was restricted to 4,800km, and was charged for an additional 332 km. With only three days remaining, the Fiat 500 broke down on the southern coast of Sicily, had to be towed back to Gela where I had to stay in a hotel for the night, then get a taxi to a town an hour away to collect a replacement rental car. So I lost a night and half a day of wasted time, and was charged significantly extra for a completely different contract, additional fuel and kilometres. I also wasn’t reimbursed in either office in Sicily as promised, so am out almost 200 euro, which I now have to try to get back from customer service. The lesson learnt from both rental car experiences is never trust Europcar, as they were the company in both cases. I should have known better. It was definitely worth the drive to Agrigento before my appointment, as the Ancient Greek ruins are breathtaking as the photo below will support. The province of Agrigento is very warm, dry and relatively flat, so ideal for viticulture where the majority of fruit comes from in Sicily.

The Valley of Temples in Agrigento

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Isle be there (Sicily, Italy – Day One)

Thus I have arrived to my eighth and final week in Italy (for now), and I am doing so in quite possibly the most diverse and misunderstood region in the country; Sicily. After spending the weekend in the chaotic city of pizza, Napoli, I boarded the overnight ferry to Palermo. The ride was uneventful, apart from some terrible service for overpriced pizza, but I am glad I paid a little extra for a berth in a cabin, as trying to sleep out in the halls would have been challenging. The ferry arrived an hour earlier than indicated, so when I disembarked in Palermo it was 7:00am and of course nothing was open, so I hit the road. My goal was Faro, a region very close to Messina, where I had an appointment with a very small producer. Unfortunately the address I had failed to get me to the winery and the contact number had similar problems. Therefore after several hours I was forced to abandon this plan with great disappointment, and head south through the Etna region where I unfortunately had no appointments. It was fascinating to see fossilised volcanic lava on the sides of the mountain, and hard to believe that vineyards are planted metres away from this lava. It was a shame that I didn’t visit any producers here, as it would have been interesting to learn more about the specific viticulture and interactions of the varieties with the environment. I look forward to the chance to taste some wines from this part of the island, and hopefully I will be able to visit again. From what I have seen so far, Sicily is most definitely different to mainland Italy, but then again, each region is different from each other. Like in other parts of Italy it is not so easy to get around; the roads are not in great condition, there is often traffic, rarely is there a direct route between places that you don’t have to pay for, and the landscape being hilly also makes for slow-going. But I made it to Vittoria, for three sensational visits on my second but first day in Sicily.

Me at Mount Etna

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