Last week I attended a wine tasting at the Tuscan Market where I had the opportunity to meet Silvio, whom is the North American Director for the Donnafugata winery of Sicily. Silvio is also a certified sommelier by the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS).
The Donnafugata winery holds 160
years of experience with owner Giacomo Rallo combining his experience with
his wife Gabriella and her experience in the industry. The two combined, along with
their two children Jose' and Antonio, are one of the limited wineries in Sicily that produce estate grown wines. Only
2% of wines produced in Sicily come from estate grown wineries
according to Silvio. The rest are produced by cooperatives.
|Silvio of Donnafugata|
|Rallo family, Left to Right: Antonio, Giacomo, Gabriella and Jose'|
|Terraced hills of Pantelleria|
Weather of Sicily
Sicily's weather consists of considerable differences in day and night temperatures that allow them to produce aromatic and mature grapes in their vineyards. The vines, as shown here, in Pantelleria are low, broad bushes so that the grapes don't get fried by the sun and have a canopy of leaves to protect them.
Wines of Donnafugata
One of the eye catching things about Donnafugata wines are their labels, which were created by Gabriella. The woman on the label is actually a self-potrait of Gabriella when she was in her 20's. I tasted a full flight of wines from their two whites, Athilia & Lighea, to their 3 reds, Sedara, Tancredi and Mille e Una Notte, finishing with their dessert wine, Ben Rye. My favorites from the tasting that I want to share with you are the two whites and the red Tancredi.
I chose both whites because they both had unique qualities. The Donnafugata Anthilia is made of a grape indigenous to Sicily called Catarratto that has some Inzolia blended in. Inzolia is most similar to a chardonnay and is also known as ansonica in Tuscany. Catarratto is the most planted grape in Sicily and is only found there. It's best blended with other grapes as it is in Anthilia. This wine was crisp, juicy and fresh with a little saltiness and minerality on the lengthy finish. The Donnafugata Lighea is made of 100% Muscat of Alexandria, also known as moscato bianco or known in Sicily as Zibibbo. This wine had a florally, beautiful nose and was a dry, crisp style muscat. Very enjoyable!
For the reds I chose the Donnafugata Tancredi. This wine consisted of mostly nero d'avola and cabernet sauvignon, but also had 10% tannat, which is typically very austere and tannic. It was very structured with intensity and the cabernet lended nice body to the wine. It's aged 14 months in barriques and another 24 months in the bottle. A great wine to pair with some food.
I can't ever pass up a good dessert wine as well and Donnafugata makes the delicious Ben Rye made from the moscato, zibibbo, grapes on the island Pantelleria. This wine is made in the passito style where the grapes are dried to provide that deep concentration of fruit making for a very enjoyable, unctuous wine. Rich sweetness of honey and apricot. Need I say more?
|Pairings at Tuscan Market|
|Pairing at Tuscan Market|
If you want to learn more about the unusual grapes of Sicily including the ones mentioned above check out this detailed wine grape varietal table.