Some wine lovers possess a misconception about the wines of Sicily, believing that they are all essentially the same, that Sicily possesses a singular terroir. However, why should that be the case? Sicily, which covers nearly 10,000 square miles, is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is roughly equivalent in size to the Champagne region of France, and is about four times larger than the combined size of Sonoma and Napa counties. Its size alone should be a significant clue that Sicily likely possesses multiple terroirs, a land with a variety of soil types and microclimates.
That was made even more clear at a recent media tasting of some Sicilian wines produced by Planeta Wines. Back in October 2012, I attended a previous Planeta tasting, finding much to enjoy in their wines produced from indigenous Italian grapes, from Carricante to Nerelo Mascelese. Please see that post for some basic information about Planeta.
The recent tasting was at a luncheon held at Meritage Restaurant, Chef Daniel Bruce's famed restaurant at the Boston Harbor Hotel. It happened to be a beautiful and sunny day, so we had a great view of Boston harbor during our lunch. Planeta Wines was represented by three women, including Francesca Planeta (one of the owners), Patricia Toth (winemaker) and Penny Murray (export director). They also chose to highlight wines from two different wineries, each from a different DOC, Noto and Vittoria. Though they own 6 wine estates, each is still a small, artisan operation. Though some Planeta wines are now available, in September, they will be launching a full line of their new wines in the U.S.
The DOCs of Noto and Vittoria each possesses a different terroir, with white calcareous soil common in Noto while Vittoria soil commonly has red sand. Both estates are also at low elevations. Their Noto estate covers about 60 hectares, and they primarily grow Nero d'Avola and Moscato Bianco. In Vittoria, they rebuilt a 100 year old winery, and primarily grow Nero d'Avola and Frappato.
The 2011 Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG ($23.99) is a blend of 60% Nero d'Avola and 40% Frappato. It was light bodied and fresh, with bright cherry and strawberry flavors, and smoky accents, with a hint of licorice. An easy drinking wine, it still possesses character and complexity. The 2011 Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Dorilli DOCG ($32.99) is a blend of 70% Nero d'Avola and 30% Frappato. The Dorilli estate, named after the Dorilli River, is located close to land which once was owned by the Planetas’ paternal grandmother. It is a Classico, and I found it more full bodied, though still with mild tannins. The flavors were more complex, with subdued red fruit, a spicy backbone and a lengthy,pleasing finish. An excellent wine which I strongly recommend.
Last year, I tasted the 2010 and 2004 vintages of Planeta Cerasuolo, and the 2004 was superb, showing its potential for aging.
With the duck and ravioli, we drank the 2009 Planeta Santa Cecilia Nero d'Avola, DOC Noto, ($41.99), made from 100% Nero d'Avola. It was a more powerful wine, with moderate tannins, dark fruit flavors, a mild spiciness and a very long finish. Delicious and compelling, this was another excellent wine from Planeta. I previously tasted the 2005 and 2007 vintages, which gave me some indication of this wine's potential for aging.
Sicilian wines are starting to get the attention they deserve in the U.S. so you can expect to find them more readily available at your local wine shop. Remember that Sicily possesses multiple terroirs, and that you will find plenty of diversity in the wines of this large island. When seeking Sicilian wines, you definitely should check out the wines of Planeta, especially those which use Italian indigenous grapes. Though they own multiple estates, they still are more of an artisan producer, and are creating some compelling wines.