14 May 2012

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

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Ulmo estate in Agrigento near the town of Sabuca di Sicilia is the historic home of Planeta, as it was the first estate to be planted with up to 24 different varieties and also where the first winery was built. The winery headquarters are now at the Menfi Estate very close by, where much of the wine production is housed, as well as all of the packaging and logistics. The other three wine facilities on different estates are used for the production of the wines using fruit from that particular estate, but they are transported to the Menfi estate for bottling and despatch to the customers around the world. A visit to the Ulmo estate is well worth it, as they offer wonderful packages where you can take a tour taste a range of wines and also have a delicious lunch. Between the Ulmo and Menfi estates in the forests there is also an environmentally sustainable resort where guests can stay. Planeta have clearly looked into the future and seen the growing importance of wine tourism to Sicily, and are already well prepared by using visual aides on a vineyard tour, which explains the history of wine in Sicily, at Planeta and the entire production process. On a side note, they probably could have spent a little bit more translating the text into English, as there are many simple errors, but this has been the case with every estate I have visited on my trip that wasn’t from North America. I was given the opportunity to visit the Ulmo estate along with a group who had all studied together at university in the north of Italy, some of which now have very well established and regarded wineries. One was from Silvio Jermann in Friuli, another was Mario Pojer from Poler & Sandri in Trentino, and they make an annual trip together to different wine regions. The discussions were of course entirely in Italian with our host Santi Planeta, but I was happy to be in such illustrious company, enjoying the beautiful scenery and delicious lunch. We enjoyed a tour of the vineyard, winery and cellars, and then sat down for a tasting through the range, some of which I had tasted before but some not.

An illustrious group. Silvio in the green pants, Mario with the giant moustache
The Brut Metodo Classico is made entirely from carricante in its indigenous area of Etna, and the 2010 vintage was 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. The Alastro is a wine made entirely from grecanico grown at the Ulmo estate, and we had a look at two vintages of the wine. The 2011 vintage was quite viognier-like, with apricot blossom and citrus, freshness and viscosity with good approachable acids. The 2010 was more closed and had a honey and seashell element on the nose, with salty complexity and elegance. The Cometa Fiano 2010 had a very ripe tropical nose coupled with an oily salty citrus complexity, with fantastic texture and depth and great breadth of oak. The Rose is made entirely from syrah grown on the Menfi estate, and the 2011 had bright fresh raspberry and cherry notes, quite full flavoured and vibrant with good acids and some slight fruit-sweetness. The Plumbago is 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. The Passito di Noto 2010 was surprisingly light and clean, with very minimal sweetness and viscosity from the drying of the berries and residual sugar.
Capfall and flowering of merlot at Ulmo
Click here to see more photos from the fourth and final day in Sicily, Italy. Next week I'm hoping to be in Provence to taste some rose.

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