My hand drawing of Sicilia’s DOC/DOCGs – In red are the Donnafugata Sites I Visited.
I was privileged to visit three Donnafugata sites in Sicily last year (2017). I have been a fan of their beautiful expression of Sicilian wines. The book The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa is an inspirational source for the names of Donnafugata’s wines (in fact the producers name is the fictional name where this story is set; the true name of the city is Santa Margherita di Belice). I have read this novel both in English and Italian editions of The Leopard. This novel centres on the Risorgimento (the unification) of Italy. This was the first novel I ever read in Italian from cover-to-cover. The chronicle feels non-fictional while the story covers a fictional storytelling.
Donnafugata’s label art expresses a dream-like state that is vivid and expresses not just a whimsical expression but a lifestyle of appreciating and being in love with life. The labels for me matched my feel for this magical land of Sicily: one dash intrigue and the other unwavering awe and affection.
I was traveling with other wine writers/journalist. And I appreciate that as I enjoy meeting new people–I listen and appreciate their questions and garner and optimise that experience because I am part of a team. We traveled with Josè Rallo to her family’s sites. She is head of management and communication and set the stage for our travel to Donnafugata’s sites.
I was invited to attend Sicilia En Primeur at Radicepura (near Catania) and before landing there I arrived in Palermo. Palermo (I’ll post my previous articles down below) was a gem; an historical crossroads and a city of outstanding resilience, charm and beauty. I had crossed the island twice once from western Sicily to eastern and back again to the western portion of the island. Our first stop is visit and stay at the Cantina at Contessa Entellina which is the site as well as a DOC. The house on the site feels like Donnafugata–though a fictional place this place became Donnafugata to me.
Part of me wants to just retire or perhaps not just retire from the world but to enjoy and also do more of what I want to do in the future. For a moment in time there was an astonishing piece of calm, serenity and peace that came to me while being a Contessa Entellina.
The respite was an overnight stay but I could have certainly stayed longer. Arriving in evening–the whisper of the palm trees, the late dusk sky was soothing and the crunch of the Sicilian soil under neath welcomed me to this earnest place. The house was vividly colourful and inviting.
I wanted to spend some time on this comfy day bed and enjoy reading Il Gattopardo
I get to my room and I loved seeing a copy of Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) which further reinforce this love for this place. I so appreciated seeing this important book. I was delighted.
When I Travel I Draw The Inspiration of the moment. Photo above and my drawing here.
In the Contessa Entellina there are four indigenous varieties: 1) Ansonica 2) Catarratto 3) Grecanico and 4) Grillo and 11 non-indigenous varieties: Fiano, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Alicante Bouchet, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Pinot Nero grown on 270 Hectares (667 acres).
The wines created from this fruit from this set of sites in the Contessa Entellina are:
- Donnafugata Brut – a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir)
- Donnafugata Brut Rose – Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir)
- Donnafugata Anthìlia – Catarratto primary grape along with indigenous and international varieties
- Donnafugata Prio – Catarratto
- Donnafugata SurSur – Grillo
- Donnafugata La Fuga – Chardonnay
- Donnafugata Vigna di Gabri – Ansonica primary grape with Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Catarratto
- Donnafugata Chiarandà – Chardonnay
- Donnafugata Lumera – a rose from Nero d’Avola,
Syrah, and Pinot Noir
- Donnafugata Sherazade – Nero d’Avola
- Donnafugata Sedàra – Nero d’Avola principal grape; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and other grapes
- Donnafugata Angheli – Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon
- Donnafugata Tancredi – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Syrah
- Donnafugata Mille e Una Note – a blend of Nero d’Avola, Petit Verdot, Syrah and other grapes
I was glad to step foot on many of their vineyards and they were immaculate. They live the letter of their commitment listed on each bottle of Carbon Footprint Accounting declaration:
Donnafugata does produce a lot of wines and I like the expression of solely indigenous grape and the blends of indigenous grapes and international varieties. In the blends, I absolutely adore the expression that both the variety sets work in harmony with each other. There is an international mindset to look only towards indigenous varieties to be tasting outside of France and New World. But one of the first international variety of wines I tasted was a Chardonnay from Sicily years ago–a delightful and absolutely successful wine. Donnafugata is truly balancing and honouring it’s indigenous varieties and created world class blends… not just for Sicily but a world stage producer of fine wines.
Left – Gabriela “Gabri” Rallo and Right – Jose Rallo at Contessa Entellina
Left: Fellow wine writer – Penny Weiss (The Wine Knitter); centre – me; and Right is Antonio Rallo – we were at the Palazzo Biscari in Catania
After touring the Contessa Entellina we went to Trapani’s Salt Plain and windmill is known as the Riserva Naturale Saline Di Trapani E Paceco. This was great to see as I had seen a fantastic Italian film called: In Guerra Per Amore (At War with Love) easily one of the best films I have seen in the past two years. The film featured many shots of this windmill. The takeaway of the film is very important in it’s viewing of WWII and the allies liberation of the island and a very tough period to come (no spoiler alert needed) – I won’t add anything else except this is a must see movie if you love Italian film and a great snapshot of recent history of Sicily.
Duomo di Marsala
Donnafugata Cantina in Marsala
Barrel Room at Donnafugata Cantina in Marsala
The dinner was held at Donnafugata Cantina in the sweet and historic wine capital of Marsala. This cantina is where their Pantelleria and Contessa Entellina are sent for aging.
Before the dinner was to taste library bottles of Chiarandà 1996, 2005, 2014 and Mille e Una Notte 1996, 2008, and 2012 as well as Ben Ryé Passito de Pantelleria 2004 (I am going to post my wine scores below). I loved tasting the aged bottles of wine and getting a familiarity of time in the bottle. I was impressed with the success of each of these bottles. I have never tasted aged Sicilian Chardonnay–21 year old Chardonnay was a gorgeous wine and nicely vivid and elegant. Wines that I tasted while on this multi-day tour are listed below.
Donnafugata’s Cantina in Pantelleria
I had always wanted to visit the fabled land of Pantelleria known for it’s Passito di Pantelleria and I finally get to visit this ancient land that gives us this amazing wine. I am first of all am dazzled by islands…. limitations, opportunities and fascination of how there is a limitation of travel and other dynamics. The flight is a quick one from Trapani to the very modern airport at Pantelleria in about 30 minutes.
Visiting Pantelleria, while on my travel wish list, I never dreamt that I would be so fortunate to put foot on ground on this sacred soil. Pantelleria is 67 miles from Sicilia and 37 miles east of Tunisia. It is windswept and only grows the Zibibbo grape (Muscat of Alexandria), capers, figs and oranges. If you look on a map you’ll see some names that aren’t Italian/Sicilian but Arabic: Bukkurram, Khaddiuggia, Khamma, and so fourth.
The Donnafugata Cantina is on the hillside versus seaside. The hillside provides a great view, the cantina and the the heritage of the Giardino Pantesco
The Giardino Pantesco
The Giardino Pantesco Outside
The Door into the Giardino Pantesco
The magical Pantelleria orange tree
The Damusso with semi elevated roofs; so distinctly Pantelleria
The orange trees can only grow in these stone structures know as Giardino Pantesco which help to guard against strong winds. Without these —there would be no oranges or orange trees.
I did pick an orange, peeled it and was dazzled by the very sweet citrus. Citrus for me is sacred and to have even a small production of oranges is important for well being of body and soul.
The Zibbibo is grown on terraces in bush trained vines. The word Zibbibo comes from the Arabic word Zibibb which means dried grape. The honeyed and truffled sweetness is perfect for the end of a meal or a cheese course.
Capers: I had never seen a caper plant before in person
Ancient terraces carved out of the hillside over centuries
Donnafugata has a commitment to have an experimental vineyard to always be aware of the behaviour of all clones of Zibibbo coming from France, Spain, Greece, other parts of Italy and the entire Mediterranean region.
I was fascinated to visit the Sese Grande on the western portion of the island. There have been 100 excavated; these pyramidal structures of volcanic rock were created over 5,000 years ago (3000 BC). This island has been inhabited for a long time established this region as important transport and trade route. I was very awe struck by visiting one of the largest and best examples of a Sese at this preservation park housing the Sese Grande.
At the end of the journey on Pantelleria was a wonderful late lunch at Bar La Vela on the western side of the island. The weather was perfect–not hot nor cold and the water were outstandingly blue. The food was outstanding and the fish just caught and so fittingly the time to bask in spring’s Mediterranean sun
The traveling journalist and team from Donnafugata
A journey of wonder through the western Sicilia’s gems in Marsala, Pantelleria and Contessa Entellina. The last picture is me holding a bit of fennel in the air and wishing that I return to this land.
Donnafugata Chiarandà Contessa Entellina DOC 1996 – Chardonnay – not all aged Chardonnay are created equal nor do they age on the same trajectory. I love a well aged Chardonnay–there are always two things to consider: 1) how wine is cellared and 2) does the wine have the capacity to age. This is an enigmatic, lovely gorgeous wine. I hope to drink more of this or even a different vintage from that decade. I did think back and in that year I was in graduate school.
Donnafugata Chiarandà Contessa Entellina DOC 2005 92 Points – Chardonnay
Donnafugata Chiarandà Contessa Entellina DOC 2014 – Chardonnay
Donnafugata Mille e Una NotteTerre Siciliane IGT 1996 – a blend of Nero d’Avola, Petit Verdot, Syrah and other grapes – bold and yet graceful, this wine is memorable and a great snapshot in time but also what time does to this wine.
Donnafugata Mille e Una NotteTerre Siciliane IGT 2008 92 Points – a blend of Nero d’Avola, Petit Verdot, Syrah and other grapes
Donnafugata Mille e Una NotteTerre Siciliane IGT 2012 – a blend of Nero d’Avola, Petit Verdot, Syrah and other grapes
Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito de Pantelleria DOC 2004 – Zibibbo
Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito de Pantelleria DOC 2008 – Zibibbo
Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito de Pantelleria DOC 2008 – Zibibbo
Donnafugata Tancredi Terre Siciliane IGT 2006 – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Syrah
Donnafugata Tancredi Terre Siciliane IGT 2012 – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Syrah
Donnafugata SurSur Sicilia DOC 2016 – Grillo
Donnafugata SurSur Sicilia DOC 2010 92 Points – Grillo
Donnafugata Vigna di Gabri Sicilia DOC 2015 – Ansonica primary grape with Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Catarratto
Donnafugata Sherazade Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC 2015
Donnafugata Anthìlia Sicilia DOC 2016 – Catarratto primary grape along with indigenous and international varieties
Donnafugata Bell’Assai Vittoria DOC Frappato 2016
You too can visit these location – here is a link on visiting.
Some of my video review of Donnafugata wines on my YouTube channel:
Additional Stories about my journey to Sicilia (Sicily):
A Love for Sicilia – Wine, Food, People and The Land – Part I – Palermo
A Love for Sicilia – Sicilia en Primeur – Part II
James the Wine Guy
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