Donnafugata Ben Rye (375ML half-bottle) 2016
Ben Ryé 2016 offers an extraordinary rich bouquet with outstanding aromas obtained from the dried grapes: apricots and candied orange peel. It presents delicate hints of Mediterranean macchia. The palate is very fresh and intense, balancing perfectly the sweetness followed by a long and satisfying persistence.
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Rather than pair this wine with a Sicilian dessert, serve it as the Sicilian dessert. The 2016 Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé is a radiant and beautifully fragrant edition with white raisins, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, caramel, preserved lemon, dried sage, apricot and sea salt. I could go on. The wine is light on its feet thanks to that crisp acidity, yet it has the volume and richness to coat your palate in all its luscious glory. The whole package is explosive. This dessert wine is usually sold in a 750-milliliter bottle (with some 80,000 bottles made), but you can also find it in a smaller 375-milliliter bottle.
The 2016 growing season on Pantelleria saw moderate temperatures but extraordinarily low rainfall, reducing the already miniscule yields for this sweet wine by 30 percent. The team at Donnafugata began harvesting zibibbo (muscat d’Alexandria) for Ben Ryé in mid-August, drying the clusters outdoors on straw mats; then they made a second pass in September, gathering grapes to crush for the base wine. By adding the dried clusters to the wine before fermentation, they avoid extracting any bitter flavors that alcohol might draw out, and preserve the zibibbo’s exotic scents.
Made from 100% dried Zibibbo grapes, this classic dessert wine offers intense aromas of mature apricot, chestnut honey and orange marmalade. The fresh, balanced palate doles out ripe fig, date, lemon jam, tangerine zest and a touch of bergamot that persist into the long lingering finish.
Lovely nectarine, apricot, mango and tangerine aromas. This is luscious and dense, with beautifully sweet and pure yellow and orange fruit. Honey and apricots all the way. What a treat.
The color of burnished brass, this vibrant dessert wine offers a tang of iodine, along with rich flavors of apricot preserves, dried mint and candied almond. Long and creamy, with a toffee-laced finish. Drink now through 2026.
In 1983, the experienced winegrowing couple Giacomo and Gabriella Rallo decided to invest in a new Sicilian project that they called “Donnafugata.” Their vision was to create a contemporary winegrowing operation based around three sites in western Sicily and to produce a range of international and indigenous variety wines to showcase the potential of Sicily.
Today the estate is comprised of an historic family cellar in Marsala that dates back to 1851, a 667-acre estate at Contessa Entellina planted to a diverse range of grapes, and a third cellar on the volcanic island of Pantelleria, where Donnafugata cultivates 168 acres of Zibibbo vineyards. The company employs state-of-the-art, sustainable viticulture techniques at all three estates for wines of the highest quality.
At Donnafugata, stewardship of the environment is taken as seriously as the production of wine. The winery was one of the first wineries in Italy to produce all of its electricity from solar energy, taking advantage of the bountiful Sicilian sunshine, and in 2015 the island of Pantelleria was given UNESCO certification recognizing its unique vine training method.
The name Donnafugata refers to the novel by Tomasi di Lampedusa entitled Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). A name that means “donna in fuga” (woman in flight) and refers to the story of a queen who found refuge in the part of Sicily where the company’s vineyards are located today.
A large, geographically and climatically diverse island, just off the toe of Italy, Sicily has long been recognized for its fortified Marsala wines. But it is also a wonderful source of diverse, high quality red and white wines. Steadily increasing in popularity over the past few decades, Italy’s fourth largest wine-producing region is finally receiving the accolades it deserves and shining in today's global market.
Though most think of the climate here as simply hot and dry, variations on this sun-drenched island range from cool Mediterranean along the coastlines to more extreme in its inland zones. Of particular note are the various microclimates of Europe's largest volcano, Mount Etna, where vineyards grow on drastically steep hillsides and varying aspects to the Ionian Sea. The more noteworthy red and white Sicilian wines that come from the volcanic soils of Mount Etna include Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio (reds) and Carricante (whites). All share a racy streak of minerality and, at their best, bear resemblance to their respective red and white Burgundies.
Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted red variety, and is great either as single varietal bottling or in blends with other indigenous varieties or even with international ones. For example, Nero d'Avola is blended with the lighter and floral, Frappato grape, to create the elegant, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, one of the more traditional and respected Sicilian wines of the island.
Grillo and Inzolia, the grapes of Marsala, are also used to produce aromatic, crisp dry Sicilian white. Pantelleria, a subtropical island belonging to the province of Sicily, specializes in Moscato di Pantelleria, made from the variety locally known as Zibibbo.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.