Donnafugata Ben Rye (375ML half-bottle) 2018
It matches with caramelized duck, foie gras and blue cheeses. It goes well with pastries and gourmet chocolate like gianduja. Extraordinary alone, as a meditation wine.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
So much dried apricot with tangerines, cocoa, sultanas and hints of salted peanuts. Some smoke and tarte tatin, too. Full-bodied with a very sweet palate that’s like Seville-orange marmalade. Vibrant finish. Complex.
The Donnafugata 2018 Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé shows that distinctive polished copper color that if you are a Ben Ryé fan like me, you will recognize a mile away. In fact, this celebrated Zibibbo-based dessert wine from Pantelleria always stands out in a crowd. It is one of Italy's A-list dessert wines. Fruit from alberello pantesco vines planted in volcanic soils is left to dry under the hot island sun and pushed forward in the appassimento process, thanks to steady sea winds. The aromas are also specific to this wine with sweet honey, glazed almond, brown sugar and sun-dried fig. This particular vintage is a hair less fresh perhaps in terms of acidity, but it is very expressive to the senses and concentrated in terms of texture. The pricing you see here is for the 375-milliliter bottle, but I tasted the wine from a 750-milliliter bottle (and total production is 60,000 bottles).
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.