Donnafugata Mille e una Notte 2005
In the Italian language, Donnafugata means "fleeing woman". The story goes that in the late 19th century the Queen Maria Carolina after her flight from the court of Naples took refuge in the heart of Belice Valley in Sicily. This event inspired the image of the head of a woman, her hair tossed about by the wind and the Estate name.
Donnafugata grew out of the commitment of a family in Sicily that has always believed in the extraordinary enological potential of its land and has 150 years of experience in producing premium wines. Convinced that it is always necessary to be open to change in order to grow and improve, Giacomo Rallo and his wife, Gabriella, launched a new production project in 1983: Donnafugata. Their adventure took wing from the family’s historic cellars in Marsala and the vineyards at Contessa Entellina in the heart of western Sicily and soared as far as the island of Pantelleria.
Their children, José and Antonio, joined them and the house accelerated its march along the path of Extreme Quality: a project that focused on attention to detail, which clears the way for entrepreneurial decisions that ever more advanced objectives. As for the future, the young Gabriella and Ferdinando are already being "fully immersed" in the family’s activities.
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 the 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 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 varieites 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 wines of the island.
Grillo and Inzolia, the grapes of Marsala, are also used to produce aromatic, crisp dry whites. Pantelleria, a subtropical island belonging to the province of Sicily, specializes in Moscato di Pantelleria, made from the variety locally known as Zibibbo.
Opulent with bold fruit and robust tannins, Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most widely planted red grape, though the variety's other name, Calabrese, suggests origins from the mainland region of Calabria. Popular throughout Sicily and prized for its body, color and deep cherry fruit, Nero d’Avola performs well both as a single varietal bottling and in blends. It loves hot, arid climates and Sicily's old vines are aptly head-trained close to the ground, making them resistant to strong winds. A few pioneering producers in California as well as Australia farm Nero d’Avola in the same way.
In the Glass
A couple of styles of Nero d’Avola are possible. The first is typically a powerful, opulent, dark fruit driven style with notes of coffee or cocoa from aging in wood. A second style offers up a snappier version with red cherry fruit and herbal notes, having seen little to no oak during aging.
Nero d’Avola’s black fruit and spicy flavors are perfect with rich flavors like grilled meat or stews, but can also be a great compliment to burgers, pizza or pasta.
If you love big, bold wines like Napa Cabernet and Châteauneuf-du-Pape but want to stick to a budget, look no further than Nero d’Avola for a worthy substitute. Even the best examples often run under $20.