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Planeta Santa Cecilia 2014
A wine that has no fear of the riskiest pairings such as pork marinated with chili pepper or fish dishes.
“It is a new way of thinking about the journey through Sicily; after Menfi, Vittoria, then Noto, then Etna, then Milazzo. Not a random route, but one strongly linked to the variety of countryside, to the winds, to the character of the people and thus of their wine…” –Diego Planeta
Planeta encompasses six distinct wine estates across Sicily, each one inspired and constructed in harmony with its surroundings and dedicated to its terroir.
For five centuries and seventeen generations, the Planeta family has been involved in the Sicilian agricultural sector. Their work on the island has contributed to the revitalization of Sicilian winemaking, now one of the most dynamic and sought-after viticultural regions in the world. Planeta’s journey begins at Sambuca di Sicilia, on the estate owned by the family since the 1600s. Here on Italy's most enchanting island, three enthusiastic young Sicilians, Alessio, Francesca and Santi Planeta, under the guidance of Diego Planeta, began their winemaking venture in the mid-1980s. Subsequent years were spent matching the extraordinarily diverse Sicilian soils with both indigenous and international varieties. Years of careful research paid off when the Planeta wines were met with immediate critical acclaim upon introduction in the U.S. in the late 1990s.
Planeta’s six boutique wineries include: Ulmo at Sambuca di Sicilia, Dispensa at Menfi, Dorilli at Vittoria, Buonivini at Noto, Sciara Nuova on Etna at Castiglione di Sicilia, and the newest addition, La Baronia at Capo Milazzo. Each vineyard site is carefully cultivated with grapes that best compliment the local terroir.
Santi, daughter of Diego Planeta, leads the international marketing and sales component of the wineries. Alessio, the head winemaker and viticulturist since 1996, has been instrumental in identifying the best grape varieties for the diverse Sicilian soils. Santi leads as head of sales for the European market and spearheads the marketing initiatives for the wineries. Alessio, Francesca and Santi Planeta established the company and their comprehensive winemaking approach, but the whole family is with them, rooted in Sicilian agriculture for generations. They are a family and a company of ambitious aims, following strict principles of quality, a rigorous respect for the environment and social responsibility.
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.