Thursday, April 25, 2013

Marsala: the City of Wine in Sicily

Donnafugata leads the pack at Sicilia En Primeur 2013

MARSALA, ITALY--The name Marsala is almost synonymous with Sicily.  It's original incarnation as a honey-sweet, sun-dried oxidated wine dates back to the ancient Romans and Phoenicians that originally inhabited rustic land of rolling hills, limestone and clay soil and heady winds, called Sirocco.

Mediterranean climate cycles, characterized by warm days and cool nights favored the growth of a variety of grapes, from the native Grillo and Nero d'Avola to more international grapes, such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauignon. Donnafugata wines represent the full range of grapes and quality wines developed from their various vineyards throughout Marsala.

SurSur Grillo Sicilia DOP 2012 is a fresh, fruity light white wine that is it's flagship entry to this year's market of young wine drinkers, who favor lighter cuisine and exotic international fare. It's crisp, cirtus fruit notes, aroma of white flowers with a light note of gentle field herbs, such as wild fennel and rosemary, make it a perfect match with light cheese, grilled eggplant or pasta primavera.

Donnafugata Brut Metodo Classico is the latest entry in the Donnafugata portfolio, guaranteed to create a stir in the marketplace with its bright fruit flavor and elegant finish. Guaranteed to enliven a spring garden party or special occasion, it is a blend of Chardonnay and Pnot Noir, fermented in the bottle. It has a fragrant nose that is redolent of the wild spring flowers that grow everywhere in the vineyards of Donnafugata. With its fine, persistent bubbles and fresh minerality so typical of the soil in this Mediterranean paradise. Served chilled as an aperitif, or with fresh oysters, shrimp or local fish or a simple bruschetta brushed with olive oil and fresh basil and sweet cherry tomatoes, this is a wine sure to please.

A tasting of the of the wineries offerings dating from 1999 to the present new releases revealed a rainbow of luscious flavors, reflecting the excellent care and innovation of the winemaker.

Bianco-Chiaranda Contessa Entellina DOP 2009 is an excellent expression of the Chardonnay graoe. A wine with a strong personality and a great deal of elegance, it has the floral perfume associated with mature, ripe fruit with a firm acidity and structure. Sicilian cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh vegetables, mushrooms, and delicious, slow-cooked meats and a variety of pastas, risottos and cous cous and fresh, local cheese are the wide range of foods that bring out the best in this straw-colored beauty.

Kabir Bianco Naturale Dolce Moscato di Panterlleria DOP 2011 is made from the indiginous Zibibbo grape, otherwise known as Moscato d'Alessandria. The grapes are harvested in late September and fermented at very cool, controlled temperatures. This is a versatile wine that is my personal favorite, because it goes with so many dishes, both native to Sicily and other international cuisines, or, served well-chilled, as a perfect refreshment for drinking poolside or on the patio.

Mille e una notte 2007 is the perfect Nero d'Avola, the red crown prince grape of Sicily. This is a very noble wine that belies the true art of the winemaker. With its lush flavors of red and black fruit, layers of tobacco and smoke and slight hints of black pepper and dark chocolate, this is a perfect wine for red sauced pastas, grilled meats and pungent cheeses and aged salumi.  Serve slightly chilled for maximum effect.

Ben Rye' from Donnafugata is liquid gold! Again, a positively stunning expression of the local Zibibbo/Moscsto d'Alessandria grape, it is Sicily and Marsala's gift to the wine-loving world! Rich and mature, it is made from grapes that have been hand-harvested and then dried to honey-raisin ripeness. The concentrated syrup is then vinified and turned into an intense, perfume-laden wine that exudes finesse. Ben Rye' is the grand finale to a great meal, but it also is a terrific accompaniment to meats prepared with spicy sauces or ripe, blue-veined cheeses. Gorgonzola comes to mind. It can easily move into dessert mode with ricotta-based sweets or chocolates. Counting calories? Ben Rye' is the perfect stand-alone dessert drink. A second glass and you'll throw calorie cautions to the wind.

Coming next: The story of Donnafugata: The "lady fugitive, the territory and the wine!

 Donnafugata owner Jose Rallo
 Views of the vineyards and magnificent estate

 wildflowers and sheep abound in the massive vineyards

 limestone and clay soils and hearty olive trees add richness to the landscape and the vine
 wildflowers abound!

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