A review of several wines from Sicily including Planeta, Cottanera, Tenuta Rapitala, and Morgante.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers February 24, 2010
Sicily has a long history of winemaking, mostly from indigenous grapes like Nero d’Avola and Grillo. The island’s complex geology, a combination of volcanic and African soil types, has led many producers to make wine from better known “international” varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. The results of both approaches have shown steady improvement.
Planeta Winery has four distinct facilities, with a fifth underway. Each location has its own microclimate and vineyards planted to include both indigenous and international varieties. The Planeta Chardonnay 2007 ($30) is an example of the success Sicilian winemakers have had with non-native white grapes. Lush apple and tropical fruit flavors with floral aromas and a bright profile make this an excellent place to start trying Sicilian wines. Also good is the value-priced Planeta La Segreta White 2008 ($15), a blend of Grecanico, Chardonnay, Viognier and Fiano that has lime and apple notes with nicely balanced acidity. Created from two different vineyards with completely different soil profiles that reflect the divergent Sicilian geology, the Planeta Syrah 2006 ($35) is rich, spicy and smooth with flavors of currants, blackberries, anise and cinnamon. Less costly but still tasty is the Planeta La Segreta Red 2008 ($15), a blend of Nero d’Avola, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc with soft dark cherry and red berry notes.
The Cottanera Winery is situated on the northern aspect of Mount Etna where volcanic soils and wide daily temperature variations provide a unique growing environment. The Cottanera Barbazzale Rosso 2007 ($16) is a blend made mostly with Nerello Mascalese that has fruity raspberry, blueberry and cherry notes. The 100 percent Merlot Cottanera Grammonte 2006 ($35) is more concentrated, with deep black cherry, plum and red fruit flavors and hints of minerals and vanilla, especially in the long finish. More elegant is Cottanera Etna Rosso ($50), created from 90 percent Nerrello Mascalese and 10 percent Nerello Cappuccio; its floral aromas lead into rich cherry, chocolate, licorice and deep red berry notes.
Tenuta Rapitala was a labor of love for the Comte de la Galinais and his wife Gigi who reconstructed the property from a cellar destroyed by an earthquake in the 1960s. The property, now run by their son Laurent, features many fine, value priced wines. The floral Rapitala Piano Maltese 2008 ($12) is a blend of Grillo and Catarratto with melon, peach, vanilla and honey notes. Rapitala Catarratto-Chardonnay Casalj 2008 ($16) is apple, lemon and honey flavored. The anise and smoke-scented Rapitala Hugonis 2006 ($40) is a full-bodied 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Nero d’Avola with big currant, olive and smoked dark cherry flavors along with a touch of mint and tobacco at the end. The equally delicious Rapitala Solinero Syrah 2005 ($44) has spicy black cherry, blackberry, smoked meat and blueberries in a well-balanced frame.
The wines made by the Morgante Winery have more of the earthiness long associated with Sicilian wines. Its flagship Morgante Nero d’Avola Don Antonio 2005 ($43) is an excellent example of this varietal; it has cherry and leather aromas followed by intense blackberry, licorice and earthy black cherry flavors. A terrific value is the non-reserve, Morgante Nero d’Avola 2007 ($18), a fruit-forward delight with rich earthy blackberry and plum notes.