An hour and a half drive in the coach, culminating in the road ending at a river! Some people like to come on the first tour of the season so they get the full adventure experience! However, David, our driver did some expert reversing and we arrived safely at Planeta, or rather at its original winery on the shores of Lake Arancio, near Menfi.
We were greeted by Debra, who immediately took us on a walk through some of the original vineyards, and told us the story of this innovative company. Diego Planeta planted vines here in 1985, and effectively put Sicily on the map when his Chardonnay won various ‘Chardonnay di Munde’ awards about ten years later. In the interim period the Planeta family experimented with dozens of mainstream and indigenous grape varieties, and subsequently expanded production by acquiring vineyards and establishing wineries across Sicily.
Planeta now has a fabulous array of wines, and after a tour of the winery we tasted six of them – representing the areas they now make wine in.
La Segreta Bianco (a blend of Grecanico, Chardonnay, Viognier and Fiano) costs €7, and is produced at large scale at the Menfi winery, but I found it to be seriously lovely – mineral nose, fresh and herby and a distinct Viognier character.
Etna Bianco, by comparison was bigger, with a creamier mouthfeel – perfect to accompany arancini! This wine, made from 100% Carricante grown at Mount Etna, also goes into their Traditional Method sparkling wine, which we very much enjoyed before lunch.
The Planeta Chardonnay, blended from grapes grown in the original vineyard and from one planted (also in Menfi) in 2001 at higher altitude, ‘represents Planeta’. We were tasting the 2015, which is no longer available for retail, and had stood among the French oak barrels the 2016 harvest was gradually leaving for the bottling line. 10 months in oak lent a lovely mouthfeel, but the acidity was still fantastic and I agreed that this wine could age for a long time.
The Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a blend of 60% Nero D’Avola and 40% Frappato. A lovely fresh wine, great balance of fruit and soft tannin, drinking beautifully now – and from the only DOCG in Sicily! A real contrast to more famous DOCG wines that are far less approachable when young, or affordable ever. This cost €10.50!
A 100% Nocera from Capo Milazzo, on Sicily’s northernmost tip, had herby coffee notes alongside the red brambly fruit and has the potential to age.
Finally the Santa Sicily, from the DOC Noto (the most southern wine growing area, on almost pure limestone). 100% Nero d’Avola, 13 months in French oak, and definitely my favourite – a lovely elegant nose, rich and complex on the palate, with great tannins and loads of potential.
Towards the end of the tasting we were joined by Chiara Planeta, who welcomed us again and talked about the next big innovations for Planeta – Riesling, varietal olive oil, and some rather fab sounding accommodation!
It was a shame that we couldn’t visit all five of the areas where these fantastic wines were grown (though we were very much encouraged to next time!). The contrast between them is partly demonstrated by the samples of earth from the vineyards on display:
Chiara felt we had been such good winetasters that we were allowed a further treat: a glass of their fizz before lunch in their very elegant dining room (previously the horse barn). Much enjoyed with some nibbles – I may write a whole blog about anchovies!
Starter was an aubergine, tomato and provolone pasta dish (definitely some anchovies in there), which we drank the Plumbago 2015 – 100% Nero d’Avola grown, with a Menfi DOC, softened by 8 months in French oak. Main was pork rolled with tomatoes and served with a delicious green salad and green beans and potatoes. We drank the 100% Syrah Maroccoli 2011 vintage. Just an IGT Sicilia, but a very lovely wine, benefitting from 14 months in wood, and a fantastic vintage – the next will be marketed as single vineyard wine. Chiara talked a bit more about the estate and its history and we relaxed over a pudding of fresh strawberries and coffee and pastries.
The drive back seemed shorter for some reason, and Tim and I had enough energy to stroll out into Marsala, keeping to the pretty centre with its ancient fortifications. We had tapas at a great bar, Magazzina, which I’m sure will be a hangout for the next tour group, and then the long-awaited Italian ice cream on the way back to the hotel.