Springtime is a glorious season in Sicily, filled with wildflowers, orange blossoms, the bounty of olive and almond groves, colorful street festivals, and ancient architecture set against sun-drenched hills. Since travel to Italy is still problematic, though, you can always experience the region through its wine. There’s been a revolution in recent years at the very tip of the boot, and the best producers provide an interesting mix of tradition and innovation.
In many ways, the Planeta winery represents the essence of that revolution. Since planting their first vines in 1985, they have established six wine estates across Sicily, constructed in harmony with the surrounding countryside and dedicated to the unique terroir of each area. La Segreta Il Bianco is a blend of 50 percent Grecanico, 30 percent Chardonnay, 10 percent Viognier, and 10 percent Fiano, sourced from the Ulmo vineyard on their Menfi estate. The nose of the 2020 ($16) is fresh yet earthy, filled with aromas of wild herbs and tart citrus. That earthiness carries over onto the palate, along with mouthwatering acidity that amplifies mineral-inflected flavors of stone fruits. This would be a dream with antipasti and pasta dishes with a light or seafood sauce.
Founded in 1983 by Giacomo and Gabriella Rallo, Donnafugata has been equally important in transforming the wine landscape of Sicily. Today the couple operates three sustainable estates powered totally by solar energy, including one on the island of Pantelleria in the Strait of Sicily, where they cultivate 168 acres of the Zibbibo grape (also known as Muscat of Alexandria) on head-trained bush vines. Their 2020 Lighea ($24), composed of 100% Zibbibo, has an exotic nose with whiffs of jasmine, honeysuckle, and tropical fruit. Medium-bodied and dry in the mouth, with a richer texture that the nose would lead you to expect, it qualifies as the perfect aperitivo for a hot summer’s day.
Like Zibibbo, the Grillo grape variety is not exactly a household word. Primarily known for producing Sicily’s fortified Marsala, it is now being used to make white table wine as well. The 2020 Helios Grillo ($27) is the flagship white of the fifth-generation Di Giovanna estate. A fragrant nose with hints of apricots and peaches is followed by a complex, richly textured wine with flavors of citrus, pear, and white pepper amplified by good acidity. It would pair well with everything from seafood to poultry, veal, or pork.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the Devil, has been re-released on Amazon in print, e-book and audio book formats. Has America’s greatest chef cut a deal with Satan for fame and fortune?