The SOMM Journal

August / September 2018

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Page 54 of 124

{ variety viewpoint } { variety viewpoint } 54 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 THOUGH THIS IS merely an introduction to Sicilian winery Planeta's masterful Nero d'Avola wines, I've done my best to address the great diversity of styles produced from the island's signature grape. Commonly known as a big, bold, tannic wine balanced by plentiful acidity, Nero d'Avola—Sicily's most-planted red grape—reveals its elegance and natural ability to express terroir when thought - fully cultivated in specific areas. The world started to take this spunky grape seriously—or at least noticed the Sicilian winemakers who were taking it seriously—in the 1990s. Years later, in 2005, the establishment of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG further legitimized its eminence. Beginning with the 2016 vintage, Nero d'Avola will be classified under either a DOC or DOCG appellation. Planeta has long been committed to maintaining a high standard for Nero d'Avola. A family estate with generations of agricultural experience, it collabo - rates with other likeminded producers, as well as Sicily's regional organizations, to constantly push the overall quality of the island's wines. Its six boutique wineries are located in five diverse territories across the island, four of which produce a unique representation of Nero d'Avola. The fifth, Etna, is famed for its elegant, high-altitude wines crafted from indigenous varieties grown in volcanic soils. While Planeta is among the most prominent in a small group of Sicilian produc - ers that have worked to elevate Nero d'Avola's status, its scope doesn't account for its reputation: This can instead be attributed to the incredible quality and specificity of its wines, which is achieved due not only to the work of a commit- ted team of agronomists and enologists, but to the land itself. A rich diversity of terroir has resulted in a delightful variation in styles, and as a native Californian, I can certainly appreciate the need for diversity. While my home state's sunny weather is enviable, there's a reason we retreat to the mountains: seasonality. Fortunately for us, Planeta's size and foresight has enabled them to provide four considerably different expressions of Nero d'Avola that reflect their territories or respective DOC/DOCGs. They can also loosely correspond to a time of year, as this concept of seasonal - ity perfectly frames the character of each distinctive expression and its territory. Read on for descriptions of these wines and their seasonal style: The Four Seasons EXPLORING PLANETA'S DISTINCT EXPRESSIONS OF NERO D'AVOLA by Izzy Watson FALL: MENFI DOC Appellation: Sicilia DOC Wineries: Ulmo and Dispensa Wine: Planeta La Segreta Nero d'Avola We start where Planeta's journey with Nero d'Avola began: In the mid-1980s, Planeta planted on 59 hect - ares of land to establish the Ulmo vineyard, which surrounds a 16th- century farmhouse. Ten years later, the Ulmo winery was built on the banks of Lake Arancio, officially putting Planeta on the map. Lake Arancio was once a river that traversed the val - ley within the Menfi territory, depositing pebbles and other riverbed silt like the down-reaching calcareous-clay that remains today. The result is an autum - nal Nero d'Avola expressing notes of plum, chocolate, and mint with a succulent and lively character. The Menfi territory makes up the lion's share of Planeta's vineyard hold - ings. Planted on more than 250 hect- ares, it is also home to the 160-hectare Dispensa estate a bit higher up in the Menfi hills. The vineyards feature soils that are perhaps chalkier than Ulmo and less gravely; together, these sites produce La Segreta Il Rosso, a blend of 50% Nero d'Avola, 25% Merlot, 20% Syrah, and 5% Cabernet Franc.

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