The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2015

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Page 131 of 136

november 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  131 For Tóth, whose energy and passion are matched by a stern intelligence, the winery at Mamertino is the culmination of Planeta's ongoing efforts to produce wine that is uniquely Sicilian, reflective of its long and culturally diverse history and its distinct terroirs. The company motto at Planeta is "For each terroir, its own winery," and it is quite telling of the efforts that 49-year-old Alessio Planeta has made to take the company in a bold new direction since forming it in 1995 with his cousin Francesca and brother Santi as an offshoot of Settesoli, the bulk wine company started by Francesca's father, Diego Planeta. As Alessio puts it, "There are many different Sicilys, in the weather, in the landscape, in the architecture, in the culture." Each of Planeta's six wineries aims to be a reflection of the local terroir, in all of these aspects. Since Planeta's highly-rated Chardonnay from their Sambuca property put the company on the map in 2000, the three partners have worked to foster connections to Sicily's microclimates and traditions. They strive for this at all their properties, but it is currently most evident in Vittoria, where the family worked alongside other producers to establish the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG in 2005, and on Mount Etna. On the active volcano, Planeta's winery, built in 2012 in Feudo di Mezzo, stands amidst lava deposits from a 16th-century eruption. A centuries-old Palmento, a traditional Sicilian structure used to make wine, has been converted into a beautiful tasting room where guests can sample the Etna Bianco, Etna Rosso, traditional method sparkling Carricante and the two Eruzione wines from their Schiara Nuova vineyards located at 850 meters above sea level, outside the area of DOC Etna. But while these properties, as well as the Nero d'Avola–focused estate in the Val de Noto, are each unique sources of pride for Planeta, it is the nascent project in the Capo Milazzo that has both Alessio Planeta and Patricia Tóth brimming with excitement.* "In the '90s, some producers went around the world talking about Sicily," recalls Alessio. "People knew Marsala, but that was it. So the group had to talk about brands first. The next step was to talk about varieties," he says, referring to efforts to promote native Sicilian grapes like Nerello Mascalese, Nero d'Avola, Carricante and Frappato. "And the next step will be talking about terroir." The Mamertino vineyards are dry-farmed, as the region has a higher amount of rainfall than other parts of Sicily, and hand-harvested. The 2014 blend of 70 percent Nero d'Avola and 30 percent Nocera, which is a fruity variety with very large berries, ferments in stainless-steel tanks and then sees about eight months in neutral oak. The wine has a fresh bouquet with red fruit notes, a medium body with soft tannins and is a perfect accompaniment to light foods like pasta. Its gentleness is countered by a stroke of rusticity, emblematic of Mamertino's untamed landscape, and in the bottle, one can sense the potential of unexplored land to become a kind of Sicilian wine that is new and innova- tive, but also deferential to traditions, to what lies in the soil. *The new Capo Milazzo wines are not yet available in the U.S. Stay tuned to these pages for future availability through Planeta's importer, Palm Bay International. —Ed. Planeta's winery on Mount Etna, built in 2012 in Feudo di Mezzo, stands amidst lava deposits from a 16th-century eruption. Planeta's winery in Capo Milazzo rests on a plateau overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Nero d'Avola–focused estate in the Val de Noto is a unique source of pride for Planeta due to its ability to promote native Sicilian grapes.

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