Posts tagged ‘dorilli’

Best Italian Red Wines of the Year – Part Three

Here is my final post on the Best Italian Wines from the past year; this is the third entry on red wines. Again, this is a partial list, see the end of this post for more information on all of my selections.

2008 Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore - The gorgeous wine zone of Bolgheri, located in Tuscan province of Livorno, just a few kilometers from the Tyrrhenian Sea is the home of some of Italy’s most renowned estates. Most Italian wine lovers know two of these companies, namely Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Tenuta San Guido, the latter firm being the one that produces Sassicaia. But in reality, there is a third producer here that ranks the equal of those two; the winery is Grattamacco. Established in 1977 and currently owned by Claudio Tipa, Grattamacco is a spectacularly beautiful estate where the vineyards seem to go on forever. Like most companies in Bolgheri, the top red wine here is made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon (65% in this wine), while Merlot makes up 20% and Sangiovese 15% of the blend. The 2008 is a brilliant wine with incredible depth of fruit, seductive aromas of black cherry, black currant, tar, licorice and black raspberry and an extremely long finish with beautifully silky, polished tannins. The acidity is remarkable as it cleanses the mouth (this is a astonishingly clean wine for being so powerful), and provides amazing freshness. There is outstanding persistence and the balance is impeccable while the complexity is superior. I have loved this Bolgheri Superiore, the top wine of the estate for years and I believe this is the finest offering of Grattamacco since the great 1999 bottling! A truly spectacular wine and a candidate for the Best Italian Wine of the Year. This is seductive now, but it will only improve with time and should be at its peak in 20-25 years. $85

2006 Sestadisopra Brunello di Montalcino - I have listed the Brunello from this traditional producer at or near the top of my rankings virtually every year since 2001. This is a lovely wine with beautiful red cherry, strawberry and cedar aromas backed by a rich mid-palate and an ideally structured finish with excellent persistence and fine acidity. Aged solely in big casks, this is a great expression of terrior in the small Sesta zone of Montalcino. This should be at its peak in 20 years and will probably drink well for a few years after that. $75

2006 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino – Another great traditional Brunello producer and one of my favorite Italian wines, period. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci manages to craft a superb Brunello each vintage by largely staying out of the way, as the fruit from the estate vineyards is so wonderful; Bindocci treats this fruit with kid gloves, aging it in large casks (grandi botti), allowing the varietal purity to shine through. This should be at is best in 20-25 years. $80

2006 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino - Here is another ultra consistent Brunello producer at the top of their game. Proprietor Andrea Cortonesi always crafts an elegant Brunello, even in a year such as 2006 that resulted in beautifully structured wines. The aromas feature notes of wild strawberry, red cherry, thyme and cedar; the tannins are polished and the acidity is finely tuned. This should be at its best in 15-20 years.  $70

2007 Donnachiara Taurasi – Taurasi is arguably the finest Italian red that few know much about. Made primarily from the Aglianico grape in a zone near the eponymous town in Campania, Taurasi combines ripe cherry fruit with hints of bitter chocolate along with firm tannins and healthy acidity to result in a complex wine that is one of Italy’s longest lived; 40 year old versions that drink well are not uncommon. This version from a producer that should also be better known is not the biggest Taurasi from 2007, but it is an excellent example that has all the characteristics one looks for in a Taurasi. Medium-full with appealing varietal fruit, this has polished tannins and good acidity. Like most examples of 2007 Taurasi, this is forward and somewhat approachable now, but will improve with time and should peak in about 10 years. $40 (which is very reasonably priced for a Taurasi).

2007 Mastroberardino Taurasi “Radici” - Mastroberardino has been the family that has been one of the flag bearers for Taurasi over the past 100 years. They have produced some of the best bottlings in the last six decades; the famous 1968 bottling is still in fine shape, almost 45 years after the vintage. While the winemaking has changed over the years – today’s versions are aged in small and large barrels as opposed to only small barrels of years past – the quality has not. Deeply concentrated with elegant tannins and good acidity, this is a rich, quite complex Taurasi that is a very good expression of local terroir. This needs time to round out and will be at its best in 12-15 years.  $50

2009 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico “Dorilli” – Planeta, one of Sicily’s most influential producers never ceases to amaze. Excellent whites and reds, from Fiano and Chardonnay to Syrah and Nero d’Avola, are turned out on a seemingly routine basis. The latest success from this winery is this new bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the chamring Nero d’Avola/Frappato blend. The regular bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Planeta is very good, with its lovely freshness and tasty fruit, but with this Dorilli bottling (named for a local river), there is an added layer of complexity and elegance. A blend of 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Frappato, this has beautiful aromas of black cherry, plum and violets with a lengthy, elegant finish with very good acidity. This is so delicious now and will drink well over the next 5-7 years. $20

2008 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d’Avola “Siccogno” - The effervescent Arianna Occhipinti is the niece of Giusto Occhipinti, co-owner of the famed COS estate in Vittoria. The younger Occhipinti produces several wines that are of similar caliber to her uncle; this was may favorite from last year. Medium-full, with inviting aromas of strawberry, red currant and mulberry, this is a complex Nero d’Avola with plenty of punch in the finish, yet maintains its elegance and finesse throughout. This is an outstanding example of Nero d’Avola; it should be at its best in 7-10 years. $35


This completes my posts on the Best Italian Wines of 2011. Given the space limitations of a blog, these have been partial lists. The complete lists of my Best Italian Wines of the Year will be in the Spring 2012 issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. To purchase this issue for $10 or to subscribe ($30 for four quarterly issues), please email me at

February 3, 2012 at 9:08 am 2 comments

Planeta – Top 100

Alessio Planeta (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

My inclusion of Planeta as one of the top 100 wine producers of Italy is not based merely on the consistent level of quality found in their wines; that factor alone would be enough to merit this ranking. No, it’s more than that, as the Planeta family has maintained this high quality level across a wide range and style of wines, from the indigenous varieties (such as Nero d’Avola, Frappato and Carricante) to that of international ones (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah). Even more impressive is the fact that they produce these wines at six separate estates in Sicily, spanning the width and breadth of this remarkable island.

Planeta was established in 1995 by three members of the family: Alessio, Santi and Francesca, who initiated their project with an estate near Sambuca in western Sicily. This was followed by an estate near Menfi and later one near Noto in the southeastern reaches of the island. The newest plantings of Planeta were undertaken in 2008 at their holdings in the Etna district.

All of this expansion has taken place with a goal of learning what the true viticultural identity of Sicily is; from the rich, ripe Nero d’Avola planted near Menfi as well as Noto to the delicate Frappato, planted at their Dorilli estate near Vittoria (a bit north and west of Noto), the Planeta family has been discovering how the various microclimates and terroirs in Sicily make for ideal conditions for particular varieties.

An excellent example of how Planeta has been refining their quality can be seen with the Santa Cecilia wine, the firm’s top bottling of Nero d’Avola. First produced from the 1997 vintage, the initial bottlings were made from fruit from the Sambuca property, but when research showed that the Nero d’Avola variety would perform better when planted near Noto, a cooler zone than Sambuca, the shift was made, as the Santa Cecilia wine was produced exclusively with Noto grapes beginning with the 2003 vintage. Today the wine is one of Sicily’s finest expressions of Nero d’Avola in purezza, with excellent depth of fruit and structure. (To read about a vertical tasting of this wine I participated in back in 2009, read here.)

Another first-rate red from Planeta – albeit in a very different manner than the Santa Cecilia – is their Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Thiis is the only DOCG wine from Sicily and is made from a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato. While the former variety provides deep color and richness on the palate, Frappato has a more delicate color with fresh berry flavors and very light tannins. This is a charming red, one that can be enjoyed upon release and even chilled for a bit, as the tannins are quite light. Planeta now produces a second bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria; this from the classico section of the wine zone, is labeled Dorilli, named for a nearby river. The 2009 version of this wine is a lovely example of how seductive and sensual a wine this is; medium-full with ripe bing cherry and plum fruit with a lengthy, beautifully balanced finish, this displays outstanding complexity and is a wine that charms you from its initial perfumes to the final taste in the mouth. As consumers look to branch out into new wine discoveries over the next few years, I believe that Cerasuolo di Vittoria will be a popular choice, with the Dorilli one of the leading examples of this type.

As remarkable as the red wines are at Planeta, the white wines are just as notable – and how many Sicilian estate can you say that about? There are three very special whites from Planeta, the most famous being the Chardonnay, which was first produced from the 1994 vintage. Its baked apple and oak aromas along with its intensity grabbed the attention of many wine critics around the world, who proclaimed it as “Italy’s finest Chardonnay.” Today the wine is still an attention-grabber, but I think that recent vintages have been even better than those from the first few years, as today, the oak is less dominant, resulting in a better-balanced wine with more emphasis on fruit and overall structure.

The second white is Carricante, made from the grape of the same name, grown at the winery’s estate in the Etna district. Unoaked, this has pear and almond aromas, good richness on the palate, very good acidity and a finish with a light minerality (this clearly a by-product of the volcanic soils). Carricante, by the way, is loosely translated as “consistent” and after only two releases of this particular wine (2009 and 2010), Planeta’s versions of this wine clearly fit this adjective.

But for me, the truly outstanding white from Planeta is Cometa, a 100% Fiano. While Fiano is best-known as a variety from the Campania region of southern Italy, a few producers in Sicily also work with this grape. Clearly, no one in Sicily comes close to this version, a white with a lovely array of aromas ranging from pineapple to pear to chamomile; these aromas are quite intense and deeply developed, as the wine is aged only in stainless steel tanks. Quite rich on the palate, this is a white with amazing complexity, one that offers superb varietal character as well as layers of fruit and a lengthy finish, again with a distinct minerality. The 2009 is a particularly outstanding version of this wine; drink it tonight or set it aside for another 3-5 years and enjoy it with an array of foods, from grilled shrimp to sea bass to chicken breast.

So while quality is perhaps the most important factor for listing Planeta among the Top 100 wine producers in Italy, it’s the way that the family goes about their business – seeking out new estates and optimizing on local terroirs – that truly makes Planeta special.

P.S. While some of my Top 100 wine producers are quite small, which makes it difficult to find their wines in many markets, Planeta is a medium-large producer, whose wines can be found without too much difficulty.

P.P.S. Planeta also has one of the finest winery websites found anywhere. The site, in both Italian and English, has detailed information on all the winery estates as well as the wines. It also has some of the most complete information you can find about pairing individual wines with specific foods – Sicilian or otherwise.

December 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm 1 comment

tom hyland

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