Having had success with French varietals, Sicily-based winemaker, Alessio Planeta, is revisiting the island’s vino past by focusing on native grapes and even reviving Julius Caesar’s favourite quaff.
Whenever Alessio Planeta, winemaker and co-founder of Sicily-based Planeta winery, introduces a newcomer to Sicilian vino, he will pick a Chardonnay from his portfolio, and not the indigenous Nero d’Avola. But Alessio says there is a reason behind his choice. “People recognise Chardonnay’s taste, so it’s easier to make a comparison,” he explains. “When you understand what our Chardonnay tastes like—it’s richer and zestier because of our hotter climate—you’d get an idea of Sicilian wines, and you’d be interested to try our native grapes.”
Planting French grapes on Sicilian soil was how the bespectacled 44-year-old first began his winemaking career. In 1985, encouraged by the Italian wine industry’s shift from a being a bulk to premium wine producer country, Alessio, along with his brother, Santi, and cousin, Francesca, planted 50 hectares of vineyards in their five-century old family farm in Sambuca di Sicilia, an area in western Sicily. “We were the first [in Sicily] to introduce the French grapes and blend them with native varietals, such as Chardonnay with Grecanico,” he recalls.
Excerpt from the September issue of epicure.