While I haven’t yet traveled to Sicily, I have extensively researched and tasted Sicilian wines over the last ten years. So when I was asked last summer to review some of the Baglio di Pianetto wines from Sicily on enotecaMarcella, I was amenable to the idea and certainly felt prepared to do so. After tasting the wines, I am certainly pleased at the opportunity to share them with you.†
The wines under the Baglio di Pianetto name of Sicily come from two distinct vineyard holdings, or Sicilian terroirs. One, in northern Sicily in Monreale near Palermo, is called Santa Cristina Gela and the other, named Baroni, sits about 175 miles to the southeast, on the southern coast of Sicily, near Noto. In “full respect for the identity of the territory,” Count Paolo Marzotto founded the winery, Baglio di Pianetto, in 1997. The winery cultivates different grapes from each unique property in order to express different facets of the Sicilian terroir. They have adhered to organic farming protocols since 2013.
While there is not a dedicated production facility at the Noto location, there is a space to complete the first stage of vinification. Monreale holds the main winery and is the site where all of the wines are ultimately made. The Monreale cellar, built into the hillside to facilitate natural thermal regulation, consists of four levels, which take advantage of the natural power of gravity flow for wine production. The winery reduces its carbon footprint further by using solar power and a water collection, recycling, and purification system.
Santa Cristina Gela
Located in the DOC Monreale near Palermo, the Santa Cristina Gela estate sits at 650m (2,150ft) a.s.l. At this relatively high elevation, the area sees large diurnal temperature shifts, as well as severe and rainy winters. The vineyard has gradients of 10-20%, and soils, known as Ficiligno, composed largely of clay and siliceous rock with friable substrates. The weather, steep slopes, and soil create an environment that taxes the vine in just right way, making it an optimal site for wine growing in this area. The total area is about 90 hectares, while about 60 are producing wine grapes; Insolia, Viognier, Catarratto, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot grow at Santa Cristina Gela.
The Baroni estate doesn’t sit at a high elevation—it is only at about 50m (165ft) a.s.l.—but instead what makes it special is its proximity just a couple of miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Situated close to the town of Noto in the province of Siracusa, the Baroni estate enjoys the warm daytime sun, which heats the earth. At night the heat is released and mitigates the effects of the cool sea breezes in the vineyard. There is little precipitation here and the land is fairly flat; soils are thin and full of limestone. Thirty nine of the 70 acres produce grapes; Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Syrah, and Moscato di Noto grow here.
As for the wines, Baglio di Pianetto produces wines in three lines of quality and price: B.D.P Y, The Origins, and Reserves, plus one Limited Edition wine called Ramotorto. I review six wines below, representing all three of the levels. One evening in late October I invited over a fellow oenophile friend—and trustworthy palate—to assist me in assessing the wines and so I could bounce my ideas and opinions off of her. We put together some antipasti and set out to tasting.
All in all the wines are full of character and accurately express the best of Sicily—fresh, fruity, mineral-driven whites, and reds ranging from simple and easy-drinking to earthy with well-developed black fruits and spices. While she and I might not have agreed on exactly which wines we liked better, we agreed about the high quality of the wines in general.
Ficiligno 2013. DOC Sicilia. Insolia and Viognier. Named for the soil upon which both grapes grow, this wine follows a complex path to completion involving three separate harvests (Viognier being the last harvest) and three separate fermentations (partially on skins for Viognier) of varying lengths (2-3 days and 40-60 days for the different cuvée of Insolia and 8 days for Viognier). The Insolia receives a partial indigenous yeast ferment at a controlled temperature. The three cuvées are married just prior to bottling. Astringent in the bouquet with saline, floral, starfruit, and pineapple essences. Fruity and tingly on the mid-palate with an incredibly refreshing finish, full of minerals and white peach flavors.★★☆
Insolia 2013. DOC Sicilia. Insolia 100%. A soft pressing and fermentation with selected yeasts follows a cold maceration. The wine rests in stainless steel for four months before bottling. On the nose: lemongrass, lemon peel, pink peppercorn, pineapple, white flowers, and crushed rocks. Super-fruity with some sweetness but balanced by a marked minerality.★
Nero d’Avola 2012. DOC Sicilia. Nero d’Avola 100%. Following a stainless steel maturation for a few months prior to bottling, the result is a simple but pleasant wine suitable for everyday consumption. Sweet and jammy aromas with straightforward blackberry and cola flavors. A touch of iron on the back end. Overall a clean and enjoyable expression of Nero d’Avola.★
Shymer 2011. IGT Terre Siciliane. Syrah from Noto and Merlot from Santa Cristina Gela. The Syrah is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel for 20-22 days with daily pump overs, while the Merlot follows a traditional fermentation sequence with punchdowns and racking when needed. Malolactic fermentation and aging takes place in French oak, a mix of new, second, and third passage. This blend expresses well-integrated aromas of raspberry, cherry, olive, cedar, violets, and gravel. It shows an earthy array of characteristics: olive, black licorice, as well as black and blue fruits, and pepper. Lacking a touch in structure but making up for it with flavor complexity.
Ramione 2011. IGT Sicilia. Nero d’Avola from Noto and Merlot from Santa Cristina Gela. After a cold maceration, the Nero d’Avola undergoes a further maceration and fermentation for 20-22 days with light pump overs and punchdowns. The Merlot follows a traditional fermentation with punchdowns and racking. Ramione ages in new and used French oak barrels. Fruity but brooding and earthy in the bouquet: currant, leather, oregano, and black licorice. On the palate comes a red cherry blast followed by a juxtaposition of red cherry licorice and black olive in the finish; full and robust.
Cembali 2007. IGT Sicilia. Nero d’Avola 100%. The grapes are strictly selected through green harvest in the summer, as well as a manual sorting in the vineyard at harvest time. Fermentation, pump overs, and manual punch downs are done in small tanks, followed by ageing in non-toasted French oak barrels and 25HL casks. The bouquet of Cembali is complex and intriguing: dusty, smoky, exotic, and spicy, reminiscent of curry powder and pulverized roasted walnuts. Velveteen tannins frame mellow blackberry fruit, chicory, and leather. The wine shows impressive equilibrium throughout.★★
Find out more about Baglio di Pianetto on their website.
† Disclaimer: the wines reviewed were samples sent to me by the winery. Any time this happens, I will, of course, inform you, my readers, so you know the context under which I am presenting this information. In any case, the wines are great. My favorites are the Ficiligno and Cembali.
Note: The winery photos and original image of Shymer are compliments of Baglio di Pianetto. The rest are mine.