Discerning travellers the world over are seduced by the sheer pleasure of Italian food and wine. Italian food culture is deeply rooted in locally produced ingredients and traditional cooking. The slow food movement was founded right here in Italy, and for culinary lovers Italy is a destination hard to resist.
Wine aficionados are spoilt for choice in Europe, with some of the oldest and finest wine regions nestled in the landscapes of France, Spain, and of course right here in Italy. Italian wines have a reputation for being stylish and sophisticated to the palate, and swathes of unspoilt landscapes and innovative wineries promise great Italian wine adventures.
For those wine lovers who are already skilled in distinguishing between a Barolo and an Amarone, or a Gavi and Cortese, your next wine pilgrimage should be to the island of Pantelleria.
Pantelleria is on the cusp of becoming the next top trending destination for wine experts and lovers of la dolce vita. The wine website, Decanter, reported in 2014 of the UNESCO Heritage Status awarded to the wines of Pantelleria. Thirty growers cultivate ‘vite ad alberello’ meaning head trained bush vines; a technique developed by the Phoenicians who arrived here 2500 years ago.
If you aim to discover the wines of Pantelleria, you will also stumble across this rather delicious and unexplored island. So pull up and chair, charge your glass, as we take you on a trip around the vineyards of Pantelleria.
Introducing the island of Pantelleria
The largest volcanic satellite island of Italy, with views to Tunisia on a clear day, Pantelleria sits prettily on the westernmost tip of Sicily, and is commonly known as “The Black Pearl of the Mediterranean.” Only thirty miles across the glistening sea is Africa, and Arabic influences are quite evident in the style of traditional homes, known as Dammusi. Traditionally one storey high, with a domed roof and lava walls, a Dammuso stays cool in summer and warm in winter, suiting visitors keen on sustainable and eco-friendly holiday retreats.
Ancient lore to modern luxury
In ancient mythology, Apollo was seduced by the goddess Tanit, who succeeded by serving Muscat wine from the island of Pantelleria. A romantic stay at very own Corte Pantesca, Pantelleria for a modern-day love story in a traditional and unusual lava-rock house, can only be enhanced by discovering the ancient wines pressed from the Muscat of Alexandria grape, which flourishes in this heavenly paradise.
Arabic influence also dominates when it comes to the choice of grape used to produce the wines of Pantelleria. They first introduced the Zibibbo grape, from which Muscat – Moscato – and Passito wines are derived. Passito di Pantelleria is a unique and richly indulgent discovery, one which will hook you from the very first sip. This dessert wine is almost a pudding in itself. The ‘passito’ method involves partial sun-drying of the grapes on straw mats, prior to the fermentation process, in order to concentrate their sugars. A rich and indulgent wine is the end result, that combines aromas of honey and cake flavours, with the intensely rich flavour of marmalade and toffee. Enjoy with apple tart, or ripe, creamy cheese, such as Asiago Pressato from the Po valley near Treviso.
Some of the most popular labels to look out for are:
- Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria
- Cantine Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria
- Carole Bouquet Sangue d’Oro Passito di Pantelleria
- Marco De Bartoli Bukkuram Padre della Vigna Passito di Pantelleria
- Terre di Zagara Passito Liquoroso di Pantelleria
A well-kept secret
You’ll be indulging in something rather special when you taste the wine of the Pantelleria region. They were a closely guarded secret enjoyed only by locals, until they finally started to export them in the 1880s – and that was just within Italy to begin with! Pantelleria wine finally gained a formal and deserved place in the modern Italian wine system, when both Passito and Moscato di Pantelleria wines were granted DOC status in August, 1971. Pantelleria wine was the third Sicilian wine style to gain a DOC title, after Etna (August 1968) and Marsala (April 1969).
A day out visiting the vineyards is a superb way to soak up Pantelleria’s enchanting countryside and to sample the fine wines of the region. Take a tour to see the wine in production, and indulge in a little tasting session at the end, with the option to stock up your own wine collection. Ultra modern wine estates and traditional methods make Pantelleria the next great discovery on your wine tour bucket list.
Here are a few of the best vineyards to visit, for a day’s outing with a difference
Donnafugata: Home of the famous Ben Rye Passito wine. Visit the Zibibbo vineyards and then see the winemaking process at first hand, with a degustation of their other labels at the end of the guided tour.
Where is it? Donnafugata, Contrada Khamma.
Marco De Bartoli – Bukkuram: A gentle pre-dinner wine tasting in the cooler late afternoon or early evening is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. The vineyard at Bukkaram allows you to taste their Zibibbo wine production as well as their Passito wine.
Where is it? Via San Michele 64 Contrada Bukkuram
Cantina Basile: The traditional Dammuso of Cantina Basile, located closely to the accommodation at Corte Pancesca was completely restored in 2006. Fabrizio, the owner of Cantina Basile, embarked on this adventure driven by love, passion and enthusiasm for the land. In the cellar they produce three types of niche wines, which are of the finest high quality; and which follow ancient winemaking traditions.
Where is it? Contrada di Bukkuram
Azienda Agricola Emanuela Bonomo: The farm of Emanuela Bonomo is an individual business, and was founded primarily as an agricultural company for the cultivation of Zibibbo grapes, capers, olives, oregano, fruit and vegetables. The ultimate goal is to respect the rural traditions of Pantelleria and its environs, and to offer the end consumer a natural product, so the sustainable traveller will find biological products farmed organically, with the main wines being Passito di Pantelleria D.O.P, Capperi, but also there are tasty patès and conserves, Zibibbo raisins, oregano, and of course local extra virgin olive oil. In summer it is possible to try the delicacies on the terrace with breathtaking views.
Where is it? Via Ziton di Rekale, 12.