Tag Archives: planeta

  • The Magic of Planeta

    Sicily is a seductive island, rich and diverse in terms of culture, cuisine, history and landscape. Separated from the toe of Italy by a mere 3 km at its most eastern point, from the western extreme, the tip of Tunisia is only 150 km away. On the eastern coast lies Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano.

    Planeta is arguably Sicily’s most famous, and leading wine producer, set up in 1985, and responsible for pioneering the development of high quality wine on the island, initially with established international varieties, but now championing local grapes, such as Nero d’Avola and Grillo.

    Sicily is a land of hidden surprises, and that includes wine, so when Great Western Wine announced a special wine dinner hosted by one of the family owners, Alessio Planeta, in conjunction with the Abbey Hotel, tickets sold out fast. Guests were treated to eight of Planeta’s wines, each matched carefully to a well curated menu by the Allium’s executive chef Rupert Taylor.

    We were greeted with a glass of Brut Metodo Classico NV, a vibrant, pinpoint pure and deliciously crisp fizz, mouth-tingling with its green apple, zingy lemon, and razor sharp freshness, served with a selection of Italian-inspired canapes.

    With two wines per course, we were in for a treat, and were not disappointed. To begin, Rupert Taylor and his team delivered the prettiest of dishes in the form of an autumnal starter of tender butternut squash,topped with a slice of tangy taleggio cheese, served with a smooth as silk mushroom puree, rosemary infusion, and enhanced by Planeta’s very own extra virgin olive oil, grown on their estate.

    Planeta Alastro 2016 was the first white wine served, named after a little yellow flower, grown around the vineyards. Fresh and delicate, it had evocative scents of orange blossom and ripe lemon peel, with its crisp citrus freshness tempered by a gentle creaminess, which married well and enhanced the richness of the dish. This was followed by my favourite white, Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2016, with a fascinating story. Planeta now have plots of vineyards on the mineral-rich black soils of Mount Etna, creeping higher and higher up the mountain, to a height of 800m. Sicily has a wealth of native grape varieties, that are now coming to recognition. Carricante is the key protagonist here, with a dollop of Riesling to add some aromatics and texture. It’s a stunning wine, bright and fresh, with depth, intensity and an exotic twist. Floral notes beguile, followed by a vibrant, ripe, bold flavour – think ripe Sicilian peaches and oranges, notes of citrus, with a hint of acacia honey.

    Next up an intriguing dish showcasing Chef Taylor’s sense of innovation; keeping with the Sicilian theme, a dish of squid tagliatelle, tender, but al dente, in fine, lissom strips, topped with intensely rich, sweet yet earthy wild mushrooms, silky, melting, yet textured, spiced up with a lashing of horseradish which added kick to the dish. The mushrooms were the dominant characteristic and need a soft, fruity, juicy red. We had two.

    Firstly Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2015, a lively, exuberant lifted cherry red, as the name suggests. Lively, yet silky soft, and packed with bright red fruits, citrus and herb character, it had a playful character, and enchanting lightness which offered a perfect foil to the richness of the dish. Secondly Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2014, another offering from the black soils of Etna, deep, brooding and sultry, with dark fruits, warm spice and a velvety finish, yet still sublimely soft.

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    Staying firmly with the Italian theme, the centre piece on the menu was a rump of lamb, glisteningly pink, meltingly tender, with a salty, tangy black olive crust, wilted cavolo nero and a punchy salsa verde. This is where the red wine stars of the Planeta portfolio came into their own, and shimmered brightly. Santa Cecilia 2013, one of Planeta’s flagship wines, from the ripe, and generous Nero d”Avola grape. With dark, brooding blackberry, spice, fennel and bitter chocolate nuances, and hints of violets, its innate depth, complexity, and seductive smoothness brought out the sweetness of the lamb, and the tanginess of the olive and salsa verde. This wine is from the region of Noto, whereas for the second match took us back to Etna with Mamertino 2015, a recently rediscovered region, with intensity of plump cherry and plum fruit, bright and bold, but with a welcome freshness of touch, and a lively minerality derived from the volcanic soils. Savoury, and deep, it presented a different foil for the myriad flavours of the dish.

    Onto the finale, and a mini masterpiece by Taylor simply named ‘Goats curd mousse, blackberries, apples, oats and sorrel’. Pretty as a picture, it combined a gently wobbling, but perfectly set creamy mascarpone mousse, enhanced by the rich brambly flavours of dollops of blackberry sauce, balanced by the lively contrast of tangy green apple sorbet, with added texture from the sweet oat tuile. What to serve? Planeta’s luxurious dessert wine Passito di Noto 2016, sweet yet delicate and subtle, with a remarkable lightness. Made from intensely sweet grapes, which have been dried for four days, it charms with its cornucopia of candied lemon zest, apricot and raisin flavours yet with a cheeky citrus lift on the finish.

    Planeta have always been a favourite producer of mine and I have watched them pioneer and evolve the magic of Sicilian wine over the years. This evening did not disappoint.

    By Angela Mount

  • SOUTHERN ITALY

    Tristan explores the ancient indigenous sun-kissed vines of Southern Italy

    Whether you’re heading there on holiday, or just looking for some great alternative summer wines to add to your shopping list, this month’s column explores a few of southern Italy’s ancient indigenous grape varieties.

    Fiano has been cultivated in southern Italy for two thousand years. Volcanic slopes surrounding Naples in Italy’s Campania region are the grapes traditional home, producing one of Italy’s great white wines, Fiano di Avellino, but Fiano does well in other regions, too. Mandra Rossa Fiano 2016 from Menfi in south-west Sicily is one of my top tips for a reasonably priced summer white wine.

    At the risk of sounding like a wine toff, this really does taste like Sicilian sunshine in a glass. A refreshing well-balanced medium-bodied white, where ripe exotic tropical fruit flavours are tempered by a refreshing lick of basil-like herbs and an edge of citrus to make your mouth water. Deliciously drinkable and good with all manner of simple summery fish, vegetable, pasta or chicken dishes.

    Indigenous to eastern Sicily, Carricante has been grown the slopes of Mount Etna, for over a thousand years. Etna is Italy's largest and most active volcano, and the Planeta 'Eruzione 1614' Carricante 2015 is named after her longest eruption in 1614 which lasted over 10 years. Made from vines planted at 800m on Etna (Carricante performs best at altitude) by Planeta, one of Sicily's most respected and pioneering winemaking families, this is a remarkably fine, stylish, fresh and elegant wine.

    Pretty floral aromas pull you in for a mouth-watering sip where the intense sensation of minerals marries with crisp green apple and lightly honeyed citrus flavours, carrying the wine to a satisfyingly long, fresh and dry finish. Utterly delicious. I could happily enjoy a glass of this on its own in the heat of summer, but it'd also be great with grilled white fish, seafood risotto, crab linguine or pan fried scallops.

    You’ll be hard pushed to find a better value Italian red than Biferno Rosso Riserva DOC Palladino 2012. The wine comes from Southern Italy’s second smallest region, Molise, on the other side of the ‘leg’ from Naples, nestled between neighbouring Abruzzo and Puglia and flanked by the Apennine Mountains and Adriatic Sea. Molise is rustic, agricultural, and relatively ‘undiscovered’ in terms of both tourism and wine - meaning there’s great value to be found here.

    Made from Montepulciano, one of southern Italy’s superstar grapes, blended with the ancient dark Aglianico grape for extra depth and richness, the wine ages for three years in big old Slavonian oak barrels to soften it and add complexity. Full of slightly dusty rustic charm, with mouth-watering sour cherry flavours, a hint of spice and refreshing savoury herbs. Smooth, quenching and interesting enough to enjoy on its own, but with enough boldness to pair with grilled meats, pizza, and hearty meat or aubergine based pasta. A fantastic staple wine to stock up on, and well worth the money.

    Discover more at Tristan’s Southern Italy & Islands tasting on 12th July at Great Western Wine. Tickets are £15. Click here to book now >

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