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The wines of Planeta, Sicily
Contrada Dispensa, 92013 Menfi, Italy

UK agent: Enotria

[See a more recent review of this producer's wines, based on a visit in 2009 Here]

This large, hot Italian island is better known abroad for its organized crime than its wine, so it may come as a surprise to discover that it is responsible for around 12% of Italy's total wine production each year. As with so many southern regions with a thirsty local population, the traditional focus has largely been on quantity rather than quality. With domestic wine consumption going down, however, producers are beginning to look at improving the quality of their wines for export markets, and there are now some interesting wines being made. Many of these are aimed squarely at the mass market, but at the vanguard of the quality revolution has been premium producer Planeta. Using both indigenous and international varieties, this family owned winery has been producing wines for less than a decade, but they have already gathered critical acclaim (the won the Gambero Rosso 'Producer of the Year' award in 1999) and the wines fetch high prices. Aided by consultant oenologist Carlo Corino, the family owns 250 ha and in 1997 purchased two new estates in the west of Siciliy which will soon be producing wines.

Francesca Planeta talked me through this range, which was consistently strong with a couple of real highlights. My favourites were the classy Chardonnay and the brand new wine Cometa, which is made from local white grape Fiano. Not showing was the 1999 Shiraz, which sounds like an interesting wine. My only gripe about these wines is the prices, which are definitely on the high side (I've UK given prices and availability for most of the wines in brackets after the notes).

La Segrata Bianco 2000 IGT Sicilia
70% Greciano, 20% Chardonnay, 10% other varieties, sees no oak. Annual production 240 000 bottles. A fresh, modern white showing ripe floral and melon notes. Quite full flavoured. Very good (7.99 Chandos Deli)

La Segrato Rosso 2000 IGT Sicilia
60% Nero d'Avola, 40% Merlot, 14% alcohol, sees no oak. Annual production 240 000 bottles. A very forward, fruity wine that's a bit reminiscent of a full flavoured Beaujolais. The bright nose is dominated by raspberry fruit, and the palate is soft and very fruity, with good concentration. A modern style. Very good (8.50 Chandos Deli)

Merlot 1999 IGT Sicilia
Aged for 12 months in French oak barriques (30% of which are new each year), 15% alcohol. Annual production 50 000 bottles. The smoky, tarry nose leads to a palate showing bags of lovely rich fruit. Finishes with dry tannins. Powerful stuff with good concentration. Very good+ (18.95 Chandos Deli)

Santa Cecilia Nero d'Avola 1999 IGT Sicilia
Aged for 12 months in French oak barriques, 14% alcohol. Annual production 70 000 bottles. Showing a bright, lively nose with some rich, herby complexity, this is an interesting wine. The elegant palate shows a good concentration of dense fruit, dry tannins and high acidity. Very good+ (16.99 Noel Young)

Chardonnay 1999 IGT Sicilia
Fermented in half new/half one year old French oak barriques, 14.3% alcohol. 80 000 bottles produced each year. This is impressive stuff, with a rich, complex honey and toast nose. The elegant palate has a good concentration of softly-spoken fruit and well integrated oak. Very good/excellent (17.99 Unwins)

Cometa 2000 IGT Sicilia
100% Fiano, 14.5% alcohol, fermented in 50% new French oak barriques and 50% stainless steel tanks. Annual production 10 000 bottles. This is the first vintage Planeta have made of this rare Southern Italian variety. The lovely aromatic nose shows intriguing spicy notes. The palate is rich and full, with good acidity. A delicious mouthful. Very good/excellent

Tasted May 2001

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