At a press dinner with Francesca Planeta, it did not surprise me when she said her wine had run out at Milan Fashion Week. These wines are seriously loved by the fashion industry. What does come as a surprise is to learn Planeta has only been making wines in Sicily since 1985.
Think Italy and wine: what comes to mind is old estates with centuries of history. Then there’s Sicily… dormant for the past 4000 years, it has recently become a hotbed of wine innovation.
The world’s love affair with Planeta started with their Chardonnay. We tasted the 2000 vintage and I was instantly back in the 1990s: poured from a double magnum, it’s a full-bodied Chardonnay with prominent oak, a style which has now fallen out of fashion somewhat. But this is Chardonnay: there is no other grape that is dictated so much by fashion.
Contrast the latest 2009 Cometa Fiano. It’s Sicilian style, full of fabulous pure fruit expression that had a consultant exclaim on first tasting, “When a wine comes out like this, it’s indigenous in itself.”
This is a statement you’re more likely to hear in the New World than the Old World. In many respects, Planeta (and Sicily) is a new old World. Constantly evolving and moving, Planeta has had the freedom to experiment in Sicily, experimenting with international varieties such as Chardonnay and Syrah.
Planeta has recently focused on their local Sicilian varieties. The Carricante from the Mount Etna region, released in small, experimental-level quantities, is delicate and mineral enough to be an aperitif, a taste unlike any other wine.
The flagship wine, Santa Cecilia, is made from the native Sicilian Nero d’Avola. Francesca Planeta admits this wine had a few false starts; it wasn’t until 2005 after a few bad vintages that the Planeta family felt happy about releasing it. There’s a lot to be happy about it now: this is the best Nero d’Avola I have ever tasted, a languid glass of dark-liquid jewels in dark fruits and licorice.
As I walked out of the gold room of Hush Restaurant into New Bond Street in the gloomy rain, I walked past the glossy windows of Dolce & Gabbana (their 2010 season of lace dresses inspiring my original post).
Planeta did not hit on a winning formula and become complacent with their success: it is a winery constantly evolving and moving, much like fashion, reinventing new rules every vintage. It could equally be said about Planeta wines, as Stefano Gabbana said about fashion, “It’s about redesigning a point of view… molto sexy.”
Thank you to the team at Enotria UK for making this possible and the wonderful hopitality of the staff at Hush Restaurant, W1.
Image: Editor-at-Large of Japanese Vogue, Anna Dello Russo’s own photo from Balmain show in the rain at last week’s Milan Fashion week.