Wines to Seek Out
Anytime a winery boasts more than 20 different wines, I start to wonder about quality. With Donnafugata, I have tried to be skeptical about their approach, but the results in the glass speak for themselves. Even if I do not agree with specific stylistic choices (for instance, I remain unconvinced by the potential for Bordeaux varieties in Sicily), their wines are consistently correct and true to their origin. Moreover, they are solid ambassadors for an island that merits our attention.
Below are the ones that standout the most to me from their expansive portfolio.
Donnafugata "Sur Sur" Sicilia Grillo
The parameters for an iconic beach wine are simple: it needs to be refreshing, it needs to be a little saline, and it needs to be cheap. "Sur Sur" checks all the boxes. Grillo is riding shotgun on the white wine quality revolution in Sicily, with "Sur Sur" fitting the bill of "Sauvignon Blanc alternative" nicely ... something that has turned a great many consumer onto the wines of Sicily.
Donnafugata "Sul Vulcano" Etna Rosato
When I first visited Sicily and tasted with Donnafugata (2018), I found their Etna wines to be the weak link in the line-up. Tasting with Antonio Rallo on Mount Etna five years later, the improvements to these wines were astonishing, none more so than the "Sul Vulcano" rosé. A millieu of strawberry, peach and tangerine fruit tones on the nose, it seems to know full well that rosato wines are meant to be fun and memorable — something that is often overlooked from Donnafugata's contemporaries.
Donnafugata "Sul Vulcano" Etna Rosso
Donnafugata now has two riserva Etna Rosso wines — Contrada Marchese and Contrada Fragore — to add to their lineup, but I think the "Sul Volcano" entry-level wine is a smidge superior because of its finely etched lines and sleek minerality.
Donnafugata "Mille e Una Notte" Sicilia Rosso
Perhaps Donnafugata's most famous wine (although I think "Ben Ryé" is more deserving) "Mille e Una Notte" has often been a critical darling, and it deserves credit for helping to elevate the reputation of Sicilian wine and Nero d'Avola in the late 1990s. To do so, they worked with iconic enologist Giacomo Tachis (of Sassicaia fame) and they worked with Bordeaux varieties as a complement — which was essential a pre-requisite during that era. Today, the wine is an assertive and brash statement of these two worlds colliding, but it often feels more Bordeaux-esque than Sicilian.
Donnafugata "Ben Ryé" Passito di Pantelleria
One of Italy's greatest sweet wines. Made from alberello pantesco-trained Zibbibo vines that essentially hug the volcanic dirt of the wind-swept island of Pantelleria, "Ben Ryé" swells with heaving orange, apricot and almond tones that are clear, fresh and ever-so vital. Of particular note is the almond-like tinge on the nose, but this is no tease. "Ben Ryé" gladly and generously fulfills this almond promise on the palate too. Die and go to heaven by pairing it with biscotti.