- Tasting Notes & Technical Details
Vegetarian, Vegan, Sustainable
The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city. They were one of the first families to begin making high-quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region’s native varieties.
Today, Donnafugata has four estates in Sicily: a modern winery and 283 hectares at Contessa Entellina in the hills east of Marsala, 36 hectares in Vittoria towards the south-eastern point of the island, 68 hectares on the island of Pantelleria, and 18 hectares on the slopes of Etna. Donnafugata means ‘fleeing woman’ and is a reference to Queen Maria Carolina, who escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th century with her husband, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, when Napoleon’s troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the ‘Mille e Una Notte’ label.
The wines fuse Sicilian tradition with a modern approach. ‘Vigna di Gabri’ blends Ansonica (Inzolia) with Chardonnay, Viognier, Catarratto and Sauvignon Blanc, with percentages differing according to the vintage. On the other hand, ‘Sherazade’ is made solely from Nero d’Avola. The ‘Mille e Una Notte’, a multi-varietal blend that includes Nero d’Avola, Petit Verdot and Syrah, is a wine with exceptional structure and remarkable personality. Their Frappato ‘Bell’Assai’ from Vittoria is a very pure example of this local varietal: a light-bodied, floral and spicy wine. The Etna wines come from high-altitude vineyards at 730 – 750 metres above sea level. A portion of the white, made solely from Carricante, is aged in used oak to enhance its texture, while a component of the red, made from Nerello Mascalese, is kept in stainless steel to enhance the freshness and intensity that characterise the wines from Etna.
Donnafugata’s masterpiece, however, is ‘Ben Ryé’: a Zibibbo Passito from the island of Pantelleria. Donnafugata arrived here in 1989 and now cultivate 68 hectares in this volcanic island, which is closer to Tunis than Italy. Due to its position, it is constantly swept by Mediterranean winds: Scirocco from the south and Maestrale from the north. The wine production process is heavily influenced by the wind acting on the island, from the unique shape of the “Alberello Pantesco” bush vines (a Unesco World Heritage) to the drying of the grapes. For this reason, Donnafugata named their Passito di Pantelleria DOC ‘Ben Ryé’ from the Arabic ‘son of the wind’.
The vineyards at Donnafugata's Contessa Entellina estate are situated 200-400 metres above sea level in south-west Sicily. Soils are clay-based and rich in mineral elements such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. The vines for this wine are trained using Vertical Shoot Positioning and are spur cordon pruned. Average planting density is 4,500 to 6,000 vines per hectare, with a yield of five tonnes per hectare. In 2008, the blend changed to include Tannat, a Mediterranean variety, first planted by Donnafugata experimentally in 2002. Since 2004, Tannat has been grown in the hilly area of Predicatore, where the soils are best suited to growing this variety.
Following two slightly rainier years, the 2018 vintage at the Contessa Entellina estate recorded 743 mm of rainfall, above the average of 667 mm in the territory. Most of the rainfall came in the spring, with just a few plots receiving rain in the summer. The integrated management of viticultural practices, from pruning and thinning to the choice of different harvesting timings, all inspired by an eco-sustainable viticulture philosophy, helped ensure healthy and well-ripened grapes. The harvest of the Tancredi grapes began with Nero d’Avola and Tannat during the first 10 days of September, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon in mid-September.
Grapes were carefully selected in the vineyards. A further selection was carried out in the cellar, after which the grapes were fermented in stainless steel tanks with 14 days of skin contact at temperatures of 28-30°C. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged for 12 months in oak and spent at least two years in bottle before being released.
Intense ruby in colour, Tancredi 2018 combines notes of ripe plums and blueberries with delicate spicy hints of liquorice and sweet tobacco. On the palate, it is full-bodied and characterful, with perfectly integrated tannins and a long, elegant finish.