Planeta: The Best of Sicilian Wine

Capo Milazzo © Planeta

Planeta has been a game-changer for Sicilian wine. Sicily was known as a bulk wine producer for mainland Italy until the 1990s when things changed. Planeta was at the forefront of many of these changes.

Sicily’s Terroir And Climate

The terroir consists of mostly volcanic soils. As an island surrounded by seas, the climate has a Mediterranean influence with lots of sunshine, little rainfall, and sea breezes. The combination imbues the wines with aromatic character, savory, herbaceous, and salty traits.

Menfi View of Vineyards © Planeta
Menfi View of Vineyards. Photo Courtesy of Planeta

Family History

Planeta’s history dates back five centuries and 17 generations to the 1600s. The family has been in some form of agriculture throughout since its beginnings. In the 1990s, the family’s winery became a cooperative. Later, the Planeta family played a significant role in transforming Sicily’s approach to grape growing. They accomplished this change by focusing on producing high-quality wines. In 1985 Planeta planted their first vines in Ulmo. By 1995, the family built their first winery at the same location. Today the winery has grown to encompass six wineries located in five Sicilian wine regions, Menfi, Vittoria, Noto, Etna, and Capo Milazzo.

Today’s Sicilian wine journey began in Sambuca di Sicilia when siblings Alessio, Francesca, and Santi Planeta, with the assistance of Diego Planeta, started their winemaking venture. This occurred in the mid-1980s.

Planeta Map of Sicilian Wine Regions © Planeta
Planeta Map of Sicilian Wine Regions. Map Courtesy of Planeta

Planeta’s Sustainability

Besides viticulture, the family’s agricultural endeavors include olive trees, oranges, and chickpeas. Sustainable farming is at the root of all these ventures.

Planeta Terra is the term used to express the family’s concept of environmental sustainability. The guidelines include protecting the landscape, bio-architecture, renewable energy, and recycled material.

Planeta is also certified SOSTAIN, which signifies a project of the Italian environmental wine growing certification. For Planeta, it is accomplished through combining traditional methods and organic growing practices with scientific and technological innovations and approaches. 

Etna Vineyards with Mt Etna © Planeta
Etna Vineyards with Mt Etna

Patricia Troth Winemaker

At a recent wine-tasting luncheon of Planeta’s Sicilian wines, I met winemaker Patricia Troth. The timing was perfect since celebrating female winemakers is ideal during women’s history month. Originally from Hungary, Patricia after graduating from the University of Corvinus in Budapest started working as a winemaker at Le Vigne di Zamò in Friuli. Following a stint at Bava in Piemonte, and Vylyan in Hungary, she came to Planeta to work temporarily in 2005. This short-term project became a long-term position as she never left. By 2008 Patricia became winemaker overseeing Buonivini and Dorilli Cellars. She has coordinated the startup of several estates, including Mount Etna and Capo Milazzo. She also is responsible for Planeta’s SOStain program supporting regional sustainable agriculture.

Planeta Winemaker Patricia Troth © Cori Solomon
Planeta Winemaker Patricia Troth

Planeta Sicilian Wine Tasting Luncheon

Each time I discover the wines of Planeta, I am introduced to a new variety. Still, the luncheon at Drago Centro in Los Angeles highlighted the wines at the tasting, bringing out their elegance and savory flavors. Kudos to Chef Celestino Drago for the marvelous pairing.

Planeta Wine Tasting Luncheon Drago Centro © Cori Solomon
Planeta Wine Tasting Luncheon Drago Centro

Planeta’s Sicilian Wine and Grapes

Here in the United States, we are most familiar with the Nero D’Avola, a red, dark-skinned grape that helped place Sicily on the wine map. It is also the most important grape of Sicily.

This variety grows throughout the various regions of Sicily. Nera d’Avola means Black of Avola, which references its color and original location in Sicily. Originally used as a blending grape, it is often compared to Syrah because of the similarity in growing conditions. The grapes character includes high tannins, medium acid, and a wine with full-body and excellent aging potential.

Planeta has found that growing the grape in various regions gives the Nero d’Avola grape different flavor profiles. In Menfi, the calcareous and clay soils give the wine flavors of chocolate, plum, and mint. The wine seems livelier. In Vittora, a younger vineyard with calcareous and sandy soils, the wine delivers a fresh outlook with flavors of cherry and strawberry. While in Noto, a southern region enables Planeta to produce a Nero d’Avola from the grape’s origins. Its calcareous soils promote intense flavors of cocoa, black currant, and balsamic. In Capo Milazzo, the soils are alluvial, thereby delivering velvety textures.  These soils enhance the black cherry, citrus, seaweed, and tamarind characteristics.

Unique to Sicily is the abundance of indigenous grapes. The diversity of grapes makes exploring the wine of Sicily exciting and a new wine adventure. Every encounter opens my horizons to a new grape variety, and on this occasion, it was no different.

Planeta Sicilian Wine © Cori Solomon
Planeta Sicilian Wine

Planeta Whites

Planeta Allemanda Bianco Noto DOC 2021: Consisting of Moscato Bianco, the grapes are cultivated in limestone soils at a southeastern point of the Noto DOC known for its white soils. In this region, this variety has small clusters and berries.

I found a dry, crisp wine with citrus and apricot aromas and ripe fruit flavors.

Planeta Allenmanda © Cori Solomon
Planeta Allenmanda

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante Sicilia DOC 2018: This wine combines Carricante primarily with a small percentage of Riesling. The wine grows on you. At first, you sense the petrol qualities of the Riesling, but as that dissipates, the wine becomes very aromatic with ripe fruit and white florals flavors. I also got a sense of salt from the ocean on the nose.

Planeta Reds

Frappato Vittoria DOC 2020: The Frappata grape creates a light-bodied, elegant, easy-drinking wine. During the summer, Frappato is frequently served slightly chilled, thereby making a refreshing summer cooler wine. This vintage exhibited a very dry example of Frappato with Rose Hips and smokiness on the palate.

Planeta Frappato © Cori Solomon
Planeta Frappato

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG 2020: This wine combines Nero D’Avola with Frappato. Cerasa means cherry in Sicilian.  Cherry was definitely present in this wine. A youthful wine, the Frappato adds freshness. This vintage is very reminiscent of a Nebbiolo.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese Sicilia DOC 2018: The Nerello Mascalese is a dark
skinned grape that grows on the slopes of Mount Etna. Characteristics of this late-ripening grape include fruity, herbaceous, minerality, and earthiness. In this case, I found a fruity yet compact wine on the mouth.

Planeta Eruzione 1617 Nerello Mascalese © Cori Solomon
Planeta Eruzione 1617 Nerello Mascalese

Planeta Nocera DOC 2017: Nocera is a dark black Italian grape known for its acidity. Planeta’s smallest winery produces this wine. I found this wine exhibited a lot of salinity, perhaps due to the alluvial soils that contain rich limey sections.

Planeta Nocera © Cori Solomon
Planeta Nocera

Planeta Mamertino 2017: The wine combines of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Nocera. Following fermentation, the wine ages 12 months in oak barrels. I found earthy aromas and soft textures on the palate. Given some time to air, the wine opens up beautifully.

Planeta Mamertino © Cori Solomon
Planeta Mamertino

In conclusion, I consider Planeta an ambassador for Sicilian wine.  In addition, they promote their family-owned wineries by maintaining the legacy brought down through many generations. Furthermore, Planeta represents the spirit of Sicilian winemaking.

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer attended a hosted wine tasting luncheon with Planeta and Taub Family Selections. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.

Featured photo of Capo Milazzo, courtesy of Planeta.