French film star Gerard Depardieu and his partner Carole Bouquet are producing one of Sicily's top red wines with a leading Sicilian producer.

The actor’s interest in southern Italian wines is well-known, and he is now developing a new project to produce a garage wine with one of Sicily’s leading wineries, Regaleali wines.

Alberto Tasca, commercial director of Regaleali owners Tasca D’Almerita, said the new wine will be a premium red produced in very limited quantities – a ‘vin de garage’.

The project will involve selecting a 1.5ha parcel from Regaleali’s 360ha of vineyards, some of which are situated at 700m above sea level.

‘Both he and I share a passion for fine wines,’ said Tasca, adding that the idea had been hammered out over lunch at Italian wine fair Vinitaly. Depardieu is due to visit in June to discuss from which vineyards the grapes will be sourced.

Depending on the harvest, an average of 3,000 bottles will be produced per vintage. The first vintage may be as soon as this year.

Depardieu and Bouquet – also a highly-regarded actor – are also intending to produce a small amount of their own Passito de Pantelleria, a sought-after sweet wine, from their estate on the island of Pantelleria.

They have been visiting the island for some years, and in 2001 they decided to buy a small estate in the region of Contrada Serraglia. Last winter they renovated the vineyards with the aim of producing a limited quantity of their own Passito, which is made from a mixture of raisined and freshly-harvested grapes.

The tiny volcanic island, off the southern coast of Sicily, is known for its Moscato and Passito wines made from Zibibbo, an aromatic variation of the Muscat family.

According to Giacomo Tachis, consultant enologist for Sicily’s Institute of Wine and Viticulture, Passito di Pantelleria has become more and more popular over the last ten years, and production levels have doubled. Today the DOC extends over a total of 550 hectares. ‘It’s a wine that reflects the true tipicity of the land,’ he said.

Written by Michèle Shah6 May 2002