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Report: Planeta Carricante launch

Francesca Planeta, one of three cousins who have run this awarded Sicilian winery for the past two decades, was in London recently to launch the family’s latest addition to its range – the Carricante 2009.

This white grape hails from the mineral-rich black soil of the Sciara Nuova vineyard at an altitude of 890m on the northern slopes of Mt Etna.

This is Planeta’s first venture on Etna (it has four other wineries around Sicily) and while the high-altitude volcanic terroir is better known for producing red wines, the family was excited by the potential for whites.

It’s immediately obvious why Planeta has bottled its Carricante in a Riesling bottle: crisp acidity, racy minerality and aromatic, pure, and lemon, tart apple and floral white peach fruit with a twist of mint.

As a first vintage, with a release of just 6,000 bottles, it’s excellent drinking now; and with greater vine age this could be a wine of real ageing potential.

Others wines at the tasting, held at Hush in London:

Planeta, Chardonnay 2000 (double magnum)
This vintage is one of the best for Planeta’s Chardonnay. Now an icon wine, the grape was first planted by the family in 1985 as an experimental variety and is today a benchmark for quality and ageability of Sicilian Chardonnay. Showing lovely development of autumn leaves and juicy russet apples deftly supported by tight minerals and vanilla oak. Excellent.

Planeta, Cometa 2009
100% Fiano. Like Planeta’s Chardonnay, this key southern Italian grape was first planted in the region of Menfi in 1996 as an experimental variety and created as a point of difference to Fiano from Campania – the home of the grape. An intensely musky, smoky tropical fruit nose is followed by a textural, herbal, honeyed stone fruit plate. A real terroir wine, seeing no oak at all. Great food wine for enjoying now.

Planeta, Merlot 1998 (double magnum)
Francesca Planeta cites this Merlot as the best ever, apart from the 1995 – the first vintage of this wine. Hailing from the Ulmo and Maroccoli vineyards in the Sambuca di Sicilia region, it also contains 5% Petit Verdot for structure and perfume. It boasts voluptuous cherry and plum fruit, leather hints, bright acidity and textural, grippy tannins. While the alcohol is quite warm, there’s fresh fruit to balance and it is ageing well.

Planeta, Syrah 2002
Sicily has a great record when it comes to quality Syrahs and this wine – first made in 1999 from a blend of grapes from Menfi and Sambuca di Sicilia –is no different. An unashamedly modern, international style it has high alcohol backed by spicy, vanilla-edged black fruits, liquorice and tar notes. Very dense, soft and concentrated it is still finding its feet and will be a better wine over the next few years.

Planeta, Santa Cecilia 2006
This is Planeta’s flagship wine, made from Sicily’s most famous red grape, Nero d’Avola. From the region of Noto, in the island’s south, the chalky-clay soil of the Buonivini vineyard is the ideal terroir to bring out the character of this grape. The 2006 marks the 10th vintage of this wine, which shows amazing purity of blue and black berries. It is young and dense with the pastille fruit, dark chocolate, anise and cinnamon notes integrating perfectly with tight tannins, steely minerals and searing acidity. Superb. Enjoy now or keep for a decade.

Planeta, Passito di Noto 2008
100% Moscato Bianco. Also from Noto’s Buonivini vineyard, this is the most traditional of Planeta’s wines, but in a modern guise, harking back to what Sicily was best known for centuries ago. Lovely mouthwatering acidity balanced by rich heady dates, mixed peel, and dried tropical fruit with a hint of Christmas spice and floral notes. Creamy and unctuous with a long, fresh finish.

Written by Tina Gellie

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