The grapes to produce the Passito di Pantelleria DOC “Ben Ryé” Donnafugata, were hand harvested and carefully selected in the vineyards. Once the grapes reached the winery, they underwent selection on a vibrating table before soft pressing. Fermentation took place in stainless-steel tanks at controlled temperatures. The dried grapes were destemmed and selected by hand before they were added to the fresh must in several batches. Ageing took place in stainless-steel tanks for eight months and at least 12 months in bottle before release.
Made from vines planted on the island of Pantelleria (South-Western Sicily), this is a modern take on the classic Moscato Passito. The name Ben Ryé derives from the Arabic ‘Son of the Wind’, after the wind which sweeps round the island. Vines are planted in hollows in the ground, at altitudes of 20-400 metres above sea level on terraced, sandy slopes of volcanic origin. The low bush vines of Pantelleria have been described on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a ‘creative and sustainable practice’. The vines are over 100 years old and are ungrafted.
The Rallo family is the Donnafugata Estate owners and has made wine in Marsala since 1851. Their ancient cellars tunnel are situated 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 to 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.