Donnafugata, Passito di Pantelleria DOC (Sicily, Italy) “Ben Ryé” 2018

($35, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  Pantelleria is not an appealing place to make wine.  An island off the coast of Sicily closer to Africa than to Rome, it’s been described as “a volcanic rock jutting from the sea” where the major activity is “listening to the wind.”  The vines are trained in low bushes to resist the wind.  Passito means that the grapes, Zibibbo (also known as Muscat of Alexandria) in this case, are dried in the sun to concentrate their flavors.  The harvest typically extends over four to five weeks.  Donnafugata, one of Sicily’s best and most consistent producers, makes their stunning Passito di Pantelleria by fermenting together grapes that have been dried since the beginning of the harvest with freshly picked ones.  This technique allows grapes of varying ripeness and acidity to be fermented together.  The 2018, similar to previous renditions, is just fabulous, delivering nuances of figs and honey.  It’s sweet, but with a bracing acidity that keeps it fresh, not cloying.  A pleasant hint of apricot-like skin bitterness from tannins leached from the dried grapes adds more intrigue.  I advise drinking it at the end of the meal with cheese or as dessert.  I find it’s a mistake to pair it, or any sweet wine, with dessert because the sweetness of the dessert fights the sweetness of the wine.  A half bottle (375 ml) serves six easily, and that’s what this wine is sold in.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 2, 2021