The Island of Pantelleria, south of Sicily (it is actually closer to Tunisia in Africa than it is to Italy) is a large volcanic spur. Nicknamed the “black pearl” due to its black, volcanic soils; for some experts, it is the true vestigium of mythical Atlantis.
Though that assertion remains hard to prove, what is undoubtedly true is that Pantelleria is the home to one of Italy’s greatest wines, the sweet Passito di Pantelleria, as well as one of Italy's most underrated; the off-dry to slightly sweet Moscato di Pantelleria. The two wines are the product of air-dried grapes, the main differences between the two being the length of air drying. Passito is the result of a longer air-drying, so that the grapes are more raisined and sweeter and so is the resulting wine.
Solidea is the pet project of Giacomo D’Ancona, who decided to launch a modern day winery strengthened by a long family winemaking tradition dating back to the 1900s. The estate owns about four hectares of vines located in the southern reaches of the island and besides the Passito and Moscato, it also makes a dry, refreshing white wine called Zibibbo Illios (“Zibibbo” is the other name of the Moscato di Alessandria grape used to make the wines of Pantelleria). While the Passito can be sticky sweet with lovely saline, orange marmalade, raisin and date aromas and flavours, the Zibibbo Ileos is clean and fresh, with zippy acidity and lovely floral and saline nuances.
This Passito is produced using natural winemaking processes. The three-hectare vineyard is south facing, terraced and prone to dry and windy conditions. In order to survive in this climate, the grapes are grown according to an antique method of planting, whereby the vines grow in shell-like hollows, essential both for protection from the wind and heat and in order to drain the precious nutrients towards the roots of each vine. The island of Pantelleria is well-known for this system of vine growth. The Zibibbo grapes are hand picked from mid-August to mid-September, and are laid outside in the sunshine to dry for 25-30 days. Once the dried grapes have been macerated, this Passito wine is aged in stainless steel for 2-3 years.
With a deep golden yellow colour tending to amber, on the nose this wine is rich, with intense notes of dates, sultanas and acacia honey. It is luscious, soft and persistent on the palate.