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Posted: Tuesday, 20 November 2018 10:45

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Passing By: Elena Bortoletto of Donnafugata in Sicily

Nov 20: Aspri Spirits, India’s leading distributor of premium wines and spirits, hosted an informal evening to meet Elena Bortoletto, the Verona-based export manager of one of the top Sicilian wineries, Donnafugata, when the guests enjoyed dinner with two of their wines being currently imported by them into India, writes Subhash Arora who reminisced about their gems-Mille e Una Notte red and the sweet Ben Ryé that have been discontinued due to high price and taxes

Arun Kumar, Director of Aspri, importers of Donnafugata in India for almost a decade, had invited a select group at the Fio Restaurant to meetElena Bortoletto, their export manager for Asia except Japan. She was on her way back from a visit to China and Korea etc. and stopped by in Delhi and Mumbai where the two labels being currently imported were showcased. Anthilia IGT Sicilia white and Sedára IGT Sicilia, both being DOC Sicilia now with the new regulations were the protagonists. Anthilia is the first white wine produced by the winery and continues to be popular.

Several years ago, Aspri had been importing five labels including the iconic Mille e Una Notte and Ben Ryé, its two icons that command a lot of respect in the whole of Italy and the rest of the world. At a Tasting of the five wines, delWine had then commented, ‘Mille would remain an expensive wine in India- unless Aspri can convince the duty free suppliers to keep it at the airports. In that case it would become a fabulous wine-it ages well for 15-20 years. For ordinary mortals, Sedára should do fine- same grape (Mille has 90% Nero), similar taste but not that complexity naturally,’

Donnafugata Duo in Delhi

I had tasted both these wines for the first time in March, 2010 during my visit to the winery in Contessa Entellina  and found the white Anthilia doc Sicilia (it was an IGT Sicilia wine then) as spicy as today. Made with a majority of Catarratto and some Inzolia-both local grapes, it is very fresh fruity with flavours of lemon rind and shades of spices making it very attractive. This wine is very full on the palate and has good length too. But the best feature is its beautiful, elegant floral aromas of sweet melons and citrus.

Sedára DOC Sicilia (also an IGT wine earlier) is predominantly a wine with Nero d’Avola, the ubiquitous grape of Sicily with shades of Cabernet Sauvignon and some minor grapes, is an elegant wine with red fruits like cherries and plums and notes of spices as the obvious elements, in aromas and flavours. Persistent flavour and remarkable length makes it a good choice for connoisseurs, especially with foods like pepperoni and salami pizzas and pastas with red sauces.

About Donnafugata

With 160 years of experience over 5 generations, Donnafugata wines are truly an exploration of Sicily’s wine universe. With a holding of 328 hA of vineyards, it is synonymous with high quality Sicilian wines. It is generally considered one of the top five producers in Sicily with wines popular also in the mainland Italy. Known for the fine wines like Mille e Una Notte and Ben Ryé has earned it a stellar reputation. Known for their complexity and finesse and  the history of Sicily, with Ben Ryé even made in another island of Pantelleria, has given it a special identity.

Donnafugata which means a ‘woman in flight’, with a holding of 328 hA of vineyards, is synonymous with high quality Sicilian wines. They work on long term projects and work towards the sensorial satisfaction of their clients. Sicilian laws provide them flexibility to ferment the red wines in Contessa Entellina and transport to the historical winery in Marsala where malolactic fermentation takes place before bottling. Marsala was where the family winery was born in 1851 and so they did not want to give up the location. The winery makes only dry wines and no fortified Marsala wines that were the wine connoisseurs’ darling decades ago but are out of fashion now.

Catarratto is the most popular variety and most grown grape of Sicily. It has 283 known clones, according to the owner of Donnafugata, José Rallo who says that experimentation is welcome in Sicily and people love to break the laws and traditions all the times.

Sicilian laws provide them the flexibility to ferment red wines in the village of Contessa Entellina and transport it to the historical winery in Marsala where malolactic fermentation takes place before bottling. Marsala is where the family winery was born in 1851 and the company did not want to give up that location. Donnafugata makes only dry wines and no fortified Marsala wines that were the darling of wine connoisseurs decades ago but are out of fashion now.

Elena admitted she was initially apprehensive about her visit to India, but was so impressed and happy after being here that she would now like to visit India much more often, the schedules permitting; she has to travel a lot to cover the territory.


Both the wines are priced the same. This is not to say they are priced the same at all the cities, thanks to the unique duty patterns. One can find a bottle of either at a reasonable Rs. 2249, it is expensive in Mumbai at Rs. 2995 and around 50% more so in Delhi at Rs. 3310 which is rather expensive and uncompetitive.

For more information on Donnafugata, click https://www.donnafugata.it.

For a few of the earlier related Articles, please visit

Vinitaly 2018: Music and Wine Match by Grandi Cru d’Italia with La Scala

Passing By: Giulia Lazzarini of Donnafugata

Feature- A Wine Day in Sicily

Subhash Arora

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