A sip of the Sicilian sun in the heart of Brussels

I’m sitting here in the sun thinking that is has been waaaay to long since my last blog post…. Although technically speaking I’ve still been writing, but for the Belgian Sommelier Association and next to that I am very busy co-organizing the ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition that will  be hosted in Antwerp in 2019 (seems far away, but I assure you that it isn’t 🙂 ).  I’ve also been busy as I became dad for the 2nd time and I can say for a fact that that doesn’t make organising your days easier 🙂

Even though I didn’t write too much for my blog anymore I did get to know many wonderful the last months. Last week for example I got to taste some top Sicilian wines made by the Planeta winery . Unlike many other wineries of this size that have been making wines for centuries Planeta only started making wines in the 90’s…  The Planeta family (from Spanish origin) has been in agriculture since 1585… the current generation is already the 17th generation in agriculture in Sicily. The Planeta winery story started in the Menfi/Sambuca region (South West of Sicily)  where 2 generations  bundled their forces or better Alessio, Santi and their uncle Diego Planeta (and eventually also Diego’s daughter Francesca)  with a little helping hand of oenologist Carlo Corino.

It might seem easy to make wines in a place like Sicily (or any southern wine regions) because of its constant sunshine, but that sunshine also has its disadvantages… lots of sun often translates into high sugars and basically also high alcohol percentage. Unfortunately this was also the reputation southern wines had for many years  high alcohol and not  easy to drink… BUT thanks to modern techniques and knowhow  we are able to harmonize and control all of this much better resulting in some magnificent wines.  Already from the start our friends from Planeta were determined to plant both local and international types of grape and it was an immediate success as in 1995 they were honored by many famous wine journalists/critics with their Chardonnay (that had been in wooden barrels).

Today 27 years later they have 6 wineries  (around 400ha) spread over Sicily  : Ulmo at Sambuca di Sicilia, Dispensa at Menfi, Dorilli at Vittoria, Buonivini at Noto, Feudo di Mezzo on Etna and finally La Baronia at Capo Milazzo.  It also seems they keep growing both in quality as quantity

Tasting the Planeta wines under the Sicilian sun would have been perfection, but tasting them in the heart of Brussels at restaurant Bocconi did get close (thanks to the warm and great people at my table obviously). The lunch also wouldn’t have been the same without the great care of host/sommelier Jean- François who clearly knows what he’s doing!! During the lunch I was fortunate enough to sit next to Alessio Planeta who spoke with lots of passion about his wines and the beautiful island of Sicliy.

When you think of Silicy you think red wine, but for me their whites are as impressive.  It speaks for itself that one should always go crescendo, but if the first wine you get already is of such level that you don’t know it is possible to even go higher… but apparently it can ;-). The first wines we were served were the 2015 Cometa  that already has a cult status since his first edition and 2015 Eruzione Carricante 1614. The Cometa is fresh acidic, has a terrific savoury length and is a very stylish and wine that can convince everybody. What I think everybody would like about this wine is its aromatic notes of citrus and tropical fruit with some hinds of white peach and the fact that it doesn’t dissapoint when taking the first sip (on the contrary). If you like Rieseling style wines, I’m sure you’ll like the Eruzione 1614 as it contains 10% of Rieseling (90% Carricante) . A palate of fresh apricote and green apples with energizing minerals… again a wonderful easy to drink wine.

The previous wines were great, but the absolute star of the lunch was the 2014 Didacus which means Diego in Latin (referring to Diego Planeta who has been very important to the re-birth of the Sicilian wines). The Didacus was actually created as a ‘celebration’ wine for the 20 th anniversary of the first Chardonnay they made in 1994.  Although the price of this wine is quit high, it is majestic and very classy  wine that has everything I love:  full bodied, complex and yet very fresh with a magnificant finish that lasts forever :-)…I think that is all thanks to the old vines that are from 1985… It is a wine that can easily stand next to the best Burgundy Chardonnay’s. I hope you will get a chance to taste it some day, but as there are only few bottles this might become a very tricky quest.

After the wonderful whites it was time to discover some reds with a first in line the 2015 Mamertino (60% Nero d’avola 40% Nocera) followed by the 2007 and 2011 Santa Cicilia and as last but definitely not least the 2014 Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese that for me together with the Didacus were the stars of the lunch (it will also not surprise you that I now have a few bottles of the Eruzione in my personal cellar).  The Marmetino has an elegant floral nose with hinds of roses and prunes  with refined tannines and velvety soft finish.

From the Santa Cicilia Alessio wanted us to put 2 different years next to each other, the 2007 and the 2011. I must say that I was very surprised how full of life the 2007 was. When you tast the wine you notice black fruit notes mixing on a minerally frame as bright acidity and spice drive the fruit-filled finish. Although I must also admit that when I tasted both wines they for some reason made me think of candy or cassis… If i would have to compare both I’d say the 2001 is a bit more bitter with hinds of chocolate and spices… My preference went to the 2007, but that’s a matter of personal taste.

They kept the best for last 🙂 the 2014 red Eruzione!! This wine is one with a LOT of potentional and can easily stay a few more years in your cellar. Light ruby Pinot Noir-like color. What I liked about this wine was the very gentle handling of tannins, which, with Nerello Mascalese, can easily get a bit rustic round the edges. Delicate Pinot Noir-like flavours, red fruits but needs more concentration and fatness on the palate… it basically found its way to my cellar at home 😉

Great wines,  but also great food!! Feast your eyes on some of the treats we were served

I think next time I defintely need to try these wines in the Sicilian sun (I think another wine trip is presenting itself 🙂 🙂 ) Thank you very much Alessio for this wonderful lunch!

For all my Belgian readers in case you want more info on Planeta wines please contact Young Charly. For all my non-Belgian readers, please contact Planeta to help you to get in contact with your local salesman .

The southern Italian odyssey

Southern Italian wines don’t make me think of easy to drink wines. When I think of Southern Italian wines I think more of wines with a very high alcohol percentage, about wine makers that prefer quantity instead of quality… But times change and they understood it is better to make a qualitative wine and maybe have less volume, than having a big volume and not selling the wine 🙂 I mean Southern Italy (or southern Europe) has something lots of other places wish they had, the sun almost whole year round!! So they would be crazy not to take advantage of this benefit!! BTW when I speak of Southern Italy I mean everything under Rome.

Zonin Logo

My statement about the tide having turned actually got confirmed at a lunch/wine tasting from Sicilian wines from ‘Feudo Principi di Butera’ and Puglia wines from ‘Masseria Altemura’ both vineyards from the Zonin Group that has already been making wine since 1821. I also couldn’t imagine a better way to taste these wines then accompanied by dishes prepared by one of my favorite chefs Ingrid Neven (Pazzo) and in Company of some of the best Belgian Sommeliers including this year’s winner Yannick Dehandschutter (Sir Kwinten), Kris Lismont (Mondevino), Sepideh Sedaghatnia (‘t Zilte), Luc Dickens (Schone van Boskoop) to name a few and last but not least Lorenzo Zonin 🙂


Now I’ll first tell you guys something more about the vineyards. I’ll start with ‘Feudo Principi di Butera’. This vineyard owned by the Zonin Family since 1997 has a history that goes much further back in time, I might even say for centuries (read more on following link). What I think gives the Zonin family the  know-how to make wines is first of all the fact that wine making is in their veins and already goes back a few generations. On top of that they also own Vineyards all over Italy which also teaches them how to work with (mostly local grapes) in different weather conditions, soil types, etc… and this could maybe even lead for them to write an own piece of history.  For their Sicilian wines they make use of the grape (amongst other) that has actually put Sicilian wines back on the map ‘Calavrisi’ aka Nero D’Avola (Calavresi is the name used in Old Sicilian Dialect). Which means Red wine (Nero) from Avola (D’avola). The taste of the Nero d’avola can be compared with a Shiraz, that has round tannins  (you know, the circles that stay on the glass when you turn the wine in your glass) and has spicy-red peppery smells to it.

Location Feudo Principi di Butera

Nero d'avola grape

As for their vino Pugliese Masseria Altemura, this estate joined the Zonin group in the year 2000 (No millennium bug for them :-)).  Puglia is an often forgotten region in Italy, not sure why, but it sure is a pity! Like in all their other Vineyards Zonin chose to give the tradition and authenticity a high value and make mainly of a local grape. In this case the ‘Primitivo’, which is also a grape often used in California where it got brought from Puglia mid 19th century. It is better known in California as Zinfandel :-). Although If I want to be entirely correct I should mention this grape has an identical DNA as the Crljenak Kaštelanski grape which is from Croatia (so basically from across the street if you wouldn’t count the Adriatic Sea ;-))…  but try to pronounce that Croatian name, let’s just stick to the origin from Puglia :-). What this wine has as a similarity to the Sicilian ones is I think the red peppery smell .

Location Masseria Altemura

To make our extensive lunch more interesting, with every course we were served 2 different wines from which we had to guess its vintage and to make it more confusing or difficult, 2 times they even gave the same wine but both from different vintage 🙂 The price for the ‘winner’ a magnum bottle of wine 🙂


Unfortunately I wasn’t the winner of the bottle, but I did win something  during this tasting!!  I have learned a lot about wine again from all the pro’s around me. (no I’m not sucking up to anyone 😉 )

  • With the Sashimi of mackerel , mousseline of Green apple and Japanese vinaigrette  we got served a 2012 Insolia (Feudo), which is a grape that finds its origin in Sicily and some say Tuscany. But also seems to  like the soil and sun in Puglia. Insolia has a typical nutty aroma. BTW this is white wine, which is not that common in Southern Italy (with a few exceptions). Most white wines in Italy come from Friuli/ Veneto.



  • The risotto with wild mushrooms came with:

Sasseo 2011 (100% primitive) and a 2011 Deliella (100% Nero d’Avola)




From this point it started to become tricky as with the following 2 dishes we got the same wine, but from a different vintage… if only I had more experience as I only guest 2 out of 4 correct.

  • Filet of pheasant, crushed potatoes with tartufata and a light sauce:

2010 Altemura (100% Primitivo) and a 2008 Deliella (100% Nero d’avola)



  • Cheese assortment (I got something else as I’m not a huge cheese lover, I confess)

2010 Altemura (this was clearly a trick question) and a 2006 Deliella


Drinking these wines made me feel on holiday in Southern Italy… I’m not sure if my preference goes to the Sicilian wines or the Puglia wines. Maybe I have to try them all over again 😉  Although I think it depends of the moment you’ll be drinking them which one will get your preference.

OMG, I did again… ah well better writing it all than having an empty page I always say 😉

Oh and I know it might seem like it, but I’m not turning this blog into a wine blog 🙂 It is just coincidence there’s a lot of wine involved in my meals lately.

For more info on where to buy these wines check with Hasselt Millesime.