Winery and vineyards

 

In the heart of western Sicily, where vines and olives are an integral part of the landscape, lie the Contessa Entellina vineyards, olive groves and winery.
Grapes grown on the company’s 270 hectares (667 acres) of land are brought here. We cultivate both autochthonous varieties – Ansonica, Catarratto, Grecanico, Grillo and Nero d’Avola – and Italian and international vine varieties that have proven to adapt well to the characteristics of the territory, such as Fiano, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and also small quantities of Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Alicante Bouchet, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Pinot Nero.
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Miccina

Soil: Limestone-clay with sub-alkaline reaction (pH7.5) Total limestone 30%
Altitude: 350 m (1148 ft) above sea level
Exposure: nearly all flatland
Ansonica, Grecanico, Fiano, Petit Manseng, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc Nero d’Avola, Merlot
Freshness, moderate body

Duchessa

Soil: clay with sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.7) Total limestone 20%
Altitude: 200 m (656 ft) above sea level
Exposure: 100% W
Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon
Sapidity and elegance

Mazzaporro

Soil: fLimestone-clay with sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.6) Total limestone 25%
Altitude: 250 m (820 ft) above sea level
Exposure: 30% flatlands, 70% W
Ansonica Catarratto, Chardonnay, Grecanico, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot
Sapidity, structure, longevity; enhances varietal notes

Casale Bianco

Soil: franco-argilloso a reazione sub-alcalina (pH 7,7) Calcare totale > 35%
Altitude: 400 m (1312 ft) above sea level
Exposure: 70% W , 30% S
Catarratto, Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
Great body and elegance; aptitude for lengthy refinement

Arcera

Soil: Limestone-clay with sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.6) Total limestone > 35
Altitude: 360 m (1181 ft) above sea level
Exposure: Exposure 70% SW (Arcera bassa) 30% flatlands (Arcera alta)
Ansonica
Freshness, delicacy, medium structure

Galia

Soil: Soil clay with sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.9) Total limestone 25%.
Altitude: Altitude 300 m (984 ft) above sea level
Exposure: 25% flatland, 75% NE
Grillo, Chardonnay, Alicante Bouchet
Good body, considerable finesse and elegance

Pandolifina

Soil: clay-muddy with sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.9)
Altitude: clay-muddy with sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.9)
Exposure: 220% flatlands, 80% on a small rise with several exposures
Chardonnay Alicante Bouchet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tannat
body, elegance and complexity

Predicatore

Soil: clay with sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.9) Total limestone 25%.
Altitude: 300 m (984 ft) above sea level
Exposure: Exposure 30% flatland, 70% E
Viognier, Nero d’Avola, Merlot, Tannat
Good body, considerable finesse and elegance
The rhythms of the countryside

The rhythms of the countryside

VINEYARDS IN PRODUCTION 
270 hectares (667 acres)

CRU
Vigna di Gabri

LOCATION
South-Western Sicily

SOILS
Altitude 200 to 600 metres (656-1.968 ft), orography hilly; soils clayey with a sub-alkaline reaction (pH 7.5 to 7.9). Total limestone from 20 to 35%. Rich in nutritive elements K, Mg, Ca, Fe, Mn, Zn.

CLIMATE
Mild winters with little rainfall. Warm, dry, ventilated summers, ideal for producing healthy grapes. Substantial differences between day and night-time temperatures (16-18°C) help produce aromatic, perfectly mature grapes. Average annual rainfall: 670 mm (26 inches) in the past ten years.

TRAINING AND PRUNING
VSP (vertical shoot positioning), with wooden stakes and stainless steel wires; cordon spur or Guyot pruning, leaving 6 to 10 buds per plant. The planting densities is 4,500 to 6,000 vines per hectare (1,822-2,429 an acre) with yield per hectare varying from 4.0 to 8.5 tons per hectare (0.8-1.7 kilos per vine).

THE HARVEST
Harvesting begins around the first decade of August with the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for the Donnafugata Brut. During the third ten days of the month, we pick Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Fiano, Petit Manseng and Merlot. In late August or early September it is time to pick Grillo and Syrah. The other red varieties: Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouchet, Petit Verdot, Tannat and white Ansonica, Catarratto and Grecanico grapes are harvested in September.

Craftsmanship

IN THE VINEYARD

Cultivating 17 varieties is the result of an agronomic choice aimed at enhancing the distinctive qualities of the 10 contrade (districts) where the company’s vineyards are located, which differ in terms of soil, altitude, exposure and microclimatic conditions.

IN HARVEST

The harvest follows the different ripening stages. After careful selection of the clusters in the vineyard and on a vibrating table in the winery, the different grape varieties undergo separate vinification.

IN WINERY

An important development has been introduced for the stage in which red grapes enter the winery. Thanks to a latest generation destemmer, we are able to discard any green and overripe berries that might still be on the clusters. This allows us to select and vinify only intact and perfectly ripe grapes.

Autochthonous grape varieties

Ansonica

It is one of the grape varieties that has been living in Sicily for the longest time. Widespread throughout the island, it contributes to the creation of a lot of white wines, often blended with Catarratto. Vinified alone it produces a fine wine, straw yellow with greenish reflections, perfumes typical of the grape variety (white summer fruit aromas), quite savory on the palate, well endowed with alcohol, balanced acidity and softness.

Catarratto

Historical grape variety of Sicily where it has been cultivated since time immemorial. Catarratto grapes enter the composition of a lot of Sicilian white wines. The wine has a straw yellow color with greenish reflections; its aromatic profile offers particular finesse and intensity, characterized by fruit descriptors, in particular grapefruit and passion fruit, white flowers, accompanied by notes of Mediterranean spices. The palate is characterized by good structure, excellent sapidity and minerality, rightly acid.

Grecanico

The origins of this grape variety, that has been cultivated in Sicily for several centuries, are unknown. It owes its name to the type of passito wine produced from it in the Middle Ages, imitating those imported from Greece. A fine wine, straw yellow, fairly alcoholic. Flower and white fruit descriptors are used to characterize it, dry on the palate, fresh and harmonic.

Grillo

Autochthonous grape variety son of Catarratto and Zibibbo, the origin of the crossbreed is unclear but it may have been created after the mid-1800s by Barone Mendola. Excellent white wines, ready and suitable for aging, are produced from these grapes. The wine has a deep straw yellow color, good aromatic wealth, with herbaceous and flowery scents and citrus notes. The palate is savory endowed with good acidity, balanced softness and excellent structure.

Nero d'Avola

King of Sicilian red grape varieties, it is successfully cultivated in all viticultural areas of the island, showing a very high interaction with the environment. The wines are rich in character. Deep ruby red, great aromatic wealth with notes of fruit, flowers and spices, good structure, rightly tannic, full bodied, balanced acidity and smoothness, harmonic.

Download the pdf sheet

Vintage charts Contessa Entellina

2016

The 2016 vintage was characterized by a fairly balanced climatic trend, marked by a mild spring and a summer without excessive peaks of heat, allowing the vineyard to continue the vegetative cycle in a balanced way.

Overall, from 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2016, 590 mm of rainfall was recorded, a slightly lower figure compared to seasonal averages. Careful vineyard management allowed us to bring into the winery healthy and well-ripened grapes, a premise of quality, long-lived wines.

 

The 2016 vintage was characterized by less rainfall compared to seasonal averages: overall, from 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2016, 590 mm of rainfall was recorded, a slightly lower figure compared to seasonal averages.

Regarding temperatures, spring was mild and summer proceeded without excessive peaks of heat, allowing the vineyard to continue the vegetative cycle in a balanced way.

In some vineyards in the beginning of the harvest there had been a slight delay of 3-4 days in the ripening of the grapes, but in the meantime this delay was caught up, so overall ripening times were in line with last year.

While in Sicily a drop in production of about 10% was forecasted, at Donnafugata the quantities harvested were more or less in line with the company’s averages.

At the Donnafugata estate in Contessa Entellina the harvest began on August 2nd with the harvesting of the little plots of Pinot Nero and Chardonnay, for the production of the winery’s two metodo classico sparkling wines, the brut rosé and brut.

At this estate the harvest got into full swing on August 10th, with the nighttime harvest of the Chardonnay; followed by Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Syrah, Merlot and Fiano.  On September 1st started the harvest of Nero D’Avola for the production of the Rosé wine Lumera whereas the grapes destinated for Mille e una Notte were collected one week later.

The harvest of Grillo and Ansonica took place in the first decade of September, Catarratto in the second decade. The other red varieties Petit Verdot and Tannat were harvested between the first and second decade of September.

“To compensate for scarce rainfall during the year – says Antonio Rallo, winemaker for the family business – and to help the vineyards reach optimal vegetation-production balance, we carried out some rescue irrigation; no less important was the cluster thinning performed on the more productive varieties. At Contessa Entellina we thinned out in almost all red grape vineyards thus bringing home healthy and well-ripened grapes, an excellent premise of the quality and longevity of our wines.”

2015

Up to the end of June, the 2015 vintage was characterized by a climatic trend that was cooler and rainier than seasonal averages. Overall, from 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2015, rainfall reached 763 mm compared to the 656 average of the last 10 years.

In July the maximum temperatures recorded were higher than the average values for the period which favored the ripening process of the grapes. The considerable temperature fluctuations between day and night favored the concentration of aromatic precursors in the grapes.

A great vintage that will give perfumed and fruity wines, with excellent elegance and aging potential.

Up to the end of June, the vintage was characterized by a climatic trend that was cooler and rainier than seasonal averages, prefiguring a delay on the usual ripening of the grapes at the Donnafugata estate in Contessa Entellina.

In July the maximum temperatures were higher than the average values for the period, which favored the ripening process of the grapes, making up for the delay that was recorded up to June. The maximum temperature recorded in July was 39° C and the minimum 18° C, testifying to the considerable temperature fluctuations that characterize the hills of Contessa Entellina, favoring the concentration of aromatic precursors in the grapes that will potentially give very perfumed wines.

Compared to the average of recent years, the quantities prefigured a slight increase of around 10%; for this reason the green harvest was carried out in some Grillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nero d’Avola vineyards, aligning the production load with the company’s qualitative objectives.

Regarding precipitation, from 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2015, rainfall reached 763 mm compared to the 670 average of the last 10 years (www.sias.regione.sicilia.it).

The Chardonnay – the first variety to reach full ripeness – in some vineyards was slightly earlier; Donnafugata started harvesting the La Fuga vineyard from the 3rd of August, at nighttime. Thus we can avoid the risks of undesirable fermentations during the transportation of the grapes from the vine to the cellar and the volatilization of aromas during the pressing phase.

The harvest of Viognier started the 5th of August, the Sauvignon Blanc was harvested from the 11th of August, the 27th Grecanico and and Merlot, the 1st of September Grillo, the 2nd of September  Nero d’Avola, the 4th of September Catarratto, the 6th of September Ansonica and Petit Verdot, 7th September Syrah  and from 8th Cabernet Sauvignon.

Harvest was suspended for a couple of days due to the rainfalls on 8th September afternoon and evening. The rain surely helped the conclusion of the phenolic maturation process of the red grapes, giving very silky tannins. Afterwords, Alicante was harvested from 11th, and Tannat from 15th. At Contessa Entellina Estate harvest ended on September 23rd.

 

Thanks to a mostly stable climatic conditions during harvesting period, 2015 is a great vintage for both the whites and reds.

“Thanks to the  fine weather, – explains Antonio Rallo, Donnafugata’s owner and winemaker – we harvested  excellent grapes from all the vine varieties that are going to give us perfumed and fruity wines, with great elegance and aging potential.”

2014

The 2014 vintage was characterized by a fairly balanced climatic trend, marked by a relatively mild winter and a cool, rainy spring.

Overall, from 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2014, 620 mm of rainfall was recorded: a slightly lower figure compared to the average of the last 10 years, with rainfall concentrated in the spring months. July and August passed without excesses of heat and with an excellent temperature range between day and night, thus favoring the production of particularly fresh and balanced wines.

The 2014 vintage was characterized by a fairly balanced climatic trend, with a relatively mild winter and acoolrainy spring. Overall, from 1 October 2013 to 31 August 2014, 620.8 mm of rainfall was recorded: a slightly lower figure compared to the average of the last 10 years (656.1 mm, data recorded at the Contessa Entellina S.I.A.S. station www.sias.regione.sicilia.it), with rainfall concentrated in the spring months. July and August passed without excesses of heat and, according to the tradition of the hilly area of Contessa Entellina, with an excellent temperature range between day and night, thus favoring the production of particularly fresh and balanced wines.

The Donnafugata vineyards in western Sicily

Ten different territories together form Donnafugata’s production and ampelographic heritage in western Sicily, between Contessa Entellina, Santa Margherita di Belice, Sambuca di Sicilia and Salemi. Healthy and ripe grapes, harvested at the right stage of ripeness, perfectly intact when they reach the winery: this is the commitment the company renews with itself every year, ensuring a fine raw material.

“The 2014 vintage – explains Antonio Rallo, owner of Donnafugata and the company’s production manager – saw a fairly balanced climatic trend. A less productive vintage than 2013 with light cluster thinning and only in some vineyards. The quality of the grapes is excellent, with clusters that are particularly healthy and ripe. The optimum aromatic and phenolic ripeness bodes well for excellent aromas for the white wines, and fruity bouquets and interesting structures for long aging for the reds”.

The climatic conditions and the main cultivation practices in the different viticultural contexts of Contessa Entellina.

In spring(April-May) there was a slight delay in budburstand flowering.

Topping the vines in June encouraged the growth of new leaves physiologically active in the last stages of ripening.

Veraison happened in July and the temperatures were within the seasonal values, always characterized byextreme temperature variationsbetween day and night (even greater than 22°C).

On August 10 the night time harvesting of the Chardonnay began, the first variety to reach full ripeness in the territories of Duchessa and Mazzaporro, among the earliest due to their location down in the valley. Harvesting at night is a technical choice that allows to preserve the grape aromas, saving 70% of energy in the cooling before pressing.

The following day, in the higher (470 – 500 m above sea level) and more ventilated vineyards, the harvest of the Chardonnay and Pinot Nero destined for the preparation of the sparkling wine base for the production of Donnafugata Brut was carried out.

Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier followed soon after, with the harvesting that begins in the Mazzaporro district and continues gradually in the other areas. Then the Merlot in the Casale Bianco district (whose name derives from the typical white color of the terrains), the first of the black grape vineyards to reach full ripeness, thanks also to the phenomenon of the reflectance due to the composition of the terrains, rich in limestone. Successively the Nero D’Avola, Syrah and Tannat destined for the production of the base for the Donnafugata rosé were harvested.

Between late August and early September the harvest of the Syrah in Casale Bianco and Petit Manseng in the Miccina vineyards took place.

The harvest of the Ansonica, Cataratto, Nero D’Avola and Fiano varieties continued during the first ten days of September; in the second ten days of the month it was time for the Grillo cultivated in the hilly area between Marsala and Salemi (Alfaraggio, Baiata and Pioppo districts) that, thanks to the good ventilation and play of temperature differences between day and night, ensure grapes with good acidity and moderate sugar level: excellent characteristics for SurSur, Donnafugata’s single variety white. During the same period the harvest of the Tannat, Petit Verdot, Alicante Bouchet and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties was carried out.

The harvest concluded on September 27 with the Catarratto in Contrada Mazzaporro. A total of about 50 days of harvesting managed with due care and in line with the production tradition universally recognized.

2013

The 2013 vintage was characterized by fairly balanced climatic trends, marked by a mild winter, with good rainfall rainfall (767,8 mm of rainfall compared to the ten-year average of 660 mm), which was followed by a cool, ventilated spring.

In late August some rainfall and cooler temperatures allowed the white grapes to preserve the fruit and freshness intact. 

The 2013 vintage was characterized by fairly balanced climatic trends, with a relatively mild winter and a cool spring.

In general, it rained more than in 2011 and 2012, vintages among the driest in recent years. From October 1, 2012  to August 31, 2013 the rainfall reached 713 mm in 11 months, a slightly higher value compared to the Sicilian average of the last 10 years (660 mm in 12 months, source “Regione Siciliana – SIAS – Servizio Informativo Agrometeorologico Siciliano”).

“2013 has been an excellent vintage. We had a mild winter, with good rainfall, which was followed by a cool, ventilated spring – explains Antonio Rallo, owner of Donnafugata and the company’s production manager -. July and August passed without excesses of heat and with an excellent temperature range between day and night. In late August some rainfall and cooler temperatures allowed the white grapes to preserve the fruit and freshness intact, and the red ones to reach optimal phenolic ripeness”.

Climatic conditions and cultivation methods in the various viticultural environments at Contessa Entellina.

There was a slight delay in budburst and flowering in spring (April-May). Topping the vines in June encouraged the growth of new leaves, physiologically active in the last stages of ripening.

Veraison happened in July and the temperatures were within the seasonal values, always characterized by extreme temperature variations between day and night (even greater than 22° C). From the initial estimates the vintage appeared to be slightly more productive than 2012 and cluster thinning was performed from the middle of the month, in order to make the production in line with the quality objectives of the company.

The harvest began in August at Contessa Entellina where the winery receives the grapes that come from 10 different districts located in the heart of Western Sicily.

Grape picking began on August 5 with the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, for the sparkling wine base, in the higher (470 – 500 m) and ventilated vineyards that are able to ensure the excellent acidity in the grapes used to produce the Donnafugata Brut; it was followed on August 10 with the nighttime harvesting of the Chardonnay, first variety to ripen in the areas of Duchessa and Mazzaporro, among the earliest due to their location down in the valley. Harvesting at night is a technical choice that allows to preserve the grape aromas, saving 70% of energy in the cooling before pressing.

August ended with the following varieties: Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, for which harvest started in Mazzaporro and finished in the other districts; between late August and early September the Merlot andSyrah in Casale Bianco were harvested, the first of the reds to ripen, thanks also to the reflectance of the limestone-rich soil, with the typical white color of this district.

To follow the picking of the Grillo grapes in the hilly area between Marsala and Salemi (the Alfaraggio, Baiata and Pioppo districts) that, thanks to good ventilation and discrete temperature differences between day and night, ensure grapes with good acidity and moderate sugar content, excellent for SurSur, Donnafugata’s new white. During the first week of September, the Ansonica, Cataratto, Nero D’Avola were harvested. In the second week of the month it was time for the Nero d’Avola and Fiano in Miccina, cooler and more ventilated than Mazzaporro. Tannat, Petit Verdot and Alicante Bouchet were picked in the third week. The harvest concluded with the picking of Cabernet Sauvignon in Contrada Pandolfina and the last parcel of Catarratto on September 21.

A good vintage, with peaks of excellence, the premise of harmonious and balanced wines.

2012

The 2012 vintage was slightly warmer than the seasonal averages, although it was characterized by normal climatic trends.

The rainfall was concentrated in spring, but altogether in 2012 there was less rainfall than in the last ten years, with yields that were slightly lower than average.

In Sicily the year was slightly warmer than in the previous years, although, in general, weather patterns were fairly normal.

The winter was on the mild side, with less rainfall than average and the spring was more humid. From October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012 total rainfall was about 470 mm (18.5 inches) compared to a ten-year average of 660 mm (30 inches) according to the S.I.A.S. weather station at Contessa Entellina.

A hot, windy and dry summer produced very healthy grapes, perfectly mature from the aromatic and phenolic standpoints, thanks also to big temperature excursion between day and night, differences of even of 20°C (68°F). This helped maintain the vine’s foliage/fruit balance, a factor that in the Contessa Entellina area protected the grapes from the summer heat, and permitted the leaves to optimally transfer to the fruit during the night what they had photosynthesized during the day.

The harvest at Contessa Entellina: It began on August 10 with the nocturnal harvesting of the Chardonnay. This night time harvest is a technical choice aimed at conserving grape aromas while saving 70% on the energy needed to cool them.

The Sauvignon Blanc was picked on August 13 and the Viognier on the 17. Later in the month temperatures higher than usual made it necessary to pick the early-ripening varieties like Merlot and Syrah in advance of customary harvesting time (this year beginning on August 18). From the end of August to the beginning of September it was the turn of the indigenous grapes: Grillo, Inzolia, Catarratto, Grecanico and Nero d’Avola. The last to be picked were the Tannat, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2012 harvest ended on September 25. There were about 5% more grapes than in 2011, in any case the least productive of recent years.

Antonio Rallo, head of production and co-owner of Donnafugata, stated: “It was a sunny harvest, typical of our territories. Yield per plant is normally low at Donnafugata and the vines usually don’t suffer from lack of water. Even though rainfall was slightly under average until the late spring the only effect this had was on the Chardonnay vines, producing fewer grapes per plant. From the qualitative standpoint, all the varieties were in line with expected standards and there was nice performance by the Grillo, an indigenous, traditional Sicilian grape grape that the winery considers very promising.

2011

With cool temperatures and rainfall concentrated in spring, overall, there was less rainfall throughout the 2011 vintage (512 mm compared to the 660 mm average of the last 10 years), with yields that were slightly lower than normal.

The grapes, healthy and ripe, allowed us to “bring into the glass” a bouquet rich in aromas and striking elegance

Humidity naturally accumulated by the soils, thanks to spring rain, together with drip irrigations focused on some vineyards have perfectly compensated the lower rainfall characterizing vintage 2011, rainier than normal, on average in Sicily.

Donnafugata production, both at Contessa Entellina estate  and on the island of Pantelleria, reports a decrease of around 10% due to the climatic trend reducing the number of berries per bunch, during but set phase.

At the Contessa Entellina Estate, the picking begun on August 10th with the night harvest of the Chardonnay, the first variety to ripen.

In August other grape varieties were harvested: starting with Sauvignon Blanc on the 16th, Viognier on the 18th, Merlot on the 26th.

At the beginning of September, instead, were picked Nero d’Avola, Alicante, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Ansonica.

Harvest continued on September 7th with Grecanico, on the 8th with Catarratto, on the 13th with Petit Verdot and starting from the 17th with Tannat. The picking of grapes ended on October 3rd, following the traditional rhythms of this area of Sicily.

In conclusion, harvest quality achieved the goals fixed. Results are very good for white grapes: the wines obtained are fresh, rich in aromas and well balanced thanks to the spring climatic trend characterized by mild temperatures and rainfall.

Also this year great red Sicilian wine expectations were met, by healthy grapes well ripen from both an aromatic and fenolic point of view and to high atmospheric temperature ranges characterizing the second part of August.

2010

2010 was a rainier year than usual; yield somewhat lower but quality was high thanks to ripe and healthy grapes, obtained by fairly even weather and meticulous vineyard tending, giving wines of particular finesse.

Fairly even weather and meticulous vineyard tending were the premises for quality grape growing that brought healthy and promise-fulfilling fruit to the cellar.

In the autumn and winter rainfall was above seasonal averages: overall, from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010 there were 32.8 inches, compared to the average 26.6 registered in the past ten years by the S.I.A.S. weather station at Contessa Entellina (www.sias.regione.sicilia.it).
In the spring (April-May), there was a slight delay in vine budding and blossoming. In June some trimming was done to spur the growth of new leaves physiologically active in the last stages of ripening.

In July the grapes began to darken; temperatures were within seasonal norms, always with big differences between day and night. Initial estimates for the year showed a less productive one and so vines were thinnedonly in some vineyards in order to have total grape output in line with the winery’s quality goals. The grape harvest began on August 16 at Contessa Entellina, a few days later than in past years. Following tradition it began with the nocturnal harvesting of the Chardonnay, the earliest variety to ripen.

In August there were three heat waves with temperatures higher than usual, which sped up grape ripening. Great differences between day and night temperatures aided in balancing plant/grape growth; between August 21 and 28 peak temperatures reached over 101°F, while the lowest was 67.5°F. After August 29 the weather got cooler, below seasonal averages.

In addition to the Chardonnay, at the Contessa Entellina estate in August other grape varieties were harvested: starting on the 18th the Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier and on the 24th the Merlot. September was harvest time for the Nero d’Avola and Syrah (starting on the 1st), the Grecanico (beginning on the 2nd), the Catarratto(from the 6th), the Cabernet Sauvignon (from the 8th), the Petit Verdot (from the 14th), the Ansonica (from the 16th), the Tannat (17th) and the Alicante Bouchet (from the 20th). The harvest concluded on October 2 in some later-ripening vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon.

2009

The 2009 summer featured big differences between day and night temperatures enhancing the finesse of the  grapes grown at Donnafugata’s Contessa Entellina estate.

Normal weather trends and scrupulous vineyard tending created the premises for an excellent harvest allowing us to bring healthy and perfectly ripe grapes to the cellar.

These are the year’s highlights.

In the fall and winter rainfall was above seasonal averages. In spring (April and May) there was a slight delay in budding and blossoming. In June we trimmed the vines to facilitate the growth of new leaves that would be physiologically active in the final stages of grape ripening.

Summer temperatures were a bit higher than usual. In any case, there were big temperature changes between day and night, aiding the vineyards’ vine/grape growth balance, preventing stress from summer heat and at night allowing what was photosynthesized during the day to be transferred from the vine leaves to the grapes.

For example, on the hillsides of the Donnafugata estate at Contessa Entellina, on one of the hottest days, such as July 16, maximum temperature reached 103ºF while the minimum was 65ºF. And even during all of August the difference between highest and lowest temperatures was considerable.

In July the vines went through the grape-setting phase. Towards the end of the month the most productive vineyards were selectively thinned.

At Contessa Entellina the harvest began on August 10, with the nighttime picking of the Chardonnay grapes, the earliest variety to ripen. Nocturnal harvesting is a technical choice that preserves the grapes’ aromas much better during transport from vineyard to cellar, thanks to cooler temperatures.

It was then the turn of the Sauvignon Blanc (August 13), the Viognier (August 19 to 27), the Merlot (August 26 to September 5), the Syrah (August 27 to September 12), the Nero d’Avola (starting from September 5), the Grecanico (September 6) and the Ansonica (September 7 to 10).

The Cabernet Sauvignon harvest began on September 9 and the Catarratto on September 12. The rain that fell on September 16-17 and 22-23 delayed grape picking by about a week, ending on October 1 for both varieties.

At the vineyards located at Pandolfina (Sambuca di Sicilia) the most recently planted varieties were harvested as follows: the Alicante was picked on September 19, the Tannat on the 21 and 29 and the Petit Verdot on September 29.

These are grapes traditional to several Mediterranean basin countries such as France, Spain and Italy (Alicante in particular has been grown for more than a century in Sicily, too). In the past few years Donnafugata has found that these varieties grow extremely well on the Belice Valley hills and so will gradually be added to the blends of some of the winery’s reds.

Where overall rainfall is concerned, this was quite a wet year: from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009, 34.4 inches of rain fell versus the average of 26.6 registered over the past seven years by the S.I.A.S meteorological station at Contessa Entellina (www.sias.regione.sicilia.it).

In conclusion, at Donnafugata white wine quality is excellent; the same high quality was achieved for the reds although production was smaller because the rainfall on September 22-23 made greater selection during picking necessary.

 

2008

During the 2008 vintage temperatures were a bit higher than seasonal averages but not torrid and with big differences between day and night. On the whole it was a very balanced year featuring a gradual but constant ripening of the grapes.

Thanks to normal weather conditions and very scrupulous vineyard tending, at Donnafugata the 2008 grape harvest was excellent, giving it healthy, perfectly ripe grapes that will become wines with great harmony and elegance.

Particularly 2008 was a somewhat drier year: from October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008, rainfall amounted to 20 inches versus an average of 25.5 inches in the past six years in western Sicily (data collected at the S.I.A.S. weather station at Contessa Entellina: www.sias.regione.sicilia.it).

Temperatures were a bit higher than the seasonal norm but without exceptional peaks and with remarkable differences between day and night that kept the vineyards from experiencing stress. Altogether it was a very balanced year featuring gradual and constant ripening of the different grape varieties.

Meticulous vineyard tending, from winter pruning to pre-harvest thinning enabled the vines to achieve an optimal vegetation-production equilibrium. And highly important in obtaining quality were the efforts made to monitor grape ripening and to choose the ideal time for picking each variety in Donnafugata’s various vineyards.

From the standpoint of vine health, except for some very circumscribed cases of grape leafhopper the year was problem-free; the harvested grapes were generally very healthy and reached aromatic and phenolic maturity with a lower amount of sugar than usually. Meaning that the 2008 wines will generally have lower alcohol content than the average for recent years.

Here the most significant moments of the 2008 vintage in the period from April to September at the Donnafugata estate at Contessa Entellina.

April-May: mild temperatures at first slowed down the usual timing of shooting and blossoming. Rainfalls were below the seasonal average and a bit ahead in time (May) when the vines needed more water anyway.

June-July: a slight delay in the ripening process was quickly recouped thanks to fine weather conditions. In June the vines were trimmed to foster new leaf growth during the last stages of grape ripening. In July the grapes were in the darkening stage and towards the end of the month the vines were thinned, especially the black grape varieties that this year proved more productive. The reduction of output per vine will lead to wines that are aromatically more complex thanks to perfect phenol maturation in the grapes.

August: the first part of the month was fairly hot, but only occasionally above 95°F and the difference between highs and lows was of about 61°F and often more than 68°F. These climatic conditions enabled the plants to continue in their photosynthesis and complete the ripening stage of the early-ripening grapes (Chardonnay, Viognier and Merlot), while helping the later-ripening varieties to continue to mature.
The night of August 6 was the start of harvesting the Chardonnay, the grape that ripens earliest. At the Contessa Entellina estate this marked the tenth anniversary of the nighttime harvest, a technical decision making it possible to optimally preserve grape aromas during their transport from vineyard to cellar, thanks to cooler nocturnal temperatures.
It rained in the latter part of August (nearly 2 inches) and this, combined with cooler temperatures, kept the vines from suffering water deprivation and allowed them to continue ripening.

September: in early September average temperatures rose, permitting the later-ripening varieties (including Nero d’Avola and Ansonica) to fully mature. On September 26 the harvest concluded with the late red grapes and some portions of Cataratto.

2007

The vintage 2007 was less rainy than usually for western Sicily. Temperatures were within the seasonal norms. In detail, the hottest days were at the end of June, in mid-July and the last week of August and were always mitigated by very cool nights.

Temperature differences between night and day had very positive effects on the vineyards’ growth cycle and on the organoleptic quality of the grapes.

From October 1, 2006, until the conclusion of the 2007 vintage on the Donnafugata Estate at CONTESSA ENTELLINA, rainfall was slightly inferior to the average for this part of Sicily, a total of 449 mm. as compared with 540 mm. annually.

Temperatures registered were close to seasonal levels. The highest were registered in June from the 23rd to the 26th, in July between the 20th and the 24th and in August between the 22nd and 29th; however, the heat was always mitigated by extremely low temperatures at night. These strong variations between day and night temperatures (up to 75° F) were essential to the proper performance of the vegetative cycle in the vineyards and for the organoleptic quality of the grapes.

The beginning of the vintage was in line with the average startup of harvesting on Sicily. It began with Chardonnay on August 17 and the pickers then moved on to the Viognier. During the heat wave of the last week of August, ripening accelerated and in response the harvesters started to bring in the Merlot on August 24, the Syrah on September 2, the Nero d’Avola on the 4th and the Cabernet Sauvignon on the 6th, while the harvesting of the Ansonica began on the 7th, followed by the Catarratto. Harvesting concluded on September 23 with the last red grapes.

The productivity of the vineyards from the end of the flowering appeared inferior to the average of recent vintages. Still, to realize its qualitative objectives, the estate carried out relatively little thinning. Altogether, the grapes reached a state of perfect sugary ripeness. In addition, the aromatic and phenolic ripeness was excellent thanks to the substantial variations in temperatures registered in the countryside around Contessa Entellina and to the use of emergency irrigation.

2006

The 2006 vintage was characterized by rainfall, in spring, that was more abundant than the seasonal averages. The harvest began on August 22 at Contessa Entellina.

Among the autochthonous vine varieties, this year Nero d’Avola enjoyed favorable climatic conditions, which highlighted the fruit.

Donnafugata began the 2006 grape harvest at Contessa Entellina on August 22, more or less as in the past two years however later than the average.

At Contessa Entellina the Chardonnay grapes were the first to be picked-at night to retain their aromatic elements and to guarantee energy savings in the grape cooling stage.

This summer in Sicily was not excessively hot. Grape harvesting at the Contessa Entellina estate began after the four hottest days of the summer, that accelerated grape ripening.

The Spring was characterized by heavy rain in comparison to the average season which was concentrated between late April and early May: from April 29 to May 5 rainfall reached 50 mm, a significant amount for the island.

Grape production was more abundant than usual and so the yield was reduced with repeated thinning-out to ensure a better productive equilibrium and the ideal aromatic ripening.The technical team, guided by Antonio Rallo, “Donnafugata family” agronomist and head of production, is expecting to secure from the 2006 harvest white wines that are highly aromatic and red wines with good body and fruity flavors.

Among the indigenous varieties, Nero d’Avola enjoyed outstanding weather conditions this year, highlighting the fruit.

2005

Unlike the dry years, 2005 was cool and rainy; weather that delayed grape ripening.

Harvesting began at the Donnafugata estate at Contessa Entellina on August 16, with nighttime picking of the white grapes, which are expected to yield highly scented white wines.

There are excellent forecasts for the reds, since the early-September rains aided the balance between sugars and polyphenols.

2004

Both at Contessa Entellina and on Pantelleria the season began late, with an especially rainy winter and spring and a summer with cooler than average temperatures.
Weather of this type delayed the growing cycle in the vineyard about 15 to 20 days, leading to slow and even ripening of the grapes.
This enhanced sugar-acid balance as well as aromatic maturation.

In general 2004 will be remembered for the elegance and finesse of its wines, rather than for power.

2003

After 3 years of drought, the 2002-2003 winter provided Sicily average rainfall for the island.
This enabled the soil to replenish water reserves, fundamental for the vineyard right from the first stages of development, such as budding and flowering, which took place in the best possible way.
The whites and reds achieved a fine balance of body, aroma, freshness and mellowness.

2002

This was a fairly dry year, with a hot but not overly hot summer.
To reach our preset qualitative results, both at Contessa Entellina and on Pantelleria, we had to thin out the vines, relinquishing 20% to 30% of the harvest.
This gave us wines with excellent concentration that retained their aromatic finesse.

2001

At Contessa Entellina the winter was mild with little rainfall; summer temperatures were high but not excessively so.

Ideal conditions for obtaining healthy and perfectly ripe grapes.

2000

A generally dry year.
After mid-August there was a torrid week that sped up harvest time, especially for the red grapes.

The year yielded structured wines; thinning out the grapes while still on the vine gave the wines elegance as well.

Olive tree grove

Olive tree grove

In the 9-hectare olive grove, from which Donnafugata produces its extra virgin olive oil, four of western Sicily’s autochthonous varieties are cultivated; these are Nocellara, Cerasuola, Biancolilla and Pidicuddara. Together they make up the blend of Milleanni, an oil produced in a controlled atmosphere using the best cold extraction and malaxation technologies, meaning all of the aromatic properties of the fruit remain intact.