Some places are destined to mark us more than others, sometimes simply because they are very different from those where we have already been to. Pantelleria is certainly one of these places for me. The island has an unusual, rare, and above all unconscious beauty. It embraces you with its ancient architecture and frees you when you look at its blue sea that is lost after the impervious rocks.
I spent my first few hours in Pantelleria among the centuries-old vineyards, the Giardino Pantesco and the Donnafugata winery, from which I received the invitation to live in person the island. And so I did: I totally immersed myself in its spectacular wonders, trying to look always with new eyes.
The first evening in contrada Khamma went by very quickly between the aperitifs and the notes of the Maestro Ciomei with Mozart and every possible request of the guests.
Two things I filled up with in Pantelleria are the sea and the aperitifs. My second day in Pantelleria was spent between an intense morning of trekking in the Khagiar area and an aperitif (with numerous toasts, of course!) on the sea, followed by a rich lunch. Here, too, food has been abundant on the island. The “Bacio Pantesco”, a particular dessert, would also deserve a special recognition from UNESCO!
In the afternoon there was an interesting meeting with the Giuntoli architecture studio which illustrated to me and to the group the origins and the main characteristics of the dammusi. What dammusi are? The dammusi are the typical houses of Pantelleria. Think, the island has more than 8000 units! These buildings began to appear in the 15th century, but it was only in the 19th century that Pantelleria began to have more. The aperitif on the roof of a dammuso, that famous white dome that you have certainly seen in some photos on Instagram, was mandatory.
Wine is above all waiting and effort, as well as a sweet taste of sacrifice. And Donnafugata keeps to set up this incredible work and nature equation to make its wines.
All the care of the vineyard and the grape harvest of Donnafugata is by hand. The only machinery takes part in this human merry-go-round only when the grape is becoming wine, but much of the work is manual: the care of the vines, pruning, harvesting and its transfer. The workers carry the boxes with the harvested grapes on their shoulders along all the terraces, as to cradle them one last time before the process of transformation into wine begins.
In Pantelleria the cultivation of Donnafugata, or rather the breeding, to use their authentic jargon, is only of Zibibbo. Its particular vine has the shape and the size of a bush. It is called “alberello pantesco” and it is an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Its shape is due to the strong and constant wind that watches over the island. If you take a look at the rest of the Pantelleria vegetation, you will notice that even the olive trees are dwarfs. The only tall plants are palm trees and some cacti.
The Donnafugata tour has also included other stages. On the third day we witnessed the production process of Ben Ryè, the famous Donnafugata passito among the most appreciated sweet wines in the world. Its amber color is a pleasure for the eyes and for the palate. I have discovered that the dried berries are removed one by one, grain by grain, from the bunch and that to obtain one liter of Ben Ryé you need 4 kg of grapes. A painstaking job that guarantees an exceptional taste. If you’ve ever tasted Ben Ryé you’ll know what I’m talking about!
We then stopped at Bonomo’s capereto, a cultivation that on terraces that creates a sort of natural amphitheater. From here we then moved to the craft workshop that takes care of processing the capers collected.
The Donnafugata company, present not only in Pantelleria but also in Marsala, Contessa Entellina, Vittoria and Etna, is very faithful to tradition. With an incredible family history, it has been able to face the decades since its foundation with a skilful work culture and the finest care for quality.
In my Pantelleria days, together with a group of insatiable sunset lovers just like me, I had the chance to taste different wines. Although I am not an expert in the sector – to play it safe with humility – I can sincerely say that I appreciated them all very much. Sur Sur, Floramundi, Kabir, the aforementioned Ben Ryé and then again Vigna di Gabri, Bell’Assai, Ben Tue: these are the labels, from different vintages, with which I made my cups sparkle in the air. Every wine smells of history, family and tradition.
The Vigna di Gabri, for example, with floral scents of elder and acacia, is a tribute to love: of a man, Giacomo, for his wife, Gabriella (founder of Donnafugata) and of her for the sought after vineyard of Ansonica.
For a Tuscan like me the topic of wine might seema delicate matter, instead I was pleased to find that there are lands that offer incredible fruits. I learned wisdom and sacrifice from the hands of those who carefully treat every little grape. I loved the sweaty smiles of those who work the land and those who always get new life from nature.
Pantelleria, you are so beautiful! Maybe I didn’t thank you enough for making me understand how much your silences have allowed me to think. You are amazing and unaware, rich and kind-hearted. And if now I know all this, I owe only to the entourage of Donnafugata, which led me to discover all the charms of the island.
This is the story of my first time in Pantelleria. Have you ever been in this island? And do we want to talk about Donnafugata wines? In this post the topics are a thousand, I’ll wait in the comments for all the questions you want to ask me.
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