One of Sicily's most ambitious winemakers, Planeta, has taken on a new challenge by tackling its French competitors head on with its first Brut Classic to be released this year.
The Brut is made from Carricante grapes after two years of experimentation using the 'methode champenoise' (Champagne method) and is already being offered in the market at industry wine tastings.
It is one of several new initiatives that the company is adopting in 2012 and is expected to be formally launched in October.
Francesca Planeta, the company's marketing director, said that the Brut was an experiment for Planeta and the altitude and acidity of the region around Mount Etna were ideal for production.
"Initially we thought the first season's production would be only for our personal interest since we have a big family," Planeta said with a hearty laugh. "Then we planned to sell it in Sicily.
"But we offered the first bottles to guests at our hotel, La Foresteria, and it created immediate interest. I must say we were surprised." Planeta produced 300 bottles of the Brut Classic to offer to company clients but already sees potential for growth as word spreads.
"This could continue to grow, it seems there is a small market for different wines of the champenoise type," Planeta said.
This year the company is also releasing its first red wine from Mount Etna made from Nerello Mascalese grapes that will give the wine an aromatic scent of fruit and honey.
Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and the surrounding area is known for its rich soil which is ideal for wine production.
After years of research, Planeta began cultivation in Sciara Nuova, 870 meters above sea level, in the municipality of Castiglione di Sicilia.
Planeta is also opening its first wine cellar in Mount Etna this year as it continues to reinforce its philosophy of developing different regions and their specific wines.
The Sicilian wine producer draws from agricultural traditions that have been handed down through the Planeta family since the 1500s in the area between Sambuca di Sicilia and Menfi.
Planeta now has six different wine producing estates, each one with a different focus for research and development.
The company has a total of 363 hectares of vineyards throughout Sicily.
"Every territory has a different characteristic," Planeta said. "We realize that each one has wines that are specific to the land of each region. "Noto for example is an area known for Nero d'Avola. Each location has its own characteristics and it is important for a place to produce wine linked to the origins of its terroir.
"Our philosophy is not to simply produce Sicilian wines, but to offer consumers many wines from the many different regions in Sicily as you find in Tuscany."
The company has Ulmo, in Sambuca; Dispensa, in Menfi; Dorilli, in Vittoria; Buonivini, in Noto,; Sciara Nuova, in Etna in Castiglione di Sicilia; and La Baronia, in Capo Milazzo.
Planeta says it has a "deep bond" with the oldest wine-making traditions of Italy's southern island region and its native varieties such as Grecanico, Carricante, Moscato di Noto, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese and Nero d'Avola.
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