The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city. They were one of the first families to begin making high quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region's native varieties. Today, Donnafugata has four estates in Sicily: a modern winery and 283 hectares at Contessa Entellina in the hills east of Marsala; 36 hectares in Vittoria to the south eastern point of the island; 68 hectares on the island of Pantelleria; and 18 hectares on the slopes of Etna. Donnafugata means 'fleeing woman' and is a reference to Queen Maria Carolina, who escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th century with her husband, Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, when Napoleon's troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the 'Mille e una Notte' label.
The grapes for this wine are grown in vineyards on the north side of Etna, in five districts between Randazzo and Passopiscaro, at altitudes of 730-750 metres above sea level. Soils there are volcanic, deep and rich in minerals, and allow strong root growth. Vines are trained to Vertical Shoot Position, and are planted at a density of about 4,500 plants per hectare.
Autumn and winter saw little rainfall. However, thanks to the loose volcanic soils, the roots of the vines were able to access deep water stores and, therefore, they did not suffer despite the dry weather. Summer temperatures did not reach excessive heights, and some rain towards the end of August helped the vines remain healthy and their growth regular. The grapes were able to ripen slowly and regularly, due to mild temperatures in September and October. 2016 has given wines with intense aromas, harmonious tannins, finesse and balance.
Harvest was carried out by hand between 14th-28th October. Once the clusters reached the winery, they underwent selection on a vibrating table, followed by a final selection, this time by a machine capable of discarding the green and overripe grapes. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks with maceration on the skins for 8-10 days at a temperature of 25°C. Ageing took place partly in stainless steel and partly in second and third use French oak barriques for 14 months. After bottling, the wine spent a further seven months in bottle before release.
Pale ruby red in the glass, this wine offers an elegant bouquet of wild berry notes, floral scents and delicate nuances of cinnamon and nutmeg. These characteristics continue through to the palate, supported by freshness and harmonious tannins. The finish is long and balanced.