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Passito Pantelleria

The Passito di Pantelleria is one of the most renowned and fascinating wine specialities in the world. It is a sweet, dense and full-bodied nectar that embodies all the power of the sun of its land of origin, transforming it into a sugary charge, with scents of honey, candied fruit, Mediterranean herbs and luminous aromatic abundance. It has travelled through some 2000 years of history before reaching the present day and emerging as a wonderful blend of local native traditions, Arabian culture and unique climatic conditions. It is produced from dried Zibibbo grapes, also known as Moscato di Alessandria and harvested from alberello-trained vines. They are grown in special hollows dug into the ground to protect them from the wind, salt and excessive heat following agricultural techniques that are rightly defined as heroic. The skill and passion of many local producers have contributed in recent decades to the enhancement of this type of wine, which is as old as it is fascinating throughout the world.

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The Passito di Pantelleria is one of the most renowned and fascinating wine specialities in the world. It is a sweet, dense and full-bodied nectar that embodies all the power of the sun of its land of origin, transforming it into a sugary charge, with scents of honey, candied fruit, Mediterranean herbs and luminous aromatic abundance. It has travelled through some 2000 years of history before reaching the present day and emerging as a wonderful blend of local native traditions, Arabian culture and unique climatic conditions. It is produced from dried Zibibbo grapes, also known as Moscato di Alessandria and harvested from alberello-trained vines. They are grown in special hollows dug into the ground to protect them from the wind, salt and excessive heat following agricultural techniques that are rightly defined as heroic. The skill and passion of many local producers have contributed in recent decades to the enhancement of this type of wine, which is as old as it is fascinating throughout the world.

The 2000 Year History of Passito di Pantelleria

The first historical evidence of a Passito di Pantelleria wine dates back to 200 B.C. and includes testimony by the Carthaginian general Magone of certain practices carried out by the island's inhabitants: the ripe bunches of grapes were picked and the best ones were selected, eliminating those that were mouldy, then the grapes were tied to a pole and exposed to the sun; once dried, the berries were removed from the stalks and placed with fresh must in clay jars, which were then sealed with lids while fermentation took place for about a month.

This evidence demonstrates that this type of sweet wine was already being produced in ancient times, exploiting the characteristics of the land and the intense aromatic power of an indigenous grape known by its Arabic name of Zibibbo, which is a name with an unclear meaning for which no convincing etymology has been found. It is also called Muscat of Alexandria or Muscat of Spain due to assumptions about its distant origin. Although today the spread of this grape variety is limited to the island of Pantelleria, it seems that it originated in Alexandria in Egypt and then spread throughout the Mediterranean, including southern Spain and its islands. Today, there are species on the Iberian Peninsula and in various parts of the lower Mediterranean basin that appear to be genetically related to Zibibbo, including Moscatel de Malaga, Moscatel de Jerez, Muscat Gordo Blanco and Salamanna.

According to an ancient Mediterranean legend of Punic origin, the goddess of fertility Tanit is said to have replaced the nectar of ambrosia in the court of the gods with the Zibibbo must produced on the island. In this way she managed to conquer the beautiful Apollo. The ancient traditions of Passito Pantelleria have been handed down for generations over the centuries, until today. As early as 1900 it was successfully exhibited at the Paris Exposition and in 1974 it was the third Sicilian wine variety to be awarded DOC status. Since 2014, UNESCO has recognised the traditional agricultural practices of alberello cultivation on the island as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.


A Land of Heroic Viticulture, a World Heritage Site

UNESCO has recognised the cultivation methods used to produce Passito Pantelleria as a World Heritage Site. Vine cultivation on the island is in fact based on very ancient techniques, developed over the centuries to cope with extreme and very difficult environmental conditions.

The landscape on the island is mountainous, with the Montagna Grande (Big Mountain) at an altitude of 836 metres, and the soil is of volcanic origin. The climate is warm and Mediterranean, very similar to that of North Africa: the island is only 70 kilometres from Tunisia. The salty sea winds blow very strongly across the island, which is why the Arabs referred to the island as 'Daughter of the Wind'. The natural elements, shaped by wind, sand and salt, coexist with human artefacts of rare beauty and charm: dry stone walls that define properties, Pantelleria gardens in which multicoloured citrus trees are cultivated and the dammusi, lava stone buildings crowned by domes that serve to collect rainwater.

The historical and unique cultivation methods of the vines are designed to cope with the very difficult climate of this windswept, sunburnt environment while maintaining the natural beauty of the island. It is a beautiful example of sustainable agriculture applied traditionally on a large scale and following ancient rural wisdom. The vines are planted in hollows dug into the ground to provide protection and a microclimate that ensures the survival of the plant. The vines are then pruned to produce only six branches, giving the plant the shape of a small bush known as the 'alberello pantesco'.


The Characteristics of One of the World's Most Famous Sweet Nectars

The characteristics of the best Passito di Pantelleria are always defined by its great colour, substantial alcohol content and high sugar level. The colour is often a very bright intense golden one, tinged with amber and orange shades for the more complex and aged expressions. The aromas are very strong and exuberant, evoking dried yellow fruit, such as apricots, honey, candied citrus fruit, dried figs and aromatic herbs typical of the island, such as oregano. At times there are fascinating, complex and elegant hints of capers and saltiness, which indicate great territoriality and exciting expressive potential. On the palate it is always dense, sweet, warm and enveloping, with great body, structure and persistence. Among the most famous expressions is the Passito di Pantelleria Donnafugata called Ben Ryé, which is the most well-known internationally and the most critically acclaimed. However, the wines of smaller artisans such as Salvatore Murana and Ferrandes are also very typical and fascinating.

It is recommended to serve this type of wine at a temperature never exceeding 14°C. This is to avoid that the typical warmth and characteristic aromatic exuberance become too excessive. Passito di Pantelleria pairs perfectly with very intense and flavoursome desserts: dried fruit, almond paste or marzipan biscuits, sweet ricotta or fruit jam. Very tasty and herby cheeses also make an excellent accompaniment, although they are not particularly territorial. The greatest and most memorable varieties can also be tasted alone, without being accompanied by anything else, as meditative expressions.

If you wish to explore this very ancient and fascinating type of sweet wine, Callmewine offers you a wide selection of the best and most typical Passito di Pantelleria bottles for sale online at extremely competitive prices.