“The Circle Is Now Complete” (Visiting Donnafugata in Vittoria)

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Vader Circle

I’ve spent a good amount of time getting to know (and, of course, writing about) Donnafugata, one of the largest and most important producers in Sicily. Hell, I was even present for their first-ever retrospective tasting of Ben Rye (which either makes me insanely lucky, or old, or probably both).

During the previous decade+, I’ve managed to visit all of their various production locations, sans one: Vittoria, not far from the gorgeously-funky little cultural hamlet (and chocolate haven) of Modica (the kind of hillside European city that looks like a perfect James Bond small-car-and-motorcycle-chase-scene location). Happily, with my better half in tow, I was able to rectify that scenario recently during a trip to Sicily, and the circle now feels, as Darth Vader might say, “complete.”

Shannon and Joe Modica
The author and his better half in Modica. Now, give me back my jacket, Shannon!

Vittoria is Sicily’s first (and currently only) DOCG, attaining that designation in 2005. The valley was previously covered by river, and so contains sandy soils in general, some with limestone, some with more clay, and all pretty well-suited to prime viticulture. Donnafugata farms 42 hectares there, divided into 3 contrada, all hand-harvested and aged in stainless steel only, producing about 180,000 bottles across three labels. Charmingly, the region is named after a Modica duchess, who gifted land provided that it be used for wine grape production.

During my visit, we managed to not only taste Donnafugata’s Vittoria wares, but also got caught up on several of their recent releases, presented for you below. Along with a veritable photo album slide show of our Vittoria/Modica jaunt (because I can, and because this is my website, damnit!)…


2021 Donnafugata Vigna di Gabri Contessa di Entellina, Sicily, $NA

This delightful blend of four different varieties includes some older wood-aged Chardonnay. Blossom, pear, tropical fruits, sage and dried rosemary all usher in an elegant and voluptuous palate, with richer pear, yellow apples, apricot flavors.


2020 Donnafugata Chiaranda Contessa Entellina, Sicily, $NA

Chardonnay, Sicilian style. This one sees both oak and concrete aging, with lees contact. You get pineapple, yellow apples, cream, brioche, vanilla, toasted nuts, and white flower, all ripe and full but also mineral and herbal.

crowd pleaser

2021 Donnafugata Bell’Assai Frappato Vittoria, Sicily, $27

A super friendly, energetic red that’s light on the tannins and big on the acidity and verve. Offers loads of pomegranate, roses, lavender, strawberry, black pepper, cherry, and bit of raspberry, too.

crowd pleaser

2021 Donnafugata Contesa dei Venti Vittoria, Sicily, $NA

Welcome to the lighter, lower-tannin (and fresher) incarnation of Nero d’Avola. Plum, raspberry, cherry, balsamic and juniper all present on a vibrant palate with deep red fruit flavors, and rose petals on the finish.

crowd pleaser

2021 Donnafugata Floramundi, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, $30

This Nero-dominant blend sees seven months of bottle aging before release. Blueberry, lots of cherry, plums, bramble, violets, rose petal, licorice, and pepper here, along with a richer palate. The minerality is there, and so are the tannins (they’re apparent but well tamed and ripe). Versatile and delicious.


2019 Donnafugata Contrada Marchesa Etna Rosso, Sicily, $NA

Sourced from 80 year old vines (some pre-phylloxera) growing up to 790m above sea level near Randazzo, only about 400-600 bottles of this Nerello Mascalese are made each vintage. It kicks off with graphite, wet stone, black cherry fruit, bramble, mint/fennel, toast and cedar, cardamom, and balsamic. Earthy, very tight, and sporting big texture, depth, this is a mouthful of mountain/volcanic viticulture.


2019 Donnafugata Dolce & Gabbana ‘Cuordilava’ Etna Rosso, Sicily, $100

A selection of Nerello Mascalese from their best contrada, including older vines; you’re paying for it, along with the D&G name and association. Deep cherry fruit, truffle, fennel, wild herbs, tobacco leaf, pencil lead, smoke, toasted wood, nutmeg… it does not lack for complexity! It feels still young in the mouth, with an elegant/silky streak that belies those grippy tannins. A keeper.


2019 Donnafugata ‘Mille e Una Notte’ Contessa Entellina, Sicily, $85

A big blend of Nero d’Avola, Syrah, and Petit Verdot, this vintage of Donnafugata’s signature icon red is large one. Tons of ripe plummy fruit, with dried violets, char, dried herbs, figs, potpourri and black pepper, vanilla, birch plums, and berry compote, coming in wave after wave. Dark and forceful, yet refreshing and alive, it feels more substantial than its 13.5% abv might suggest.


2021 Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria, Sicily, $90

Wow, this is a fresh vintage of BR! Peach, passion fruit, dried apricot, sultana, dried ginger, mandarin skin, and honey are all already apparent on the nose. In the mouth, this 2021 dessert sipper is honeyed but supremely fresh… I had trouble getting over just how amazingly pure the orange and tropical fruit flavors seemed. It’s also floral AF! An excellent vintage that should stand the test of time.


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“The Circle Is Now Complete” (Visiting Donnafugata in Vittoria) “The Circle Is Now Complete” (Visiting Donnafugata in Vittoria) *“The Circle Is Now Complete” (Visiting Donnafugata in Vittoria)