This year’s grape harvest is in full swing across Europe, including Yorkshire where the Northern most commercial vineyard, Ryedale Vineyards, begin picking this week.
I’ll be joining them to help next week with the Yorkshire vintage, but I’m lucky enough to be just back from the rather hotter harvest in South West Sicily, where I’ve been filming for the family firm Planeta.
The island has the longest harvest in the world, spanning three months from the beginning of August because of the widely differing terroir, from the chilly slopes of volcano Mount Etna to the very warm coastal regions round Menfi.
This gives innovative winemakers the opportunity to use different grape varieties to produce wines which are now internationally famous.
We were filming the Chardonnay harvest, still being done lovingly by hand to guarantee premium quality, and it goes from picking to pressing in less than an hour as Planeta has six boutique wineries dotted round the island. It’s just as well as the temperatures were hitting 38 degrees C by late morning.
Alessio Planeta, the chief winemaker, has made the family name by producing stunning wines with indigenous varieties, and experimenting with what grows well where. He works on respecting his land, the climate and getting the best out of grapes which were once only used for mass, cheap, not great quality production.
Their entry wine is La Segreta, available as a red or white blend. Both are fresh, perky and delicious as is their soft fruity Syrah rose.
Their benchmark wine, Santa Cecilia is a serious blockbuster produced from the island’s most important grape nero d’avola, and has won worldwide acclaim.
But for a real treat head for their juicy cherry-like Cerasuolo di Vittoria, made from nero d’avola and frappato, which is a great match for any Italian food and is approachable. And their latest white wine Carricante, grown at altitude on Etna, has just been released delivering fresh minerality but with finesse.
I love these wines. They’re not cheap but they’re beautifully made and offer an exciting new tastes if you’re looking for something different.
They’re on the wine list at Sasso in Harrogate, L’Antica Locanda in York, and Salvos in Leeds. Le Langhe in York has a small range for sale in its shop, and you can also find them at Czerwik wine merchants in Brighouse. Probably the biggest choice is mail order through Valvona & Crolla