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Donnafugata 2014 Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria 14.5%
It’s not every day one sips a wine made from grapes grown in a region classified under UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Before the first drop, such an esteemed designation gives a rare wine’s taste even more charisma. It’s not just the grapes (Zibbibo, the local name for Muscat of Alessandria) and the volcanic soil of the island of Pantelleria that create the magic of this delightfully thick liquid. It’s also the wind, for which the wine is named: Ben Ryé, meaning “Son of the Wind” in reference to the winds that constantly sweep across (and around) this rugged, mountainous island.

This wine defies my typical usage suggestions for sweet wines. I often think of sweet wines as “dessert in a glass”, or something that can replace dessert when thirst still calls yet the tummy is too full for more food. One of the primary differences here is that the Ben Ryé possesses a decadently sweet attack yet a surprisingly dry and clean finish. In between the two, there’s a tactile, pithy orange peel sensation that combines with lively acidity to make this a wine for food. Something light like panettone comes to mind first, but as there’s still a large chunk on my counter post-Christmas celebrations, a rich piece of my mom’s fruitcake would be even better. The cake and the wine share flavors of cinnamon spice, candied pineapple, sweet red cherry and touches of toasted walnuts.

Ready to drink now, there’s really no rush if this is properly stored. It drinks well today but will develop further layers of nuance in time.
Drink: 2017-24