Review: Wines of Donnafugata, 2023 Releases

Sicily’s Donnafugata is no stranger to Drinkhacker’s pages. In fact, post #1, back in 2007, was a review of a Donnafugata wine. 16 years later we’re back for more, which now includes a partnership with Dolce & Gabbana, which provides a brand-appropriate spin on a few of the winery’s labels.

Today we take a deepish dive into four recent releases from this impressive winery, starting with a lively rose and ending with its iconic passito dessert wine, Ben Rye.

Let’s dive in.

2022 Donnafugata Rosa Dolce & Gabbana Sicilia DOC – A rose of nerello mascalese and nocera, this is a strawberry-laden rose with elements of white blossoms and fresh cream. The floral elements grow in power as the finish builds, which evokes notes of lemon peel, mandarin orange, and coconut, with lacings of honey building on the finish. A perfectly summery rose, it drinks easy but, alas, is soon lost into the haze of summer. A perfect aperitif.

2019 Donnafugata Tancredi Terre Siciliane IGT – A blend of cabernet sauvignon and nero d’avola, this aggressive and licorice-fueled wine pours on notes of blackcurrants and tar, rich with dark chocolate and later a balsamic note. This pairs well with a heavier meal but also dark chocolate (as a dessert), as a touch of sweetness helps brighten up what can be a dense and weighty experience. Some time in cellar should help to even that out and let the thick tannins find some balance, but even now it’s showing well — provided you’re prepared for a lashing of licorice across the face.

2019 Donnafugata Mille e una Notte Sicilia DOC – A classic blend of nero d’avola, petit verdot, syrah, and other grapes. Bold with black fruits and ample tannin, the wine takes its time before settling down to showcase a more focused blackberry and currant character, infused with elements of volcanic ash, graphite, and earthy bramble. Some tart cranberry, lightly spiced, on the finish. Overall the wine is tight today and a little astringent, but should benefit well from time in cellar — five years would be a good target, I’d estimate — which will give the wine time to find some balance and softness. If you drink it now, pair accordingly with a bold dish.

2021 Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria – Made from passito style muscat of Alexandria (zibibbo) grapes. Always a treat, this honeydripper of a wine is sweet but not too sweet, offering gorgeous notes of caramelized peaches, apricot, and flambed banana. Caramel and vanilla drip down the throat on the finish — though there’s enough acidity to keep the experience perky and lively. Recent vintages of Ben Rye haven’t always shown the wine at its best, but this bottling is a delightful return to form.

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