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Donnafugata `Ben Ryé` Passito di Pantelleria

Pantelleria, Sicilia


The Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 and their ancient cellars tunnel beneath the city...

They were one of the first families to begin making high quality table wine when sales of traditional sweet Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing some the region‘s native grape varieties. Today, they have two estates in Sicily: a modern winery and 260 hectares at Contessa Entellina in the hills east of Marsala and 68 hectares on the island of Pantelleria. Donnafugata means ‘fleeing woman’ - a reference to Queen Maria Carolina who, with her husband Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, escaped the court of Naples in the early 19th century when Napoleon’s troops arrived. The couple took refuge in Sicily at the Santa Margherita Belice palace, also the favourite residence of celebrated writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and depicted on the ‘Mille e Una Notte’ label.

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A modern take on the classic Moscato Passito, the name Ben Ryé derives from the Arabic `Son of the Wind`, after the wind which sweeps round the island.  The Zibibbo vines are planted in the traditional style in hollows in the ground and pruned short and cover 68 hectares. Vines are over 100 years old and are ungrafted. Soils are volcanic in origin, very loose and mineral rich. Yields are approximately four tonnes per hectare.

Vintage information

The 2012 vintage was slightly warmer than the seasonal averages, although it was characterised by regular climatic trends. The rainfall was concentrated in spring, but altogether in 2012 there was less rainfall than in the last 10 years, with yields that were slightly lower than average. A sunny harvest produced very healthy grapes, perfectly mature both in aromatic and phenolic development.


Grapes from the later ripening vineyards were chilled and pressed with the dried grapes added at intervals during fermentation, which took place in temperature controlled stainless steel. The wine remained in stainless steel for four months, followed by six months in bottle after blending. Four kilos of grapes produced one litre of Ben Ryé. Total production was approximately 80,000 bottles.

Tasting Notes

The 2012 Ben Rye is a bright amber in the glass. The ample and round bouquet opens with aromas of fresh apricots and candied orange peel on a background of aromatic herbs. On the palate, the sweetness is well balanced by crisp acidity and great length.

Vintage information

Vintage 2012
Grape varieties 100% Zibibbo
Region Pantelleria, Sicilia
Winemaker Antonino Santoro, Antonio Rallo, Stefano Valla
Alcohol (ABV) 14.5%
Acidity 7.9g/l
Residual Sugar 200g/l
Wine pH 3.8