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I spent last Friday night in St Michael's Church, Bath, hosting a wine tasting for the excellent bookshop Topping & Co, an independent operation set up in Bath and Ely by the team who used to run the best branch of Waterstone's, Deansgate in Manchester. I used to host a wine and book event at Deansgate whenever I had a new title out. But with the growth of Am*z*n and their like, book tours have almost become a thing of the past, which is a shame because there is nothing like meeting potential buyers of wine and books in person and hearing what they are interested in.
The key to a good event like this is a good wine retailer. The Deansgate staff were soulmates of their counterparts at the local Oddbins, then in its heyday – thereby confirming my oft-repeated parallel between booksellers and wine retailers (see Where to learn more about wine, for example). Topping recruited Tom King of Bath's most important wine merchant, Great Western Wine, who came up with five seriously interesting wines, each of them representing one of the 25 new maps in the new, 7th edition of The World Atlas of Wine, of which I was delighted to dedicate many copies after the tasting.
We tasted the wines below, for which I cite Great Western Wine's regular retail price – although they were offering a 15% discount on orders placed on the night. As I usually do, I asked people to vote for their favourite. The number denotes the number of hands raised in each wine's favour.
Ailalá Treixadura 2012 Ribeiro £10.95 (7 votes). The 2010 vintage was a wine of the week here.
Planeta 2012 Etna Bianco £14.50 (15 votes)
Quinta do Crasto, Crasto 2011 Douro Superior £14.95 (31 votes)
Kooyong, Massale Pinot Noir 2011 Mornington Peninsula £19.95 (24 votes)
Peller Vidal Icewine 2011 Niagara £29.92 a half (3 votes)
The Portuguese red was certainly very impressive but Crasto reds are far fromunknown on this site. In fact there are 45 tasting notes on Quinta do Crasto's Douro table wines. We have even more tasting notes on the wines of Planeta, arguably the first Sicilian wine producer to win a truly international reputation, but this Etna Bianco represents a new direction for them.
The Planeta family launched themselves on the world stage so long ago that the way to do it then was to make attention-grabbing versions of the famous international grape varieties. Of their white wines, their western Sicilian Chardonnay was top of the range though they sold a mix of local varieties considerably more cheaply under the label La Segreta (the secret). Today, like so many wine producers, they have completely re-evaluated indigenous varieties and some of their top reds are made from, for example, Nero d'Avola and Frappato.
Francesca, Alessio and Santi Planeta have been moving steadily east from their original base outside Menfi in western Sicily (where they recently opened La Foresteria, a resort hotel, I'm told) and now have estates not just there and in Sambuca di Sicilia nearby but also in the beautiful baroque town of Noto in south-eastern Sicily, Vittoria, and now Etna. (The picture above is of Planeta's Etna estate, taken from their website.) Purple Pagers can read Walter on Planeta's continuing circumnavigation of the island in The resurrection of Mamertino. We have considerable coverage of Etna on this site, including atmospheric videos. Just click on the Etna tag below to reveal a total of 17 other articles.
When I was asked which wine I'd like to sip while signing books in Bath I unhesitatingly went for Planeta 2012 Etna Bianco, the most delicious and emphatic Carricante with high-toned herbs and fruit that reminded me a bit of kumquats, with the fine acidity of Carricante and the distinctive grainy astringency of Etna wines of all colours. (By the way, you may have seen that Etna erupted again recently but my spies tell me that the molten lava has not had any effect on the vineyards.)
Some of the wine was fermented in barrel, which has added a certain textural sophistication. This 14 per center is yet another of those wines interesting enough to drink without food but substantial enough to enjoy over dinner. According to Planeta's own notes, 'the initial nose is laden with the rich, warm, mineral scents of mica, granite, and flint, against a cool backdrop bouquet of green apple, acacia honey, kumquats, fennel, raw almonds and wild flowers.' Lots of character certainly and by no means overpriced. I'd be intrigued to taste this wine in two years' time; there's no hurry to drink it.
Great Western Wine is designed to sell online; in fact it is the online retailer associated with Enotria, a substantial company that imports all these wines direct.
According to wine-searcher.com, the wine is also available in Italy, unsurprisingly, and Austria, from Wein & Co. In the UK Christopher Keiller is also selling it in six-packs.
Buy this wine from Great Western Wine at £14.50
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Planeta 2012 Etna Bianco
From €11.50, £14.50