18.	3454 Passito di Pantelleria was granted DOC status in August 1971. It was the third Sicilian wine style to gain a DOC title, after Etna (August 1968) and Marsala (April 1969). Pictured above is Ben Rye passito by Donnafugata. You can learn more about it here: https://www.donnafugata.it/en/wines/ben-rye/

18. 3454 Passito di Pantelleria was granted DOC status in August 1971. It was the third Sicilian wine style to gain a DOC title, after Etna (August 1968) and Marsala (April 1969). Pictured above is Ben Rye passito by Donnafugata. You can learn more about it here: https://www.donnafugata.it/en/wines/ben-rye/

Photo by: Emiliano Ruprah

Emiliano Ruprah

The Wine from Greek Myth is Making a Comeback

According to legend, desperate Tanit wanted to attract Apollo, one the most admired and respected gods. Following the advice of Venus, the Goddess of Love, Tanit served Apollo a glass of wine made from the vines of Pantelleria. The rest is history…. or myth!

November 17, 2020

As soon as I land in Pantelleria, the sirocco winds arrive, bringing with them a humid fog local farmers fear. I jump in the car with Antonio Rallo, a fourth generation Zibibbo winemaker, who has come from the mainland to check on his grapes. “Farmers will always complain about the weather,” he tells me, as we zip through the winding roads up and down grapevine-terraced hillsides, “but if this fog gets to the grapes, they’ll fall off the vines like wounded soldiers and rot”. Luckily, when we get there, the grapes are dry but to be safe, they’ll be picked immediately.

Zibibbo is one of the few existing aromatic wine grapes. Like Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, its berries contain high levels of organic compounds called terpenes. Zibibbo, in particular, has a super concentration of linalool, geraniol and nerol, all of them responsible for the wines' intense aromas. It is also of a resilient variety: it is resistant to drought and hot climates, and recent studies suggest that Zibibbo is among the most interesting varieties to consider in an era of climate change.

Zibibbo is one of the few existing aromatic wine grapes. Like Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, its berries contain high levels of organic compounds called terpenes. Zibibbo, in particular, has a super concentration of linalool, geraniol and nerol, all of them responsible for the wines' intense aromas. It is also of a resilient variety: it is resistant to drought and hot climates, and recent studies suggest that Zibibbo is among the most interesting varieties to consider in an era of climate change.

Photo by: Emiliano Ruprah

Emiliano Ruprah

Zibibbo grapes are picked by hand for a couple of weeks in August, so every vine counts. The vines are trained to grow low to the ground in terraces and behind stone walls (the “alberello” technique) to protect them from the battering winds. As we hike up a steep vineyard hugging the mountain, Rallo tells me “making Zibibbo is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Pantelleria is a volcanic island with a range of microclimates, so to make Zibibbo we have to combine grapes with an enormous range of characteristics”. Picking the grapes is arduous work too. Some hills are so steep, locals will hold each other with rope as they harvest.

It's a centuries-old tradition some say goes back to mythical times. The Phoenician goddess of Carthage, Tanit, is said to have seduced Apollo by serving him Muscat of Alexandria from the island. Legend also has it that it was first made by the Carthaginians and that it was Magone, one of Hannibal's lieutenants, who came up with the recipe in the third century BC. A few decades ago, however, Zibibbo was on the verge of extinction because of the back breaking labor involved in producing it. Luckily, families like the Rallo of Donnafugata have been restoring old vineyards and sticking to it. In 2014, for the first time ever, an agricultural practice was recognized as an Unesco World Heritage Site: it was the grape cultivation technique used to make Zibibbo. Since then, a renewed interest and appreciation for the amber beverage has been growing worldwide.

After checking on the vineyards we rush to a series of tents where grapes have been laid to dry. The fog is gone and the sun blazes with such urgency that heat waves rise from the ground. “It's a constant battle with the mercurial climate of the island,” Rallo tells me, as he and his agronomist, Diego Angileri, roll up the side coverings to aerate the tents. “It's a balancing act between drying the grapes and protecting them from humidity”. This natural appassimento process, whereby grapes are partially air and sun dried on mats, concentrates the grapes’ flavors and sweetness and gives the Zibibbo its unique flavor prior to vinification.

We head to the Donnafugata winery, where the year’s harvest is being pressed and transferred to giant steel vats to ferment. Though it won’t be ready for a couple of months, Diego has me try their 2014 Zibbibo, “Ben Rye”, which packs a bouquet of aromas like apricot and candied orange peel obtained from the dried grapes. Before Antonio Rallo rushes off to check on another vineyard, I ask him if he could start over, would he do something else? “Never,” he says. As I fly out of Pantelleria, the turbulence is so strong the plane dances above the volcanic slopes, and its steep terraces packed with vineyards are covered yet again in a thick ominous fog.

Next Up

Giant’s Causeway: The Fascinating Legend Behind Ireland’s Most Famous Landmark

The Giant’s Causeway is known around the world for its beautiful interlocking basalt columns – over 40,000 of them in fact – which look out towards the stormy, gray North Channel.

Discover this Quaint Gem on the English Coast

Tucked in the corner of the southwest of rugged England, lies one of the country’s most-loved gems – Cornwall. The county forms a peninsula fringed with golden sandy beaches, lined with towering cliffs, and dotted with picturesque fishing villages that harken back to days gone by.

Panama has Hundreds of Islands, Each More Beautiful than the Last

Panama is often overlooked for its more famous neighbors Colombia and Costa Rica, who are renowned worldwide for their biodiversity, colorful cultures, and jaw-dropping scenery. But Panama, which links Central and South America, has a few of its own gems to offer – including the 1,400-plus islands that dot its coast.

Meet the Ancient Egyptian Gods Who Empower DC Comic's Black Adam

Get to know the six ancient Egyptian gods behind the latest DC Comics film Black Adam, starring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, in theaters starting October 21.

Belize's Jungles are Wild, Mysterious and Full of Discovery

More than half of Belize, a Central American country with as many as 2 million indigenous Mayan inhabitants, is covered in dense, sprawling jungle – meaning the region has adventures galore for any traveler wishing to explore.

What's Inside the Secret Chambers in the Pyramids of Giza

A powerful new cosmic ray scan of the Great Pyramid of Giza could finally reveal what’s inside two voids in the structure that have baffled scientists for years.

Mt. Shasta, California’s Mysterious Volcano, is an Enigma Waiting to be Explored

At the northernmost tip of California lies the southern end of the dramatic Cascade mountain range. And the crowning glory of the range, which ripples down through British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, before it comes to a stunning crescendo at Mount Shasta.

A Spanish Sunken Galleon Has a $17B Bounty Onboard - and Now You Can See It

Way back in 1708, when the War of Spanish Succession was waging across Europe and Latin America to decide who should be the next King of Spain, three Spanish galleons set sail from Panama. They were loaded to the brim with gold, silver, emeralds, and other jewels that had been extracted from the mines of Bolivia – and were vital in financing Spain’s costly war against its enemies.

Take Off with the Tipple Family on the All-New Series NATURE IS FLY

On the all-new series, NATURE IS FLY, go on adventures to experience nature and science with the Tipple family. They travel the country and meet the people who are the best in their fields of conservation and more.

Explore the Rugged, Remote Chaco Canyon in New Mexico

Photographer and conservationist Ian Shive photographs one of the most remote and rugged parts of the United States to take us on a journey to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico's Chaco Culture National Historical Park.