Sicily – if your first thought about the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea is a certain group of gangsters in the “Godfather” trilogy, you’re in for a treat. The island’s location has helped it become one of the world’s most diverse melting pots. At one time or another, it was inhabited by the Sicilians (of which it was named after), Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans and Spanish. In 1860 it became part of the new Italian state. All of these cultures contributed to Sicily’s history and influenced the production of wine throughout the region.
Sicilian wine is regarded as one of the best wines in the world. With the ideal growing conditions present, namely the warm temperatures, the hilly terrain and the rich soil caressed by sea breezes, it is not surprising that it has been an integral part of the Sicilian diet for centuries. And if you happen to be travelling there around November 11th, it may be a great adventure to attend the local Festa del Vino or “Festival of Wine” to sample the great selection of new Sicilian wine.
For now, that may sound like a far-fetched plan but good news is that a portion of this experience was’ recently brought here in Nairobi. Planeta, a prominent and award winning Sicilian wine producer set up camp at the Flame Tree Restaurant -Sarova Panafric Hotel. Established in 1995, Planeta Wines is managed and owned by Alessio Planeta who has trained and worked in the wine industry for more than two decades. He has also helped with the selection of the best vineyard sites for Planeta and with the planning and building of the family wineries. Learning and appreciating the Planeta wines was a great opportunity especially because the grower himself was present to take us through the different wine reserves Planeta has to offer.
Obviously, we cannot speak about Sicilian wine without mentioning the food; the two go hand in hand. When most people think of Italian food, pasta and pizza come to mind. But Sicilian cuisine is simply prepared owing to the superior taste, quality and freshness of its ingredients. Sicilians believe that complex dishes would mask the fresh flavours so simplicity is the prevalent attitude in the food of Sicily. The Pistachio ice cream is famous in Sicily made with local pistachios or the swordfish usually served with pasta.
It is with this same reason that Angelo Pumilia, the Executive Chef at “La Foresteria” Planeta, accompanied Alessio during his week at Sarova. Angelo’s expertise has seen him travel around the world representing the traditional Sicilian cuisine and its marvelous pairings with the Planeta wines. And now, it was his turn to marvel us with his creations at the Planeta wine tasting and food-pairing session that promised to be a wonderful experience.
Here is a sample of the 5 Course meal that was meticulously paired with the wines (highlighted in Bold):
Langoustine Organic green salad,almond mayonnaise
Spaghetti tomato,Egg plant and sweet Basil
Cerascolo Di Vittoria
Baked Tilapia Bacoloa, Potato Rossetti
Sito Dell’ulmo Merlot
Herb-crusted Roast Lamb Rack ‘Caponata’
Almond Parfait served with Fresh Tropical Fruits (this was absolutely divine and tasted heavenly my absolute favorite)