The history of crafting ‘Passito di Pantelleria’ is over two thousand years. Passito di Pantelleria has been produced since time immemorial from the grape varietal Zibibbo (aka: Moscato di Alessandria), and described as a unique Italian wine with a delicate aroma and its palate velvety sweet, affectionate and generous. In August 1971, it became the third Sicilian wine to obtain DOC status - after Etna in August 1968 and Marsala in April 1969.
This wine is produced in several different styles; White, Moscato, Passito, Golden Moscato, Liqueur Moscato, Sparkling Moscato, Passito liqueur and Sweet Zibibbo. Pantelleria is a volcanic island located at the 36th latitude north and home to some of Europe's most southerly vineyards; only those in Crete and Cyprus lie closer to the equator.
Some of Italy’s best sweet wines come from the island Pantelleria in the Mediterranean, a volcanic island 180 km’s south-west of Sicily and just 60 km’s east of Tunisia. The island is only 15 km’s long but home to some of the world’s most unique vineyards. The islands high summer temperatures, are moderated by the surrounding sea. But a distinctive feature in its terroir is the strong hot, ‘sirocco’ winds that come across from North Africa on their way to Sicily and southern Italy. The dry heat of Pantelleria is perfect for producing the sun-dried Zibibbo grapes used to make the delicious sweet wine Passito di Pantelleria.
Vinification involves the drying of the hand-picked grapes and then fortifying for the distillation of liqueur styles, all of which must be carried out on the island of Pantelleria. The vinification and bottling of ‘Passito di Pantelleria’ must take place within designated winemaking areas. The bottling of Pantelleria, Moscato liqueur, sparkling Moscato, golden Moscato Passito liqueur, Zibibbo White sweet and even sparkling, must take place within the administrative territory of Sicily.
The production of premium Passito di Pantelleria can take a minimum of three years as of 1st September of each year - and derived from musts with a natural minimum content of 250g of residual sugar per litre, obtained by the drying of the grapes on the vine and on mats in the sun. Obtained, without any other enrichment, by means of vinous alcohol addition - or strictly calculated on the basis of 1% of pure alcohol for 17.5 grams of residual sugar per litre; with a maximum alcohol strength of 21.5% and a minimum of 14.5% and a minimum sugar content of 100 grams per litre.
Passito di Pantelleria must come from grapes in whole or in part direct from the vine or after harvesting, by drying in the sun. For these wines it is ruled out any enrichment of the grape must or wine, except for the addition, even after the 30th November each year of raisined grapes in the sun with a maximum concentration of 60% sugar. The vinification and refinement after pressing lasts for 15-18 months. This process is prolonged for another 6 months in bottle before being released onto the market.
The island of Pantelleria has been occupied by numerous cultures over time with: Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic - and the drying of grapes and making of wine familiar to many of them. Though the modern winemaking history began in the 1980s when Marco De Bartoli began experimenting with Pantelleria fruit, with an increased freshness which represented a clear break from Pantelleria wines of the past. Followed by others who use a combination of higher altitude fruit to increase the acidity and freshness of their Passito.
Today Pantelleria has approximately 1400 hectares of planted vines farmed by some 400 growers, predominantly Zibibbo and mostly for producing wine. Growing conditions are difficult with low rainfall of only 300mm annually, with no ground water, steep terrain, with soils comprising of sand and volcanic pumice. Almost constant strong winds require that vines be planted in holes and grown close to the ground for protection. Most vines are trained 'alberello style', as the hot summer sirocco winds can cause vines to close down and fruit to prematurely dry out. A few vineyards are planted as high as 400 meters, most destined for Passito come from low-lying vineyards located close to the coast. The difficulties of vinification and quality bottling (due to lack of commercial water) on Pantelleria has resulted in many Passito wines being made in Sicily from dried grapes brought in from the island.