Sweet Wine from Sicily: The Scintillating Donnafugata Ben Ryé

Posted on: August 24th, 2015 by

donnafugata ben rye
I may retire the phrase “dessert wine” on this blog. Because it compartmentalizes a wine like the Donnafugata Ben Ryé to occasions when dining out and ordering something sweet to eat at the end of the meal. Don’t get me wrong, I love dessert and have nothing but respect for pastry chefs. (I actually did an internship at Chicago’s Blackbird eons ago and came very close to pursuing pastry full-time. But I chose love over career. That’s a story for another day blog. Spoiler alert: Sad ending.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. No more “dessert wine”. Maybe I’ll even eschew “sweet wine” (uh, after this post) because wine is wine. So this is a call to vinous arms. Gather up your stemware and corkscrews! Drink wines that just happen to be sweet whenever and wherever you please.

My bottle of Donnafugata Ben Ryé was sent to me as a sample and was languishing for a while as I thought I needed some kind of moment to open it. Like someone would come by, knock on my door, and have baked a chocolate cake or pecan pie for me. We’d sit down and share a slice and I’d open this half bottle and suddenly we wouldn’t be strangers anymore. Love would bloom (ferment?) over a shared 375ml. (Jeez, I am ultra-sentimental today.)


 2012 Donnafugata Ben Ryé ($45/375ml)

pantelleriaSo this wine is made on an island, Pantelleria, about 100km off the coast of Sicily. Naturally sweet, Ben Ryé gets its luciousness from sun and wind-dried Zibibbo (Moscato d’Alessandria) grapes. It’s a 20 to 30 day process. So after that period of time the grapes have a lot less water in them and the remaining juice is precious and concentrated. Boom. Now make that sweet wine.

And when you drink it, try this wine with just a slight chill. I pulled my bottle from the depths of my fridge which registers arctic-like temperatures. (Bad wine blogger!) As Ben Ryé warms up, it really struts its stuff. There are caramel and toffee notes galore. Spicy cinnamon and ginger. An orange-y, lemon-y citrus zip comes on at the end, like a languorous and tender ocean wave cleansing your palate. Rinse and repeat, indeed.

walnutsThough I mentioned sweet confections as a partner for this Zibibbo, the best accompaniment might be something savory: blue cheese. Or any strong, stinky-ish fromage. And nuts. I am in the fortunate position of having a giant bowl of roasted walnuts that my roommate acquired from an Oregon farm. (It’s a charmed life, isn’t it?) So I spent an afternoon drinking a glass of Ben Ryé and cracking walnuts. It’s not the kind of wine you gulp like water, so there’s middle-of-the-day appeal. (Dare I suggest happy hour?) Chill out with a glass alongside a thought-provoking periodical of your choosing. And be sure to call me.

I’ll bring the walnuts.

More Zibbibo from Donnafugata: Try this dry version with an alluring label

Explore the world of Sicilian wine via podcast with the authors who wrote the book on it

Map via Norman Einstein

Tags: , ,

Tell Us What you Think