Felice Spitaleri di Muglia, the youngest Senator of the Kingdom of Italy, occupies an important place in what, at the turn of the unification, can be considered the beginning of modern viticulture in Italy: like the Piedmontese Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour and of the Tuscans Bettino Ricasoli and Vittorio degli Albizzi, the Sicilian noble was a precursor. The Spitaleri family had arrived in Sicily in the thirteenth century, and the Spitaleri barons already at that time commercialized the wine they produced from Etna. It was Felice Spitaleri who transformed the fief into a modern farm, already in 1855, planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and, in 1858, Pinot Nero. Based on Pinot Nero and Nerello it was also the first wine to be bottled like Etna, whose formula he codified in 1866. The success of his wines led him to build the Solicchiata Castle, a manor with elegant shapes, but designed as a modern cellar, serving the 150 hectares of vineyards that surrounded it. After the tragedy of the phylloxera and the two great wars, the Solicchiata Castle was restored to its former glory by the current owner, Baron Arnaldo Spitaleri, who took over the company and production.
Distribution and support in the production phase by providing its expertise in viticulture and oenology (and this is the news that Winenews is able to anticipate), instead, it is entrusted to Planeta: “Starting from September 2022 the wines of Castello Solicchiata will be marketed exclusively by Planeta – confirms Alessio Planeta – which, in addition to taking full charge of commercial distribution (in Italy and abroad), will take care of the strategies for enhancing the catalog and assisting in the production phase, providing its expertise in viticulture and oenology “. “For us, collaborating with the Spitaleri family means collecting the oenological dream that their ancestors conceived two centuries ago and bringing it into the present. A present in which Sicily not only has a place of honor in the Italian and world wine scene but, with Castello Solicchiata wines, expresses the determination with which a family of exceptional men designed, built and, finally, developed their idea of wine electing Etna as the ideal place “, comments Alessio Planeta, to Planeta.
“The Castello Solicchiata project is motivated by a deep love for our wonderful island and, as for Serra Ferdinandea – where, together with the French Oddo family, we conceived the vision of a” perfect “farm where agriculture becomes expression of a superior harmony that finds its greatest achievement in nature – Planeta becomes a careful selector of hidden or potential excellences; of people who, with their extraordinary character, nourish the glorious image of Sicily as the historical and cultural cradle of Italy and the Western world in general. All this for us is called “Ab Insula”, a project that collects – and will collect – the most distinctive Sicilian excellences selected by us, enhanced and promoted to be brought to the attention of all “.
Focus – the history and numbers of the Solicchiata Castle
The estate, almost inaccessible to visitors, in respect of the extraordinary nature of the places and the privacy of the Spitaleri family from Muglia, is part of 60 hectares of vineyards, on a total agricultural area of over 300 terraced hectares. Solicchiata is the largest vineyard in the world with Greek sapling carved in stone, planted for 70% with Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest with minor Bordeaux varieties. Part of the extraordinary heritage of the Castle is the Feudo Boschetto, entirely cultivated with Pinot Noir with some plants that date back to the original project. The total production fluctuates between 25,000 and 50,000 bottles, only from French varieties, as was the will of the founder, Felice Spitaleri di Muglia, since the mid-nineteenth century.
Solicchiata Castle it’s a project unique of its kind, conceived in the mid-nineteenth century by the Spitaleri of Muglia, a family of noble and ancient lineage: the name derives in fact from ‘Ospedalieri’, knights of St. John of Jerusalem and then of Malta, crusader barons who arrived on Etna for marketing wine at the end of the 13th century, on the way back from the trip to Jerusalem. Enlightened farmers, they boast the primacy of having first brought the cultivation of vines on Etna and of having perpetrated agricultural activity following the succession of different dominations and cultures, from the flourishing high medieval trade to the suspension of the Moorish domination, up to the recovery 16th century (here an in-depth study on the history of the Spitaleri family of Muglia and the Castello Solicchiata project).
In 1855, Baron Felice Spitaleri conceived a vision as daring as it was fascinating: to build a French-style Château on Etna, with hundreds of terraces carved into the lava rock and an avant-garde production model. The experimentation of French allochthonous varieties is entrusted to the most famous gep-botanist and ampelographer of the time: Father Francesco Tornabene, of the famous Catania school and founder of the botanical garden of Catania. The architectural design is led by Andrea Scala, the architect of the Bellini theater in Catania, who is inspired by the stages of Italian theaters to design the more than 300 hectares of terraced vineyards.
Solicchiata (here an overview of the Solicchiata Castle) thus becomes the chosen place to cultivate famous allochthonous varieties and produce large, elegant and unique bottles, able to dialogue with the world of international wine, gaining the stages of the major wine competitions of the time. The Solicchiata wine won first prize at the London Exposition in 1888, the Grand Diploma of Honor and Gold Medal in Palermo in 1889, Vienna 1890, Berlin 1892, Brussels 1893, Milan 1894 and was the first official supply of the Real Casa d’Italia, remaining the most awarded Italian wine at international and universal competitions of the 19th century.
Focus – Castello Solicchiata’s last taste of WineNews
WineNews has recently tried the Pinot Nero Boschetto Rosso Mille Metri 2014 still very fresh on the nose in the refined tones of red and black fruits, tobacco, balsamic mountain herbs and sweet spices, soft and velvety the sip, well pushed by the acidity and with an elegant tannic texture, a long and captivating finish.
Focus – The portrait of Planeta and the collaboration with Castello Solicchiata
“With the aim of safeguarding, enhancing and promoting Sicilian excellence in the wine sector, Planeta enters the world of distribution by taking over 100% of the production of the Feudi Spitaleri company, located in the wonderful Castello Solicchiata estate in Adrano, on Mount Etna” . Thus Planeta, a farm with a history of seventeen generations and one of the most important in Sicily, protagonist of the wine Renaissance of the island with the patriarch Diego Planeta, who passed away a year ago, who led the company in modernity, both in the vineyard , making use of prestigious consultancies, starting from that of Giacomo Tachis, both on a commercial level, bringing Sicilian wines all over the world. Today, Planeta has 394 hectares of vineyards and seven wineries located in five territories (Menfi, Sambuca di Sicilia, Vittoria, Noto, Etna and Capo Milazzo); 151 hectares of olive groves with an oil mill located right in the center of the property; other crops such as almond and durum wheat, all organic. With the aim of individually enhancing each territory through extensive research, ranging from the adaptability of international varieties to native vines to the so-called “relic varieties” – almost disappeared from the island’s ampelographic heritage – Planeta is among the first companies in Sicily and Italy have dedicated themselves to excellent wine tourism: visits and wine tastings, together with naturalistic and cultural experiences cut out on the territory of each winery, are the expression of the cultural richness and conviviality that wine offers.
The management philosophy of the farm is oriented towards maximum sustainability: from the integral conversion of all the estates to organic farming, to the creation of the SOSTAIN Foundation, promoter of the homonymous production protocol certified nationally by Mipaaf, to the activities collected under the Planeta Terra concept – a set of projects aimed at protecting the environment and promoting a holistic concept of agriculture – for Planeta, agricultural activity is a vehicle for environmental protection and an engine of well-being for man and the planet.
The desire to enhance Sicilian excellences gave life to the Ab Insula concept: a selection of projects with a strong and authentically Sicilian identity and exceptional historical-cultural value, of which Planeta is the promoter: this is how Serra Ferdinandea was born – project of viticulture and biodynamic agriculture in a mythical place on the island, and Castello Solicchiata – a project to acquire the historic estate of the Feudi Spitaleri, the dream and fulcrum of Etna’s viticulture.
In addition to agricultural production, Planeta is active in hospitality with a varied proposal that embraces all the estates of the company, between residential offers and wine tours. The Planeta Foresteria in Menfi, with its 14 rooms surrounded by an enchanting Mediterranean garden and the restaurant, recently awarded the prestigious award of the “three hats” from the Guide “Restaurants and wines of Italy” of L”Espresso, which proposes the ancient recipes of the family tradition revisited in a contemporary way and expresses the most genuine essence and the unique style of Planeta hospitality. Palazzo Planeta, in the center of Palermo, consists of seven comfortable apartments, entirely renovated and set up to recreate a refined home atmosphere that tells the spirit of good Sicilian living. The picture is completed by an artist’s residence in Sambuca di Sicilia, “Casa Panitteri”, inside the homonymous archaeological museum.
And again, the cultural activities of the “Culture for the territory” project: a very rich program that ranges from music to theater, to contemporary art, to literature. The best known is “Journey to Sicily”, a nomadic artist residency project that sees Italian and foreign talents engaged every year on a trip to the island in search of places, stories and atmospheres unknown to the general public and even to the Sicilians themselves. , followed by an exhibition that collects the works resulting from the suggestions of the journey.