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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Sicilian Wine in Moscow
Text Charles Borden

This month we are taking a new approach to help our readers select the best wines available on Moscow shelves. We started with distributor wine lists to come up with a list of Sicilian wines that should be available and then conducted our own independent review from rating sources to select the best from that list. We then checked supermarkets for availability, though this was just post the New Year so stocks were probably low. We learned a few lessons in the process.

Sicily has long been the poor cousin of Italian wines best known for its Marsala, a seafarers’ fortified wine produced on the far eastern tip of the island using the local Catarrato, Inzolia and Grillo grapes. Though Marsala has been relegated to the kitchen for Chicken Marsala and Zabaglione there are quality examples available in Moscow from Cantine Carlo Pelligrino.

Many of the world’s lesser wine regions have seen a resurgence in recent years with the help of modern winemakers, and this is the case with Sicily. Traditional family wineries have incorporated the latest winemaking techniques and are experimenting with blends of traditional grapes such as the red Nero d’Avola and white Catarrato with French varietals such as Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many of the top names are represented in Moscow: Planeta, Calatrasi, Donnafugata Abbazia Sant’Anastasia, Cusumano, Tasca d’Almerita and Tenuta Rapitala. The principal wine regions are located in western Sicily near Palermo and in the eastern tip of the island, north and south.

Italian wines of distinction carry the labels DOC ((Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Wines with these designations are strictly regulated with respect to area of production, grape varieties used, restriction of grape yields, grapes used, aging and other characteristics. IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) is a less stringent designation.

The Grapes

The best known Sicilian grapes are the deep red Nero d’Avola and white Catarrato. Others include Inzolia, Grecanico, Grillo and Ansonica. French varietals that have thrived in Sicily’s hot, dry climate include Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Nero d’Avola, known as Calabrese elsewhere in Italy, likes the hot climate and produces wines with excellent aging potential. Nero d’Avola wines are noted for dark berry and black cherry aromas with notes of black pepper, mint and charcoal – delicious with roasted meats and game. Catarrato is the principal grape traditionally used for Marsala. It produces a somewhat heavy golden white wine that blends well with Chardonnay.

Top Sicilian Wineries Represented in Moscow

Abbazia Santa Anastasia ( - Italian only)

The original Abbazia Santa Anastasia was founded in 12th century near what would become the city of Castelbuono in southwest Sicily. In 1980, engineer Francisco Lena began to clear the land to establish new vineyards and a winery. L’azienda Enoagricola Abbazia Santa Anastasia now produces wine in two series: Contempo and Cru.

Calatrasi (

Calatrasi is located in Sancipirello about 30 kilometers south of Palermo. It is a modern “New World” winery developed by Maurizio and Giuseppe Micciché. Maurizio Micciché is a regular visitor to Russia and a past guest at a Passport wine tasting. Calatrasi also has wineries in Puglia and Tunisia. Calatrasi’s Super Sicilan, Accademia del Sole, D’istinto and Terrale wine series are sold in Russia. Maurizio has started a project with Russia’s Chateau Le Grand Vostock to import and bottle Sicilian and Tunisian wines under careful conditions and supervision of winemaker CGV Frank Duseigneur, which are sold as good value “country wines.”

Conte Tasca d’Almerita (

Tasca d’Almerita was established by brothers Carmelo and Lucio Mastrogiovanni in 1830 when they purchased the lands of Regaleali in west-central Sicily. It is now a completely modernized winery with 400 hectares of vineyards. Tasca d’Almerita produces a sparkling wine, Almerita Brut DOC.

Cusumano (

Cusumano is a family winery run by brothers Alberto and Diego Cusumano who took over from their father in 2001 and transformed it to a leading modern winery with help from Piedmont winemaker Mario Ronco. Cusumano has about 350 hectares of vineyards across Sicily from Alcami in the west near Palermo to Butera in the east.

Donnafugata (

Donnafugata is the modern extension of a 150 year-old family winery in Marsala that now includes vineyards in the DOC Contessa Entellina area in western Sicily and on the nearby island of Pantelleria. Donnafugata also produces dessert wines from Zibibbo (Moscato d’Alessandria) grapes on Pantelleria.

Planeta (

Planeta, founded in the 1990s, now consists of four estates extending from the family’s original 17th century farmhouse at Sambuca di Sicilia. Two wineries are located in Dispensa (Menfi ): Cantina Piccola produces international red wines and Cantina Grande Cantina Piccola the La Segreta line. At Buonivini (Noto), Planeta has built an ultra-modern winery “entirely underground in order to preserve the delightful landscape.” At Dorilli (Vittorio), they have restored 100-year old winery to produce Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily’s first DOCG wine.

Tenuta Rapitala (

Tenuta Rapitala was founded near Alcamo in southwestern Sicily in 1960 by French Naval Officer Hugues Bernard Comte de la Gatinais. The estate now consists of 225 hectares of grapes.

Part of the extensive Donnafugata winery

Finding The Best Rated

From our review of various distributor lists we found more than forty Sicilian white wines and fifty red wines and two or more vintages of many of each. However, there were far fewer wines represented on the shelves. Metro Cash and Carry has the best selection and prices that could be 20% or more less than boutiques or other supermarkets though you need a membership card to get in. Azbuka Vkusa also has a good selection but we were surprised that Sedmoi Kontinent had very few as did the AM markets.

Of the boutiques the Grand Cru shops owned by Simple Wines, the importer for Tasca d’Almerita and Donnafugata, had the best selection. The Vinum, Decanter and Magnum boutiques of DP Trade, importer for Abbazia Santa Anastasia, and the Intendant boutique of Cusumono importer MBG Impex, carry their brands, Kollektsiya Vin carries a small selection but Whitehall has almost none.

With few exceptions, the wines found in Moscow from Abbazia Santa Anastasia, Tasca d’Almerita, Cusumano, Donnafugata and Planeta exceed 750 rubles ($25) and some of the wines from Calatrasi and Tenuta Rapitala are more modestly priced.

Passport has prepared a table of Sicilian wines that it appears have or are imported, however availability varies significantly. Note that each winery tends to have its star wines, those that it enters for tasting panels at trade events or that regularly obtain higher ratings from professionals. However, keep in mind that a high rating in one vintage does not carry over to another. For instance the Planeta Syrah 2004 has a Wine Spectator rating of 91 while the 2005 is rated only 86.


For this survey, we developed a list of most of the Sicilian wines that are exported to Russia, and from this list we created a shopping list of some of the best rated for our readers. Note that supplies vary and not all wines are likely to be in the shops – for instance some may only be found on restaurant wine lists or be sold out. We shopped right after New Year so supplies were depleted. Those wines that we actually found on the shelves are highlighted:

Wine Grapes Used Prizes Retail Price
White Wines
Calatrasi Terre di Ginestra Catarratto 2006 Catarratto Gold medal - Vinitaly 2007
Gold medal - Selections Mondiales des
Vins 2007 – Canada
Calatrasi Terre di Ginestra Catarratto 2007 Catarratto Wine Spectator 88  
Cusumano Insolia 2007 Inzolia Wine Spectator Best Value and 87 points  
Cusumano Jale 2005 Chardonnay Wine Spectator 90  
Cusumano Jale 2007 Chardonnay  Wine Spectator 88 1530r
Donnafugata Anthilia IGT 2007 Catarrato 50%, Ansonica 50% Stephen Tanzer 88
Wine Spectator Best Value and 87 points
Planeta Chardonnay 2005 Chardonnay Wine Spectator 93  
Planeta Chardonnay 2006 Chardonnay Wine Spectator 92 2160r
Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Bianco 2005 Inzolia, Grecanico, Catarratto Robert Parker 90  
Tasca d’Almerita Contea Sclafani DOC Chardonnay 2006 Chardonnay Wine Spectator 90 2750r
Red Wines
Calatrasi T.D.G. 651 Nero d’Avola/Shiraz Gold medal - Vinitaly 2007  
Calatrasi Nero d’Avola/Shiraz 2004 Nero d’Avola, Shiraz Gold medal - Vinitaly 2007  
Calatrasi Terre di Ginestra Nero d’Avola 2005   Gold medal Selections Mondiales des Vins 2007– Canada  
Cusumano Sagana 2004 Nero d’Avola Robert Parker 90
Wine Spectator 90
Cusumano Benuara 2006 Nero d’Avola 70%, Syrah 30% Robert Parker 89  
Cusumano Benuara 2005 Nero d’Avola 70%, Syrah 30% Robert Parker 90
Vini d’Italia 2007 3 Wineglasses
Cusumano No 2004 Nero d’Avola 40%, Merlot 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Wine Spectator 90  
Cusumano No 2005 Nero d’Avola 40%, Merlot 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Robert Parker 92
Vini d’Italia 2007 3 Wineglasses
Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2006 Nero d’Avola  Robert Parker 89 579r
Donnafugata Sedra 2006 Nero d’Avola Stephen Tanzer 89
Wine Spectator 86
Donnafugata Tancredi 2004 Nero d’Avola 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Robert Parker 92  
Planeta Santa Cecilia 2005 Nero d’Avola Robert Parker 90  
Planeta Syrah 2004 Syrah Wine Spectator 91  
Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Nero d’Avola 2006 Nero d’Avola Robert Parker 90 750r
Tasca d’Almerita Lamiri 2005 Nero d’Avola Robert Parker 90  
Tasca d’Almerita Rosso del Conte 2006 Nero D’Avola 85% Wine Spectator 90  
Tasca d’Almerita Rosso del Conte 2004 Nero D’Avola 85% Robert Parker 92
Wine Spectator 90
Tenuta Rapitala Solinero 2003 Syrah Robert Parker 90
Wine Spectator 86


Find locations at:  

Sedmoi Kontinent
Find locations at:  

Azbuka Vkusa
Find locations at:  

AM (Aromatniy Mir)
Find locations at:  


DP Trade Shops
Decanter, Bol. Polyanka 30, Tel: 238-3808
Magnum, Kutuzovsky Prospekt 24, Tel: 937-6515
Magnum, Ul. Plyuschkina 20, Tel: 775 0674
Vinum, Prechistenka 40/2, Tel: 775-2305

Kauffman Shops
Kutuzovsky Prospekt 22, Tel: 243-2238
Ul. Kuznetsky Most 3, Tel: 624-0464
Ul. Ostojhenka 27, Tel: 291-3671
Website: E-mail:  

Kollektsiya Vin
Kutuzovsky Prospekt 18
Novinsky Bulvar 12
Ulitsa Tverskaya 20
Leninsky Prospekt 16

Grand Cru Shops –several in Moscow including:
Novinsky Passage, Novinsky Bulvar 31. Tel: 775-5553 E-mail: 

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