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A Wine Fit for Caesar

Sicily's Planeta develops abandoned vineyards, hopes to recreate ancient Roman blend

Rosanne Quagliata
Posted: April 2, 2010

What would Julius Caesar drink? Planeta, one of Sicily's best-known wineries, plans to produce a wine that might have been the Roman emperor's favorite. The wine will come from vineyards in the little-known appellation of Mamertino in the northeastern part of the island that Planeta recently leased.

In Roman times, Mamertino was reputed to produce one of Sicily's top wines, a red Caesar ordered for feasts. The winery is currently collaborating on a research project with Attilio Scienza, a professor of viticulture from the University of Milan. Their goal is to discover the forgotten indigenous grape variety that was blended with Nocera grapes to produce Mamertino. They hope to get as close as possible to the original blend that Caesar used to drink.

"If all goes well we will start replanting the currently abandoned 7 hectares [17 acres] of vineyards next winter, with our first vintage planned for 2015," said vintner Francesca Planeta. They hope to make the preferred red of the ancient emperor and then present it to the official appellation governing body of the region to have it accepted into the DOC Mamertino classification.

If all goes well, Planeta said that they would build a small winery in the town of Capo Milazzo and produce about 30,000 bottles each year. "Of course, we can't make the wine exactly as Julius Caesar drank because we use modern methodology," she said. "It will be as close as possible to the same red, but not oxidized."

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