Italy is divided into 20 administrative wine regions, the most significant ones being Veneto, Tuscany and Piedmont. These three regions may be the homes of great wines such as Pinot Grigio, Soave, Chianti or Moscato, but it’s in the southern half of the country that you’ll find some of the most velvety and rich reds. Today, we’re heading to the island of Sicily!
Sicily is not only the largest grape-growing region of Italy, it also has one of the oldest viticultural histories of Europe. However, despite its thousands of years of winemaking tradition, Sicily only has a few years worth of international attention. Until the end of the 20th century, Sicily had the status of mass-producer, most of these grapes being exported to other Italian regions and elsewhere in Europe for blending. Fortunately, in the last 20 years, Sicily has experienced its Renaissance, with winemakers releasing the full potential of the island’s ideal climate and soils, producing some of Italy’s finest wines.
Monica Larner from the Wine Enthusiast summarizes it well: “With 25 centuries of winemaking history, Sicily is finally coming of age. If Piedmont is storied tradition, Tuscany is nobility and the Veneto is power and versatility, Sicily is Italy’s land of innovation.”
Sicily and its grapes
Located at the southernmost point of Italy, Sicily’s climate is ideal for dessert wine production, and that explains the huge popularity that the regional fortified wine Marsala had a few years ago. The island also had an extensive history of producing other rich dessert wines like Muscat and the honey-rich Passito di Pantelleria. But Sicily is experiencing a switch to a more diverse wine production – the island’s grape varieties are a combination of classified local varieties and international varietals, the main ones being Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.
Indigenous winemaking is more dynamic than ever now in Sicily, and its 19 native grape varieties include the famous Nero D’Avola and Nerello Mascalese for the reds, producing crisp and dark wines. For a complete discovery of the island’s reds, don’t miss the grape grown in southeastern Sicily, Frappato, widely used for blends and unique light-bodied wines Sicily is also home to some fruity whites with refreshing acidity: Catarratto, Grillo and Inzolia are they key ones.
Where to taste?
Firriato Winery – Founded in 1985, Firriato is relatively new – but that didn’t stop the winery to quickly gain the attention of wine lovers. Located in western Sicily, near Trapani, the winery focuses on the potential of traditional wines – Nero d’Avola, Perricone, Nerello Mascalese, Grillo and Catarratto – and is a true expression of Sicily’s terroir. Once there, try their Firriato Chiaramonte Nero d’Avola 2005 – a must!
Graci Winery – The winery is the go-to for authentic and unique wines. Its location, one of the most beautiful of Sicily, in the northeast part of Mount Etna, is what makes Graci so special: altitude and volcanic soils are the region’s specificity. Don’t miss their Graci Quota 600 Etna Rosso 2008 for a lively and mineral red.