Sicilia

Sicilia

For a long time, Sicily was Italy’s powerhouse producer of grapes, and for all manner of uses, the least of which was for high quality table wine. Today, while Sicily still produces a decent amount of bulk wine, the quality movement is burgeoning, rediscovering territory and traditions that define the region as truly unique, as well as exploiting its warm and dry environment for grow ‘international’ varieties.

Nero d’Avola is undoubtedly Sicily’s great grape, capable of producing characterful everyday reds, as well as deeply territorial expressions of significant gravitas. It is, however, in combination with Frappato that Nero d’Avola contributes to Sicily’s only DOCG. Cerasuolo d’Vittoria from Ragusa, in the south, has been a DOC since 1973 and was elevated in 2005. The more leathery and earthy tones of Nero d’Avola are moderated, indeed often tamed, by the red-berried purity of Frappato, resulting in wines of immense charm and,...READ MORE

Sicilia

For a long time, Sicily was Italy’s powerhouse producer of grapes, and for all manner of uses, the least of which was for high quality table wine. Today, while Sicily still produces a decent amount of bulk wine, the quality movement is burgeoning, rediscovering territory and traditions that define the region as truly unique, as well as exploiting its warm and dry environment for grow ‘international’ varieties.

Nero d’Avola is undoubtedly Sicily’s great grape, capable of producing characterful everyday reds, as well as deeply territorial expressions of significant gravitas. It is, however, in combination with Frappato that Nero d’Avola contributes to Sicily’s only DOCG. Cerasuolo d’Vittoria from Ragusa, in the south, has been a DOC since 1973 and was elevated in 2005. The more leathery and earthy tones of Nero d’Avola are moderated, indeed often tamed, by the red-berried purity of Frappato, resulting in wines of immense charm and, as the name suggests, cherry-scented purity.

While Nero d’Avola may be Sicily’s emblematic grape, it is the white grape Cataratto that dominates plantings, occupying twice the amount of vineyard space. Cataratto’s prevalence has been largely due to the reliability and size of its yield, with quality considerations historically taking a backseat. It, however, can perform well in a measured blend with other, more characterful, autochthonous varieties, such as Inzolia, Carricante, Grecanico and Grillo, as well as with Chardonnay. Once the second most planted variety in Italy, and all of it in Sicily, Cataratto’s plantings have halved over the last decade or so in line with the Island’s soaring quality ambitions.

The slopes of Mt Etna are responsible for Sicily’s most individual vineyard land, with the soil, unsurprisingly, characterised by volcanic deposits. The mineral-rich soil is also laced with sand, providing an effective barrier to phylloxera and preserving a significant resource of old to ancient vines. The red wines of Etna are based around the noble Nerello Mascalese, with Nerello Cappuccio playing a supporting role. White wines on Etna centre on Carricante and often pick up a maritime, saline tang that knits in to their profound minerality. Vines, both red and white, are grown at significant elevation (1000m is not unusual), moderating the effects of the southern heat.

Sicily is historically famous for dessert and fortified wines, with Marsala once being a world wine monolith. The glory days may have long faded – a victim of changing tastes and loose production values – but authentic Marsala, which comes in a dazzling array of styles, is still one of Italy’s truly great wine styles. Other wines of note are the passito (air-dried grapes) styles of Moscato from the Island of Pantelleria, and Noto and Siracusa on the mainland, and Malvasia delle Lipari, which almost disappeared but for the intercession of Carlo Hauner from the neighbouring island of Salina – which is included in the DOC area and is actually responsible for most of the tiny production.

Principal denominations: Alcamo DOC, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, Eloro DOC, Etna DOC, Faro DOC, Malvasia delle Lipari DOC, Marsala DOC, Noto DOC, Pantelleria DOC, Sicilia DOC, Siracusa DOC, Vittoria DOC

Important white varieties: Carricante, Catarratto, Chardonnay, Fiano, Grecanico, Grillo, Inzolia (Ansonica), Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria)

Important red varieties: Frappato, Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese, Nero d’Avola, Syrah

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