WINES OF SICILY
Sicilian wine industry has significantly evolved in the last decades, with a remarkable increase in the quality and in the production. A great number of wineries and cellars sprang up across the island. The Regional Vine and Wine Institute, established in 1950, the support of universities and of the best wine experts, decisively contributed to developing the field. A journey through the several wine areas of the Island allows visitors to experience a millennial tradition.
Wines of Agrigento are second only to Trapani’s production. Wine-making on this area has remotest origins that go back to the earliest Greek colonization. Worth-mentioning are wines from the Inzolia grape, a variety that is common to most white wines, that is often blended with Trebbiano Toscano, Cataratto and Chardonnay wines. Menfi and Santa Margherita Belice old productions are most renowned, along with more recent spumante, rose and red wines.
Greeks also introduced viticulture to the province of Catania. The area of production is divided into three zones at different altitude, totalling an extension of 18,000 hectares. The first zone, where most blending wines are produced, is located on the slopes of the volcano; the second zone is in the proximity of Caltagirone; the third produces bodied and highly alcoholic wines.
The best Catanian wines are the Etna Bianco (white), the Etna Bianco Superiore, the Etna Rosato (rose) and the Etna Rosso (red). Etna wines are DOC since the ‘60s. The Etna Bianco is made from the Carricante and Cataratto grape varieties. It is straw-yellow colored with golden reflexes, and has a finest aroma and a dry and fresh taste. It contains 11,5% alcohol by volume.
The Etna Bianco Superiore is made from the Carricante and Cataratto varieties and from grapes from Milo. It is a straw-yellow wine with green reflexes, with finest and fruity aroma and a fresh taste.
Etna Rosato and Rosso are made from the Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Mantellato grape varieties. Both the ruby-red and the rose wine have intense flavor and a dry taste.
Viticulture was introduced to the Caltanissetta province by the Greeks, but especially grew in the Middle Ages, differently from other provinces where it was going through a difficult period. Caltanissetta’s vines cover an area of some 11,000 hectares. The best quality is the Nero d’Avola, also called the “calabrese”, a grape that is common to most Sicilian red wines.
The wine industry of the Enna area is less developed and extended than that of other Sicilian provinces. The wine of Piazza Armerina is the most known.
Viticulture was introduced to the Messina area in the 16th century BC by the Myceneans and was successively developed by the Phoenecians. The viticultural area is some 5,000 hectares. It produces most appreciated red grape varieties such as the Calabrese, the Sangiovese and the Gaglioppo. Among the best white grapes are the Cataratto, the Citane Bianca, the Pedro Ximenes or Grenache Bianco, the Grillo and the Inzolia.
The Faro, DOC since 1976, is one of the best wines in the province. It is a ruby-red wine made by blending the Nerello Mascalese, the Nocera and the Nerello Cappuccino. It has a finest flavor and a dry taste with a 12% alcoholic content. It should be served at a temperature of 18° and is a perfect match for meat.
The Malvasia of Lipari, produced in the Eolian Islands, is a world renowned wine. Made by blending the Malvasia and the Corinto Nero, it achieved the DOC status in 1973. It is an amber-yellow wine, with intense aroma and a 11,5 alcoholic degree.
Palermo’s viticulture was established by the Phoenecians. It has an extensions of as many as 30,000 hectares. Among the white grapes are the Cataratto, the Inzolia and the Trebbiano; among the red ones are the Calabrese, the Perricone and the Nerello Mascalese. It is especially renowned for its table wines.
The Ragusa province’s production is especially renowned for the Cerasuolo, a DOC wine since 1973, made by blending the Frappato and the Calabrese grapes. This most renowned wine has a characteristic cherry-red color, with rich flavor and 13% alcohol by volume. It is an ideal match for red meats and first courses with ragů sauce or meat.
The Frappato of Vittoria, produced in the country-side of Vittoria, Comiso and Acate, is also worth-mentioning. It is both a major blending for the Cerasuolo and an appreciated stand-alone varietal.
The Elorio is a red and rose wine produced in the areas of Ragusa and Siracusa, made by blending Nero d’Avola, Frappato and Pignatello grapes. Unfortunately, Siracusa’s wine production has lost much of its former importance in the last years. Only Moscato wines of Noto and Siracusa managed to endure this difficult time. Wines from territories of Noto, Rosolini, Pachino and Avola achieved the DOC status in 1974. They are made from Moscato white grapes and are characterized by an amber-yellow color and a sweet and aromatic flavor.
The “Calabrese” is one of the most common grape varieties in Sicily. It first grew in the province of Siracusa and shortly later in the Ragusa’s. It is normally blended with other varieties to produce excellent wines like the Cerasuolo di Vittoria and some Marsala wines, but it is also a renowned stand-alone varietal.
Trapani is by far Sicilian most important producing area of wine, totalling nearly 90,000 hectares under vines of Grillo, Grecanio and Zibibbo grapes. Red grapes are mainly represented by the Nerello Mascalese, the Frappato and the Calabrese. The best renowned productions are the Bianco d’Alcamo, the Marsala and the Moscato Passito di Pantelleria. The Bianco d’Alcamo, a DOC wine since the early ‘70s, has a straw-yellow color, a fresh taste and an intense aroma.
The Marsala, produced in the omonymous town, owes its popularity to a Liverpool merchant, John Woodhouse, who extremely appreciating this wine, in 1773 shipped several barrels to England and successively founded an establishment along the Marsala sea front.
Other entrepreneurs, such as english Ingham and Palermitan Florio, significantly contributed to spreading the brand across the world.
Marsala is a blend of Cataratto, Grillo and minor quantities of Inzolia and brandy varieties. It has a characteristic amber-yellow color.
The Moscato Passito di Pantelleria is a classic dessert wine made from zibibbo grapes. It is DOC since 1973. Amber colored with sweet and aromatic flavor, it must be aged for at least 14 months.