The biggest island in the Mediterranean basin, Sicily has a unique variety of nature, everything a traveller may need. The magnificence of its monuments was noted by Goethe: 'Sicily reminds me of Asia and Africa; to find oneself in its wonderful heart where so many rays of the universal history converge, it's no small thing”. In Sicily there is around 930kms of coastline with over 100 beaches, each with very different characteristics.
Vines grew spontaneously in Sicily long before the arrival of the Greeks and many grapes were introduced by the Phoenicians. During the 19th century, the famous Marsala, helped their entire wine industry to develop considerably.
The revival of the vineyards was destroyed by phylloxera and it stagnated by the mid-50s. In this time-lapse the market changed and the demand for blended wines decreased. This situation forced the producers to shift their focus towards that quality. Today, eno-gastronomic tours to discover the area are increasingly requested and appreciated.
Sicily - the territory enhances the quality
Sicilian wines in large thanks to the grape varieties, pedoclimatic characteristics and refinement of winemaking techniques, have now established their reputation on international markets. Sicily’s dry and warm Mediterranean climate and intense sunshine is ideal for grape growing.
Here you can find a complex range of products from fruity, full-bodied reds from Nero d’Avola and juicy and peachy white wines from Grillo. Both grapes being the most prolific from the Sicilia DOC.
In the south, Nero d’Avola is blended with Frappato for Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG. The red grape Nerello Mascalese and the white grape Carricante produce sought-after wines from the Etna DOC. Marsala DOC is a fortified wine from the west.
Discover the huge array of wine styles
The viticulture is spread from the coastal areas of Agrigento to the hilly areas of Trapani and then Marsala grown at around 1000m up on the Etna. There are also many inland areas with excellent production, including Palermo, Ragusa and Syracuse.
Do you know how it came to be locally called Moscato d’Alessandria?
The wines produced with indigenous grapes like the white Catarratto, Grillo, Inzolia, Moscato d'Alessandria or Zibibbo, Malvasia, and the reds Frappato and Nero d'Avola - are among the most popular. While today Sicily is also recognized for its production of elegant, rich and long-lasting sweet wines - Passito di Pantelleria and Malvasia delle Lipari in particular.
The main international grapes are Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Nero and of course Syrah. At the same time, it’s not difficult to find wines from other Italian grapes such as Sangiovese, Barbera and Trebbiano Toscano.
Nero d’Avola - the flagship grape variety
The most well-known Sicilian grape variety and most often requested on international markets is Nero d'Avola. It produces wines with a deep ruby colour, ripe tannins, well-integrated alcohol with rich and full-bodied tastes, and medium acidity. If aged in oak they may have hints of spice, tobacco and toastiness. They can be served in combination with red meats and aged cheeses.
Etna - the volcanic wines
Etna Rosso DOC is produced from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes. The terroir is stony and steep with soils from the volcano, giving the grapes unique flavours that cannot be found elsewhere. Wine lovers enjoy these wines full of black cherry, liquorice and tobacco alongside tangy minerality. Velvety tannins and fresh acidity often help to provide further balance.
Etna whites are a pale straw yellow, sometimes with light golden reflections. From there they express savoury aromas focused on lemon, ripe pear, golden apple and saline mineral notes. Both versions and the rose’ are very popular among connoisseurs.
Do you know which is Sicily’s only DOCG appellation?
The only Sicilian DOCG is the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, in the Ragusa area, based on the Frappato grape variety. The wines are savoury, with balanced palates, offers of black cherry, blackberry jam and sometimes hints of white pepper alongside polished tannins. It works well with roasted white and red meats, braised beef and seasoned spicy cheeses. The best examples are often enjoyed as a meditative wine.
The smaller islands - World Heritage Site by UNESCO
The pearls of Sicily, islands of volcanic origin, are located in the Tyrrhenian Sea about 40kms from the Sicilian coast. Lipari, the largest, despite being devoted to tourism has retained its traditional agricultural aspects. Salina is considered the greenest and most cultivated island of the archipelago. Then Stromboli surrounded by black sandy beaches is the most celebrated area on the island, ever since the ancient times due to its volcanic activity. All have since been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
A sweet wine of extreme interest is the Malvasia delle Lipari. This fine wine is produced in limited quantities from Malvasia di Lipari grapes and a small addition of Corinto Nero. The grapes are hand harvested, left on mats to dry in the sun for about 20 days, then gently pressed and left briefly with skin contact. The wine is sweet, full and smooth with complex aromas suitable for aged cheeses and rich Sicilian pastries, ice cream but also appreciated alone as a meditative wine.
Pantelleria - the windy island
Pantelleria island was colonized by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC. The grapes are grown as bush vines, without support, in holes in the ground to protect the vines from winds coming from the sea. It is the greenest island and must be experienced from land and sea to truly discover a place rich in history with remarkable charm.
Inside the historic wine cellars, you can breathe a unique atmosphere. Moscato and Passito di Pantelleria are produced with Moscato d'Alessandria, locally known as Zibibbo. Both are fragrant, sweet and elegant.
The Sicilian cuisine - mix of cultures and flavours
Sicily is a mix of antique smells and flavours. Just think, the Sicilian Cassata is about 1,200 years old! The rotisserie, a 'must try' of the island among various other specialties like fried arancina (or arancino) with rice, meat or cheese, and fried or baked calzone with ham and cheese.
Concentrated powerful Nero d’Avola reds, along with elegant Etna wines. Fresh whites with refined bouquet of mostly tropical fruits.What are the most popular grape varieties in Sicily?
The most famous among reds its Nero d’Avola. But for sure you’ll also enjoy the aromatic wines from Grillo, Catarratto or Inzolia. Complex and luscious sweet wines from Zibibbo and Malvasia.What types of food works well with wines from Sicily?
Light reds: white meat or soft cheeses, but also fried arancina. Full-bodied reds: stewed lamb, eggs with peas. Whites: grilled swordfish, raw seafood and local couscous. Sweets: cassata siciliana and cannoli.