Wine in Sicily has a history thousands of years old. Archaeological remains prove the cultivation of vines around 3,000 years ago the ruins of the largest ancient wine cellars known today is to be found close to Agrigento. All the wine grapes coming from the Middle East and Greece, passed through Sicily and then made their way north. An important date in Sicilian wine history is 1773, the year John Woodhouse started producing what was to become one of the island’s most famous products: Marsala.
Woodhouse understood immediately that the decent local wine could be transformed, using in perpetuum techniques (similar to the solera system used to make sherry), which, through the addition of alcohol, would not only fortify the wine but also help it survive the sea journey back to England intact. It was an instant success with the British, and other entrepreneurs, such as Ingham and Whitaker, soon hurried out to exploit the wine’s popularity. Towards the end of the 19th century, the English dominion in Marsala-making was brought to an end by the arrival of Vincenzo Florio, one of Italy’s first tycoons, who bought up much of the land around Marsala.
Today Sicily’s winemakers have moved away from producing high-volume, unremarkable wines, to focus on quality wines of great character. Sicilian wines are classified according to the quality system used in every Italian region. The classification is made according to the geographical origin of grapes and wines, in which the surface of the area decreases as the quality of the appellation increases. The system is made of categories defining ascending quality levels according to the following order: Vini da Tavola (table wines), IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica, Typical Geographic Indication), DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata, Appellation of Controlled Origin), DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita, Appellation of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) and DOCG con indicazione di sottozona (DOCG with indication of the subarea).
The cultivation of vine and the production of wine are spread in all the Sicilian territory. Efforts made in the last twenty years have allowed the revaluation of many autochthonous grapes of the island and now – after having concretely faced extinction – are considered among the most important grapes of Italy. Many grapes are grown, used either “in purezza” (single grape variety wines), or blended. Some have been around for centuries, others are more recent imports. In the region are also cultivated many international grapes, mainly used for blends with local grapes.
There are 23 DOC zones in Sicily…
Alcamo, Contea di Sclafani, Contessa Entellina, Delia Nivolelli, Eloro, Erice, Etna, Faro, Malvasia delle Lipari, Mamertino di Milazzo, Marsala, Menfi, Monreale, Moscato di Noto, Moscato di Pantelleria, Passito di Pantelleria, Moscato di Siracusa, Riesi, Salaparuta, Sambuca di Sicilia, Santa Margherita di Belice, Sciacca and Vittoria and one DOCG Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Red grapes: Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Mantellato, Perricone, Frappato, Calabrese and the more recently introduced Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz (Syrah).
White grapes: Cataratto, Grecanico, Grillo, Inzolia, Zibibbo, Damaschino, Trebbiano, Ausonica, Moscato Bianco, Carricante, Corinto Nero and the more recently introduced Chardonnay, Viognier and Fiano.
Sicilian red wines:
Nero D’Avola: Nero D’Avola is one of the oldest indigenous grapes and Sicilian wine-makers are justifiably proud of the recognition that this variety is now receiving.
Syrah: anyone familiar with the southern hemisphere wines (or indeed French wines) will have tasted plenty of Syrah and the climate and soil of Sicily are particularly suited to this tasty grape.
Etna Rosso: a blend of Nerello Mascalese (95%) and Nerello Mantellato (5%) this is the wine born on the rich, fertile volcanic slopes of Mount Etna.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria: a blend of Frappato (min 40%) and Nero d’Avola (max 60%) with the possible addition of some Grossonero or Nerello Mascalese, this is the most famous wine of the province of Ragusa.
Sicilian white wines
Bianco D’Alcamo: a blend of Cataratto (min 80%), Grecanico, Damaschino and Trebbiano, this excellent white can be found all over Sicily, but can only be produced in the rich area between Alcamo and Trapani.
Wines made from Grillo, Inzolia, Cataratto, Grecanico and Chardonnay are produced “in purezza” or blended together by all the big wine producers, and some are truly excellent.
Sicilian dessert or aperitif wines
The sugar content of the grapes and the drying qualities of the sun mean that Sicily lends itself well to production of dessert wines. The best known of these are:
Marsala: the famous fortified wine first produced by the Englishman John Woodhouse in 1773 is a blend of Grillo, Cataratto, Ansonia and Damaschino with the addition of distilled alcohol. Though it has a reputation as a sweet wine, there are also some excellent dry aperitif varieties. Try chilled Marsala vergine or extra vergine from any of the big producers.
Passito di Pantelleria: made from Zibbibo grapes which have been dried in the sun to increase the sugar concentration. Pure heaven from Sicily’s southernmost offshore island, Pantelleria!
Malvasia delle Lipari, a blend of Malvasia (95%) and Corinto Nero (5%), first produced at Monemvasia, ancient Laconia. Known as Malmsey to Shakespeare in Loves Labours Lost, George, Duke of Clarence (brother of King Edward IV of England) was possibly executed by drowning in a “butt” of it. Malmsey was also well known to Nelson’s sailors (who allegedly drank a lot of it).
Passito di Noto: 100% Passito Bianco grapes for a harmonious sweetish wine, with honeyed hints.
The Mount Etna region in northeastern Sicily seems an unlikely site for producing any wines.
Mount Etna received DOC status in 1968, primary wine producing zone rises up the slopes with an elevation of 3,500 feet. Such high-elevation vineyards present some unique problems for vintners. The steeply-sloped, terraced vineyards are difficult to navigate with mechanical equipment so most of the tending and harvesting of the vines has to be done by hand. Etna’s soil is rich with volcanic nutrients that are very hospitable to growing grapes. At these high elevations we notice benefit from the hot Mediterranean sun while the warm Mediterranean breezes are conducive to an extended growing season. Significantly, there is also considerable variation between day and night-time temperatures at these high elevations. Such temperature variations work to the benefit of grapes this not only facilitates berry growth and coloration but also promotes complexity in grape flavors.
Another attractive feature of the Etna region is that some of the vines in Mount Etna’s vineyards are extremely old. Etna’s rich volcanic soil also contains a high concentration of sand, a combination that has proved to be highly resistant to the phylloxera root pest that decimated other European vineyards in the late 1800’s. Vineyards throughout Europe were wiped out for an extended period by the phylloxera root louse but Etna’s vineyards with their volcanic, sandy soil were spared. The result is that some of Mount Etna’s grape vines are well over a century old with some reaching the two century mark. While these ancient vines may be gnarly and fragile, they produce some amazing wine grapes.
Mount Etna’s Grape Varieties and Wines:
The wines of Etna’s region are primarily dry red and white but also include a few rosato (rosè) wines.
The Etna Rosso (Etna red) wines are blended wines. By regulation they must have a minimum of 80 percent Nerello Mascalese, a little-known indigenous variety that is produced only in the Mount Etna region. It is a deeply colored, thick-skinned variety that contributes gritty tannins and vibrant acidity to the Etna Rosso blend. The junior partner in the blend is another indigenous red variety, Nerello Cappuccio which must comprise at least 10 but no more than 20 percent of the total this grape contributes spicy aromas, red berry flavors and perhaps a touch of elegance to the Etna Rosso blend.
The Etna Bianco (Etna white) wines must have a minimum of 60 percent Carricante, a little-known, indigenous white variety that is grown exclusively in the Etna region. While 40 percent of the blend can consist of other authorized local white varieties, some of the best Etna Bianco wines are made entirely of Carricante. Oftentimes produced from grapes grown at the very highest reaches of the Etna DOC zone, Carricante-based wines can be lean, crisp and acidic. Other Carricante wines can be more full-bodied with a creamier texture and the wine’s trademark acidity balanced with generous fruit flavors.
We invite you to contact us for a tailor made itinerary that meet your needs based on your preferences.
– one day tour with maximum 3 cellars visit. Departure with pick up from your hotel at 09.00 am and return at 5.00 pm.
– 4 days program with pick up from airport and accommodation included.
BOOKING AND CONFIRM:
– For one day tour booking deposit will be 30% to be paid immediately by wire transfer. Balance can be paid 7 days prior the tour date, or once on site to our staff member by credit card
– For 4 days program booking deposit will be 40% to be paid immediately. Balance 30 days prior arrival.
ONE DAY TOUR CANCELLATION POLICIES:
For one day tour in the event of adverse conditions or force majeure customers may agree directly with the organizer a new date at no additional cost. If they cannot split their tour date because no other available days during their journey we charge 10% fees of cancellation.
If guests decide to cancel one day tour booked the penalty are the following:
– 30% deposit is not refundable 7 days before departure
– 50% of the remaining amount is not refundable from 6 days to 24 hours before departure
– No refund for no shows.
INSURANCE AND LICENSES
All transports provided have regular licenses NCC and qualified staff in possession of licenses, patents as required by regional and Italian laws. Furthermore, all vehicles are covered by regular insurance policy for civil liability and damages on person because of extraordinary events and subject to the negligence of the staff members. Any accident occurring for failures and negligence by the Guest will not be covered by the insurance policy. WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU HAVE FULL TRAVEL INSURANCE TO COVER YOUR HOLIDAY. By accepting our Booking Conditions you are confirming to us that your insurance cover is adequate and in force at the time of travelling with Tripping Sicily.