SICILY WINE TASTINGS
Wine in Sicily has a history thousands of years old. 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). 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
The cultivation and production are spread in all the Sicilian territory. 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.
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).
Sicilian red wines: Nero D’Avola: Nero D’Avola is one of the oldest indigenous grapes. 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.
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 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 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%). 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.
Conditions: We propose full day itinerary pick up from the area of Taormina and Catania. Private transfer and sommelier guide included. Available cellars in the area between Syracuse and Ragusa Provinces.
Use the contact form for booking and information.