Wine 101 - Sicily

Exploring the island's many provinces


Having just returned from a visit to Sicily, I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce you to some of the island’s great wines. Truth is, I spent my time in Ragusa. And while I could write a whole tome on the wine, people and places I saw, that would be very Wine 301 – and we’re not going there yet.

Sicily, of course, is the giant island that lies off the toe (across the Strait of Messina) from the Italian mainland. In many ways Sicily is its own place, happy to go its own way according to its own rhythms; but when it comes to wine, there is something that is innately and undoubtedly Italian about Sicily’s finest.
“Etna is the scribe of viticulture with all the soils of the earth and the climate of three continents,” said Dario Cartabellotta,  director of the Institute Vite e Vino.

While so much of the wine world’s attention has been focused on the vineyards that line the slopes of Mount Etna, the truth is that Sicily itself is world of wine unto itself. Yes, Etna is producing some of the most exciting wines in Sicily; but they have no monopoly on excitement. In fact, each of the nine provinces of Sicily has made great strides, over the past decade or so, towards producing wines that can compete with the world’s finest.

While Nero d’Avola has emerged as the leading and most familiar grape of the island, it’s also the grape that has been most widely planted and to a certain extent, stripped of its uniqueness as producers all over the island try to cash in on its popularity. Now I’m not going to say, “Ignore Nero d’Avola.” There are many great examples after all, but I will say explore what each province has to offer, what each province does best, what each province calls its own!

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  • Snooth User: ruralarch
    538655 12

    I don't know the name of the wine but in sicily near Selinunte they had a white/straw colored whine that they added the roasted shells of almonds was a divine wine and could see it in dessert making such as in a cheese cake. I haven't the foggiest idea of the variety of it. Many of the wines in teh area were harsh. but this one stood out.

    Apr 11, 2011 at 12:38 PM

  • Snooth User: jbsarts
    476096 18

    We stayed in Noto, in southeastern Sicily, last summer for a week in June and tried all of the local wines. We were pleasantly surprised how they held up to the wonderful wines from Tuscany. Another surprise was the delicious Lemoncello. We compared it with the brand we bought in Amalfi and it won, hands down.

    Apr 11, 2011 at 5:13 PM

  • Snooth User: obp
    687826 1

    Last August my boyfriend and I had a celebratory dinner at Piccolo, an outstanding Italian restaurant in Venice, CA. Two white wines from Sicily, one dinner and one desert, were -by far- the best part of the meal. Things got a little silly, so neither of us remember the names of these wines, but ever since I've only been buying Sicilian white.

    Apr 11, 2011 at 5:25 PM

  • Snooth User: Davide48
    152978 3

    It is quite apparent that you did not visit the Grasso Winery in Milazzo the owner of the Mamertino di Milazzo and Faro labels, and several other labels, which also produces a excellent Zibbibo. Another grower to visit is Gambino's on the north side of Mount Etna. We just love the Sicilian wines.

    Apr 11, 2011 at 9:29 PM

  • Snooth User: Don47
    68489 7

    Gregory, uncanny timing for us as we're here in Syracuse visiting Sicily for 9 days. Yesterday I stopped at the COS winery and saw their terra-cotta urns that they use to ferment 2 of their wines. Sicily is wonderful, as you note! Looking forward to trying an Etna wine within a couple of days...

    Apr 12, 2011 at 4:14 AM

  • Being a recovering alcoholic I cannot sample all these wonderful Sicilian wines but my husband is a true devotee of them. We will be spending six days there in September and I know he will be excited to sample all of them.

    Apr 21, 2011 at 12:13 PM

  • Snooth User: Dennyz
    414969 4

    Visited the birthplace of my grandparents in 2002. Discovered many wines that never leave Sicily; consumed by locals. One such excellent wine was a dessert wine made from almonds called Vino Alla Mandorla by Turrisi. The locals consume large glasses of it like we would drink water. The alcohol content is 16% vol. It is wonderful. Brought home a half dozen bottles. Have one left. Save them for very special occasions. If you have a chance to visit Sicily, it is a must try.

    Apr 21, 2011 at 12:19 PM

  • Actually, our trip is for 40 days total, 16 of which will be in Sicily. Many wines and wineries to check out.

    Apr 21, 2011 at 12:24 PM

  • What about the red Corvo di Salaparutta from Sicily? It is aboslutely my favorite Sicilian wine.

    Apr 24, 2011 at 5:29 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,999

    Damn, you let the Zibibbo cat out of the bag, Greg. Have enjoyed it quite a few evenings amidst that sere, shockingly beautiful, so-Mediterranean (where's Calypso?) landscape of Pantalleria. Such a sweet ending to a long, hot day in the cool of the evening.... :-)

    Apr 25, 2011 at 4:13 AM

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