Sicily – an island of a wild history and a modern reputation for lovely wine
Sicilian wine is creating an amazing reputation for this well-known Italian island that was previously renowned for probably the wrong reasons………. Marlon Brando, the Mafia……….and thus with its less green landscape felt wilder, slower, and more dangerous. It’s quite a paradox and it does maintain its inherent difference from the mainland with its own language and customs.
It is still producing large quantities of bulk wines but the emphasis is shifting dramatically to production of quality wines using their native grape varieties because of careful investment in the vineyards and wineries and increased knowledge of how and where to grow grapes most successfully. The island is suited to wine-making with its mountains and hillside location, poor soil, low rainfall, and intense heat grown throughout the island including on the slopes of Mount Etna.
One of the most diverse of its native varieties is Catarratto which is the most widely planted grape making great value everyday wines like the Carlotta Catarratto that is a dry light white through to the richer sweet Marsala, best known for its use in cooking but also as a quality wine. The grapes are grown on the hillsides near the town of Marsala and in the north ease corner of the island.
Another native grape is the Grillo such as that made at Feudo Maccari in Noto at the south-eastern tip of the island. It is an exceptional and unusually fine example of one of Italy’s most underrated white varieties making fresh and lightly floral on the nose with savoury, nutty notes. The palate has crisp, citrus flavours with riper stone fruit characters on the textured mid-palate. A subtle and multi-layered wine with immediately appealing freshness and fruit leading to a taut, savoury, mineral finish.
Tasca d’Almerita are also making elegant dry wines from blends of grapes including the native Inzolia amongst others under the Regaleali name.
Feudo Maccari also makes a classic wine from the Nero d’Avola grape that is the principal black grape of the island, literally meaning black from the town of Avola that is a youthful, unoaked Nero d’Avola from the grape’s heartland. Aromas of fresh, bright pure fruit – cherry and berry characters. the palate is fruit-forward with more wild cherry and damson notes combining with warm characters.
In addition to the traditional lighter table wines there are companies like Baglio Gibellina who make distinctive individual wines such as the U-Passimiento. This Sicilian wine is made from their own Nero d’Avola and Frappato grapes grown at Baglio Gibellina which is situated in picturesque Sicily where its vineyards are surrounded by the hills of Salemi and Santa Ninfa.
The Frappato grapes are harvested as soon as they reach maturation, and so that all the typical freshness remains in the must is fermented slowly in small steel tanks. The Nero d’Avola grapes are left on the vines for a light withering and for natural dehydration to occur. They are late harvested and with extreme care placed in wooden cases. The natural sweetness of the wines is obtained by interrupting the fermentation through the process. The wine is then matured for some months in steel tanks. The end result is a wine with ripe rich fruit balanced by some natural acidity and vibrant character.