In Sicily they like to refer to their beautiful island as a ‘continent’, and there is some truth to that indeed, at least if the word continent conveys a concept of diversity of cultural influences. Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Jews, Normans, Spaniards have left their mark on the island, and Leonardo da Vinci’s dream to connect the island to the Italian peninsula with a bridge has remained a dream.
Sicily is characterized by large properties owned by the nobility, who have never cared much about developing vineyards, and this is reflected by the fact that only a tiny part of Sicily’s large wine production is bottled in Sicily. From this perspective you could almost count Sicily among one of the underdeveloped wine countries.
Firstly, in the technical area, a number of oenologists from overseas have cleared up the traditional Sicilian bad vinification practices, and secondly, as far as the grape is concerned many Italian oenologists have followed good advice about the type of grape varieties to use.
All of these tips have been listened to and learned from, but most producers in Sicily are still struggling to find a style for the most common local red grape, Nero d’Avola.
The producers on the slopes of Mount Etna have had more success, with their local grape variety Nerello Mascalese, supplemented by the Nerello Capuccio, which shows a great peculiarity because it smells and tastes almost as if it came straight from the bowels of the earth, with a very distinctive flavor profile which is best be characterized as a mixture of iodine and blood.
However, Sicily’s strongest card in recent years are the white wines, where grape varieties like Inzolia / Ansonica, Catarratto and Grillo, pure or in various blends, produce wonderful wines that fit well with the island’s main food – fish, squid and shellfish.
Among the sweet wines, Sicily is probably numero uno in Italy, and it is a pleasure to drink the local fortified wine, Marsala, which can be found in several versions with different degrees of sweetness.
Yet sadly, it seems that time has run out for classic Sicilian wines, but you can always take heart that the grapes are used to keep the dry Sicilian white wines on the map.