The Wines of Sicily

The largest island in the Mediterranean, the furthest south region in Italy and the hottest place in Europe, with the highest temperature recorded at 48.8C in 2021. There’s also an active volcano here, this is an extreme place to make wine. The wines are dominantly red, with local varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Frappato and Nerello Mascalese being the most commonly planted.

Ancient Greek civilisations have been making wine here since 4000 BC, they recognised the potential of the Island, as well as being a strategic base and trading port. In the 19th Century, the town of Marsala was one of the richest in Italy due to its trading and the popularity of its wine. This fortified wine was particularly popular in the British Empire as it was preserved and ready to travel.

Larger producers like Donnafugata produce a wide range of wines, but my absolute favourite is the Ben Rye sweet wine they make, it’s one of my favourite sweet wines in the world, which comes from the Sicilian island of Pantelleria.

One piece of terroir that stands out in Italy more than others is Etna, the wine region which surrounds this active volcano. Winemaker Frank Cornelissen says that Etna is on a different level, comparing Etna to the rest of Sicily is like comparing Côte de Nuits to Mâconnais - Côte de Nuits has 24 Grand Cru vineyards, and the Mâconnais has none – it’s highly prized land.

Only recently, the Island was known for bulk winemaking, exported and blended with wines from other regions that were struggling with ripeness, so the identity and character of the wines were lost. It took a revolution by winemakers who could see the potential of the site and appreciated the local varieties. Winemakers like Giusto Occhipinti were important in making low intervention-style of wines.

Like most parts of Italy after the Second World War a lot of rural areas were abandoned to find work in major cities. It was only in the 80s a handful of winemakers like Giuseppe Benanti restarted and reconnected to his family's history of winemaking, which started in 1800.

On the 26th of October, we’ll be teaming up with Orlando Bird from Uccello for a taste of Sicily supper club, Sicilian dishes paired with top wines from the island. You can grab tickets from our site.


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