Sicilian wine is sunshine in a bottle (Richard Esling)

Open a bottle of chilled Sicilian white (or red for that matter) and you can almost feel the sunshine that has ripened the grapes to produce these delicious and eminently affordable wines.

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, just off the coast of the toe of the Italian boot, and Italy’s most southerly region.

Roughly triangular in shape, it boasts one of the largest active volcanoes in Europe, Mount Etna, which has had a significant impact as far as wine production is concerned.

The vineyards of Sicily are also some of the oldest in Europe, dating back 2500 years to the age of the Greeks.

The climate on this Mediterranean island is ideal for producing wine grapes. Rainfall is sparse and confined mainly to the Winter and Spring months, with very little falling between June and harvest time in early August – the entire growing period for the grapes. Combined with masses of warm sunshine and refreshing sea breezes which aerate the vines, diseases and pests are greatly reduced, meaning that chemical, sprays can be kept to a minimum and even eliminated altogether. This means that there are an increasing number of organic wines produced in Sicily, which is good news for the environment, although climate is a significant factor in the ability to grow grapes organically.

Over the years, Sicilian wines have had changing fortunes. For centuries, their quality was revered by Greeks, Romans and subsequent populations. However, in the mid twentieth century subsidies were given by the Italian Government to ‘upgrade’ the vineyards to produce greater quantity. This, of course, had the opposite effect on quality, which decreased dramatically, with a consequent loss of consumer confidence. Latterly, though, the process has been reversed, with viticultural methods returning to those which produce far less quantity and much greater quality. Indeed, many wine experts consider Sicily now to be the most promising and interesting wine region in Italy.

There are a number of factors which make Sicily unique as a wine producing region. The soils right across the island have been heavily influenced by thousands of years of volcanic activity, producing soils rich in minerals and with a structure allowing deep root penetration, with a balance between fertility and austerity. Additionally, there are a substantial number of indigenous grape varieties on the island, wonderfully adapted to the climate and the volcanic soils and producing interesting and characterful flavours.

It is a little-known fact that, in recent years, Sicily produces more wine than Australia, Chile and Bulgaria put together and surprisingly for such a warm climate, the majority of grapes grown are white. The most famous wine of all which originates from the island is Marsala, sadly out of favour in recent times, together with many other fortified wines. It is made around the city of Marsala on the west coast, from indigenous white grapes, mainly Catarratto. It has similarities with Madeira and for many years was as popular as both Madeira and Sherry.

Source: Crawley and Horsey Observer

The Most Read Articles of May 2017

From time to time it is useful to stop and look back. We wondered what our readers love most and we decided to have a look to the articles that you especially enjoyed. So, let’s start this short section of the 5 most read articles of the month. Continue reading “The Most Read Articles of May 2017”

7 Bottles that Put Sicily on the Map of Trendy Wine Regions (Food & Wine)

Terroir hunters love the stuff: a soil of salty ash, pumice and rock, steep slopes, and a star grape variety—Nerello Mascalese—that can channel intense minerality and that tastes like the lovechild of Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir. The appellation has attracted a flock of talented winemakers, some avant-garde, some seeking to revive the oldest traditions (three of them profiled below), and a new generation of drinkers who love a good story as much as a great glass.

Continue reading “7 Bottles that Put Sicily on the Map of Trendy Wine Regions (Food & Wine)”

Etna Wine Scales the Heights (Wine-Searcher)

-SeearcherEtna is full of surprises, as Planeta winemaker Patricia Toth can tell you. As the winery produces wines from several different estates across Sicily, Toth understands the uniqueness of Etna.

Continue reading “Etna Wine Scales the Heights (Wine-Searcher)”

Salvo Foti, the pillar of tradition in Mt Etna winegrowing (Wine — Mise en abyme)

Viticulture on the mountain is a mix of the traditional and these “newer” training systems and associated practices. There is no fiercer proponent and advocate of the traditional approach than Salvo Foti. Continue reading “Salvo Foti, the pillar of tradition in Mt Etna winegrowing (Wine — Mise en abyme)”

A Week-Night Dinner in Sicily (#ItalianFWT)

The Swirling Dervish

Raw Swordfish at Fish Market (Close-Up) Sicilian Swordfish Fresh Off the Boat (photo by BingoKid)

This Saturday the Italian Food Wine Travel group is off to Sicily for an exploration of the island’s food, wine, history, and culture.  Why don’t you join us?  We gather (virtually) at 11 am eastern time, following the #ItalianFWT on Twitter.  On the first Saturday of each month the group focuses on a particular region of Italy, sharing travel tips as well as food and wine discoveries.  It’s always a lively discussion, and I come away inspired to track down a new wine or test a new recipe.  Our guide to Sicily will be Martin Redmond, of Enofylz Wine Blog fame, and it’s sure to be a good time!  Here’s what’s on tap for the chat:

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Sicilian Fun with Frappato, Grillo, Swordfish and Artichokes #ItalianFWT


Occhipinti Il Frappato with swordfish skewers Conclusion: The right red wine pairs beautifully with swordfish, but artichokes call for a white

A Virtual Return to Sicily
Our Italian Food Wine & Travel group has visited (virtually) Sicily a couple of times. This month, we’re returning with another open invitation to further explore Sicily from afar. I’m fascinated with everything related to Mount Etna, but there’s much more to explore than that one corner of this large island. This time I vowed to move my focus. My fellow bloggers are also posting on Sicily this month, so take a look toward the bottom of this post to link to their finds!

artichokes (carciofi) roasted in the coals A classic Sicilian preparation: artichokes (carciofi) roasted in the coals

In my research, found that artichokes (Carciofi) are a classic Sicilian veggie choice. A favorite preparation is to simply add a bit of oil and salt and roast them in the coals of a fire…

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“Mount Etna’s vineyards are monuments” (Wine Spectator)

Michele Faro loves plants. Especially old ones. Faro, the production manager of his family’s large and successful Sicily-based plant nursery, fell in love with Mount Etna vineyards 15 years ago.


In 2005, he began buying up very old, low-yielding vineyards to start his boutique wine label, Pietradolce. Today, the most striking thing about Pietradolce is its vineyards—not the rows of young, head-trained (“alberello”) vines in front of its sleek new lava-stone winery on Etna’s north face, but the small old vineyards on the slopes behind it. Here, ungrafted Nerello Mascalese bush vines were arranged haphazardly on lava terraces a century ago.

I buy monuments. These vineyards are monuments,” says Faro proudly. Each vine resembles a small tree, and the collection, a dense orchard. The vineyards are cultivated organically, inaccessible to tractors and require lots of handwork. Some old vines grow out of lava-stone walls, others extend shoots into nearby olive trees.

Between the vines sprout carpets of tall wild greens known as cauliceddi, which locals pick in fall to sauté with sausage and add to pasta. “I like the old style of cultivation,” says Faro, 42, who has the bearing of a young entrepreneur on the move. “Nothing is organized.

In recent years, I’ve heard many winemakers speak fondly of Faro’s vines. Though the wines—produced with Tuscan consulting enologist Carlo Ferrini—are often debated on style points, his evocative old vineyards seem to be universally admired. Faro himself admits that his wines have not reached the potential of his vineyards, and he hopes to change that.

The 2016 harvest marked the first working in his new gravity-flow, black stone-and-glass winery—a dramatic step up from the cramped winery down by the Mediterranean coast to which he previously trucked his grapes.

We have more space that will allow us to be more gentle with the wines,” he says, “and to get the best quality we can from our vineyards.” Since his first vintage in 2007, Faro has regularly added on cru bottlings from a collection of old vineyards characterized as “pre-phylloxera.” Many vineyards on Etna were spared the blight that devastated European vineyards in the late 19th century and early 20th century because the phylloxera vine louse has difficulty spreading in sandy soils, including the black volcanic soils here. As a result, the local vines never had to be grafted onto disease-resistant rootstocks from vines native to North America.

I love pre-phylloxera vineyards because you get naturally more concentration with a small quantity of fruit,” Faro says.

pietradolceFaro produced his first cru bottling, the red Pietradolce Archineri, from his first harvest, in 2007 (87 points, $35). He followed with more crus as he bought additional plots. Since the 2010 vintage, the oldest and lowest-yielding of his Nerello Mascalese vineyards has been used to make a red called Barbagalli, which is released after three years and fetches his highest prices—an average of $93.

The following vintage, he introduced his first white, Archineri, from more than century-old vines of Carricante on Etna’s east side. (The 2013 vintage, priced at $35, scored 89 points.)

Next came his red 2014 Contrada Rampante, named for the vineyard zone in which most of his old red vineyards lie. With the 2016 vintage, he will introduce yet another red, Contrada Guardiola.

Cru bottlings are certainly the rage in Italy and on Etna—sometimes to excess. That said, in an informal tasting of Pietradolce wines on Etna, I found greater differences than I expected among his red crus: Archineri was generally clean and bright, Rampante was rustic with an animal characteristic, and Barbagalli showed the most minerality and complexity.

Source: Tending Heirloom Vineyards on Mount Etna | Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe | Blogs | Wine Spectator

Mt Etna Wine Estates: Marco de Grazia’s Tenuta Delle Terre Nere (Wine — Mise en abyme)

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere (DTN) is located in the township of Randazzo on the north flank of the mountain and owns 30-ha of vineyards distributed between 10 parcels in four crus between that town and the village of Solicchiata. Continue reading “Mt Etna Wine Estates: Marco de Grazia’s Tenuta Delle Terre Nere (Wine — Mise en abyme)”

Gulfi 2013 Valcanzjria: The White With Endless Food Pairing Options (FoodTravelCulture)

In Bordeaux, at the wine bar Aux Quatre Coins Du Vin, I was delighted to to find the Valcanzjria: a complex white that combines the creaminess and roundness of a slightly oaky Chardonnay with the acidity and freshness of Carricante.

Made with grapes harvested at 400 metres high, in Southeastern Sicily, it takes its name from Val Canzeria, the valley where the vines are located and whose name derives from an Arab term which means “place of the wild boars”. It is a single vineyard called “Vigna Muti” and the terroir is a mix of clay and limestone. In the nose, it offers notes of torrone, hazelnut, marzipan and white chocolate. In the mouth, you will find primary aromas as citrus and lemon peel, along with nutty notes of hazelnut, as well as lemon yogurt, whipped cream and white pepper. It has a creamy and round long finish. It can pair extremely well with medium-aged cheese, creamy chicken, risotto agli scampi, spaghetti with clams and seafood in general.

Source: Gulfi 2013 Valcanzjria Sicilia DOP: The White With Endless Food Pairing Options ~ FoodTravelCulture