The boat putters over the shallow lagoons, past some quaintly gloomy-looking salt pans and away from the Sergio Leone mise en scene that is Marsala, pausing to idle stutteringly on the edge of the nearby island of San Pantaleo and what was once the city of Mozia. There’s an archaeological site at the edge of the water. The guy steering the boat says they’re not sure exactly what the building’s purpose had been, but that it was definitely Phoenician and probably from the 8th century BCE. Behind the ruin, a gridded expanse of foliage stretches into the distance-they’re growing Grillo, one of the signature varietals of Sicily, a yellow grape historically used to make the oxidative fortified wine called Marsala, and increasingly in vogue today as a youthful, aromatic white. Continua a leggere “Sicilian Wine: Ecologically Friendly, Totally Awesome (Paste)”
Between 1786 and 1788 German philosopher Johann Wolfgang Goethe travelled throughout Italy. He then wrote his book titled, in Italian, Viaggio in Italia—or, Italian Journey. After passing through Verona, Venice, Rome and Naples he explored the island of Sicily, and wrote that in order to understand the entire country of Italy, ‘Sicily is the clue to everything.’
Italy is divided into 20 administrative regions—the southernmost being the island of Sicily. The region contains both eight percent of Italy’s land area as well as eight percent of the nation’s total population. The east of the island is distinguished by the largest active volcano in Italy—Mount Etna.
When he viewed Mount Etna in early May, Goethe remarked how ‘snow extends widely around the mountain and presents insurmountable obstacles,’ and noted how locals recommended that he ride by horseback to see remnants of the famed volcanic eruption of 1669, when magma flowed all the way to the city of Catania—10 miles (16 kilometers) away. Since that time when Goethe witnessed those gnarled volcanic slopes and published his book, the topography of Etna has continued to change. Another eruption in 1852 produced more than 2 billion cubic feet (56 million cubic meters) or debris that covered three square miles (7.7 square kilometers) of land, while in 1979 an eruption began that lasted 13 years.
(Publication of Goethe’s book—incidentally—apparently influenced a number of German winemakers to move to the eastern part of Sicily, where they practiced viticulture on the slopes of Etna.)
In ancient Rome, Sicilian wine was among the most prestigious wines of its era. It received the equivalent of “5 star accolades” by Pliny the Elder, the Robert Parker of his day.
Yet only recently is Sicilian wine regaining its former glory. This is due in large part to the efforts of Assovini Sicilia, a group of quality-minded producers dedicated to promoting Sicilian wine.
Sicilian Wine Today
The producers of Assovini Sicilia come from many different wine-producing areas of Sicily and make wine from a variety of native and international grapes. The majority of the producers come from families who have been making wine for generations, though this was typically for personal use.
Starting from the mid-1980s, these producers (or their parents) realized the unique terroir of their family vineyards. A classic example is that of Giuseppe Benanti. Like many of his contemporaries, he graduated university and embarked on a professional career outside of wine.
It’s about two years ago now (time flies!) that I took a closer look at Etna Rosso and recommended a few wines I liked. As I like to explore new things, I haven’t had Etna Rosso for a while, but recently I felt like going back to these intriguing wines. What I already mentioned in my previous post about Etna Rosso is confirmed in the wines I had this time as well : there is not one profile for Etna Rosso. Terroir and vintage are usually elements that are given to explain the differences, but my impression is that the style of the winery is just as important.
Here are three Etna Rossos I can wholeheartedly recommend :
ER 2014, Etna Rosso, Theresa Eccher
2014 is considered a difficult year for Italy, but things turned out relatively well for Sicily. Decanter’s Michael Garner describes the Etna Rossos of this vintage…
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Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, served as a crossroads for ancient civilizations. Today, it boasts one of Europe’s most dynamic wine industries. Though a part of Italy, Sicily’s breadth of landscapes approximates a small country itself. Get to know the history, grapes and regions of this sunny isle.
Sicily’s Wine History
The Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs and Italians have all held sway over Sicily. Though the Greeks brought their advanced viticulture techniques, Sicilians have been making wine since 4000 BC. Its dry, warm climate features regular sunshine and moderate rainfall that suits wine production. Arid conditions reduce the chance of rot and mildew, especially in areas kissed with coastal breezes. This makes Sicily a prime candidate for organic farming. Olives, citrus and grains drive the agricultural sector beyond wine.
In the past, however, farmers opted for higher yields, which turned Sicily into a bulk wine center. They distributed to mainland Europe to boost thin wines, as well as to China and India, who imported concentrated Sicilian must to sweeten foods.
Heritage regions like Marsala did put Sicilian wine on the map. Wine traditions in each of the island’s regions, from Vittoria to Mount Etna, have remained strong. In the 1980s, a resurgence in interest brought improvements in viticulture and winemaking. Today, Sicily turns out some of the most exciting labels in Italy.
Six indigenous Sicilian winegrapes previously deemed lost have been rediscovered and added to the Italian National Register of Grape Varieties. The six grapes are the reds Inzolia Nera, Lucignola, Orisi, Usirioto and Vitrarolo, and the white Recunu.
‘It’s an extremely significant achievement for the protection of the Sicilian viticultural heritage,’ commented Edgardo Bandiera of the Sicilian Council of Agriculture.
‘This has been possible thanks to the work undertaken by the region’s technicians. They researched historical grape varieties in marginal viticultural areas of the Madonie and Nebrodi mountain ranges, as well as private gardens across the whole of Sicily, where people have been cultivating vines for home winemaking for centuries.’
The addition to the register is the result of a 15-year research project led by the Marsala branch of the University of Palermo in collaboration with Marsala’s winegrowers, such as Gemma Spano Bresina, and growers across the larger region. Continua a leggere “Sicily rediscovers six indigenous grape varieties previously thought extinct (Imbibe)”
Let’s start again to browse on the data Wine Searcher to see which are the wines of Sicily that have been searched on the Internet during 2018. We speak about a wine that is stil an emblem, a distinctive product of our island: the Nero d’Avola.
- Cusumano – Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGT
- Feudi del Pisciotto – ‘Versace’ Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGT
- Tasca d’Almerita – Tenuta Regaleali Nero d’Avola Sicilia
- Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti – ‘Siccagno’ Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT
- Gulfi – Nerojbleo Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT
- Donnafugata – Sedara Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT
- Feudo Maccari – Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT
- Firriato – Harmonium Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGT
- Feudo Principi di Butera – Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT
- Tasca d’Almerita -Tenuta Regaleali Lamuri Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT
Italy is one of the world’s most distinctive wine producing countries, largely because of the predominance of indigenous varieties used in wines across the country. You’ll quite often find a particular varietal planted in only one region or even a small production zone, such as Palagrello Nero and Palagrello Bianco in the Caserta region of Campania.
When it comes to Sicily, indigenous varieties, such as Grillo, Nero d’Avola and Frappato are also part of the viticultural landscape, but so too are international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay. Given the warm – or hot, depending on your viewpoint – temperatures and ample sunshine, just about everything ripens on the island. Continua a leggere “The Wines Of Etna – Excellence from An Extreme Production Zone (Forbes)”
“This is a wine you can bite,” declares Cantine Florio’s oenologist, Tommaso Maggio, as he draws some 1939 Marsala directly from the cask. “It’s almost like jam.” Nearly 80 years old, this Marsala was born at the start of the World War II.
I take a sip. Indeed, it is thick and unctuous. Decades of aging in wooden barrels have resulted in a slow evaporation of water, concentrating the dry extract to give the wine its unequivocal chewiness. The heady combination of salty bouillon, walnut, tea, dates and tobacco gives intrigue and balance, making it taste less sweet than its 120 grams/litre of sugar. The finish lingers with spices and burnt caramel. Maggio estimates a bottle would sell for 600 Euros. This is not the Marsala you casually pour into a classic veal sauce. Continua a leggere “Marsala emerges redefined rewarding the adventurous (Quench)”
This video tells about the 2017 harvest on Santa Maria La Nave’s vineyard on Monte Ilice. As you will see from this other video, Monte Ilice is a crater of incredible beauty. It is quite recent: less than 1000 years old, nothing if you consider that Mount Etna was born more than 600.000 years ago…
Etneans have understood Monte Ilice agricultural potential and started to cultivate it a few centuries after it was created. The soil, made of black volcanic sand and stone chippings, was perfect to grow Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Carricante, Catarratto, and other local grapes that would be used to make Etnean wines. The grapes stayed intact until they were perfectly mature, thanks to the inclination of the crater, its exposure and its sandy soil, and the wine was deemed of high quality and “suited to the navigation” – i.e. it could endure a long sea journey. These characteristics played a critical part in the survival of the vineyard on Mount Ilice through the centuries. Continua a leggere “Harvest on Mount Etna – Santa Maria La Nave (VIDEO)”