Sicily is again the subject of a lesson of Eric Asimov’s Wine School; this time he speaks of Frappato on this New York Times’ article (here you can read it the complete post).
While it is true historically that Sicily’s best-known wines internationally were sweet, I would guess relatively few people in the last 20 years have seen or consumed a Sicilian sweet wine. A lot of bad ones are available, though, and the best known, Marsala, has unfortunately become a synonym for cheap “cooking wines.” Good Marsalas, like those from De Bartoli, can be exquisite, though expensive.
As for nero d’Avola, it became well known beyond Sicily in the 1990s, primarily because a few successful examples allowed Sicilian winemakers to focus on it rather than cabernet sauvignons and merlots designed to earn approval in the export market. While Sicilian nero d’Avolas back then won praise, many of the wines were heavy, out-of-balance or just plain bad. Now, the reputation is mixed for varietal nero d’Avola wines, though I have certainly had some excellent examples.
Did frappato and other newly anointed Sicilian red grapes like nerello mascalese simply pop into being through puffs of magic? Of course not.
They, along with nero d’Avola and many others, have long been grown on the island. For generations, they were made into bulk wines and shipped to northern Italy or France, where they were used to add color and power to local wines deemed too anemic on their own. They were also consumed locally in the communities where the grapes were grown.