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.
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.