Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Some like it hot in the wine region of Sicily

Sicily is an island off the southern part of Italy and it can be a world unto itself as I have  friends that don't claim to be italians, they are sicilian. Still to do this day I don't understand that justification, but to each his own. Sicily is the hottest and driest region in Italy and mostly has a mediterranean climate, with a varying climate around the famous Mt. Etna volcano. Part of the Appenine Mountains also run through part of the island.

Wine map of Sicily wine region
Sicily has always been famous for their Marsala wine and its history has been known for producing bulk wines and focusing on quantity over quality. A lot of this was created around the 50's when the landowners distributed parts of their land to the peasants that worked on the land. The peasants began growing grapes on the land and as much as they could so that they could sell it off to cooperatives. It was more about producing as much as possible and making money than focusing on quality. Eventually many of these cooperatives failed due to the withdrawal of funds from the government that were subsidizing these businesses. Eventually more private wineries were established that were intrigued in increasing the quality of the grapes produced from there.
Vineyards in Sicily
Sicilian Vineyard
Despite the high quantity of wines in Sicily, only a small percentage in the single digits is allowed the DOC status. The acreage in Sicily is dominated by whites, in particular the grape, Catarratto, which is indigenous to Sicily and can be found as the primary grape in Alcamo and it's also blended into Marsala. Other whites of Sicily include grecanico, inzolia, which is also known as ansonica, and in more recent years chardonnay. The whites here are known to be better blended than serving as a single varietal.

Despite the lower amount of reds that come out of Sicily there are a couple reds known to the area including nerello mascalese and one of the more well known reds is nero d'avola, which is best compared to syrah. Nero d'avola has a deep, rich color and typically has expressions of dark fruits. I have seem some good values for this wine and think it's worth exploring if you start off drinking anything in Sicily. International varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah are also planted here.

This may be one of the biggest wine producing regions, but it has a long way to go from its roots and where it came from. Checking out some of the more well known producers of the area and maybe starting off by seeking out nero d'avola, which I recommend, is a good place to get a start by exploring the wines of Sicily.