Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Sicily's Zibibbo Grape with Fish Cakes

Sicily has been the talk of not only Italian wines, but the worldwide wine market as a whole mostly due to its unique volcanic wine production.  Looking outside Sicily’s volcanic wines though one will discover a breadth of unique grapes found throughout the island including the Zibibbo grape I’m featuring today.

What is a Zibibbo? 

Synonymous with the name Muscat of Alexandria, the Zibibbo grape’s origins believe to hail from Egypt and were brought over to Sicily by the Arabs.  It’s an ancient grape that has been cultivated for over 5,000 years.  The name Zibibbo comes from the Arabic word, Z’bib, which translates to dried grape.  This is a grape that shows beautifully not only when produced from dried grapes that result in a sweeter style wine, but also as a dry style white wine like the one I'm sharing today. 

Zibibbo is considered an aromatic grape due to its high levels of organic compounds called terpenes.  Other grapes that you may be able to relate to that carry intense, floral aromas that also contain high levels of terpenes are Riesling and Gewurztraminer.  Before I knew the breakdown of the blend today that I’m sharing, some of the floral notes of this wine reminded me of a Gewurztraminer, one of my favorite white grapes due to my love of NY Finger Lakes wines.  You’ll pick up notes of stone fruits, orange blossoms and jasmine in the aromas of Zibibbo.  It’s a resilient grape that does well in the hot temperatures of Sicily’s climate.  It also is a drought resistant grape.

Firriato's Calamoni di Favignana Estate

I had the luxury to tour the Firriato wine estates spread from the western side of Sicily to the eastern side right before covid hit near the end of 2019.  Firriato's Calamoni Estate is located on the island of Favignana.  Vines had disappeared off this island over a century ago and today Favignana is the only vineyard present in the Egadi archipelago.

The vineyards are located only steps from the sea and surrounded by neptune grass, which is a marine plant that acts as a natural fertilizer providing nutrients to the limestone soil.  Sitting right off the water these vineyards receive a nice marine, Mediterranean breeze that gives a hint of salinity to the wines along with very aromatic notes.  to read more about Firriato please reference my previous blog on Favignana,  Firriato's Calamoni Estate: The Only Winery of the Aegadian Islands.

The Wine

This week I sampled the 2018 Firriato La Muciara Terre Siciliane IGT which is a blend of 60% Zibibbo, 20% Grillo and 20% Catarratto.  This wine was softly pressed and went through fermentation for 12 days.  It spent 6 months on the lees with an additional 18 months in the bottle.  A brilliant straw-colored wine with golden highlights.  Intense florals of stone fruit with some tropical notes. Medium-bodied with the tropical fruits carrying through to the palate creating a roundness on the wine with a touch of salinity.

2017 Firriato La Muciara  Favinia Terre  Siciliane IGT

Food Pairing with Zibibbo

When I consider pairing wines with food I always think of where the wine originates from. What is the typical cuisine of the region?  With many of Sicily’s indigenous white grapes you can’t seem to go wrong with a seafood pairing and creating a dish with the abundance of vegetables grown throughout the island.  It had been awhile since I had made some fish cakes and these are always a big hit in my home so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  This pairing worked out great!  I was concerned about the body and flavors of the wine with some of the flavors of the fish cakes, mostly the mustard added to the fish cakes but it was so minuscule in the grand scheme that all the flavors blended nicely together. 

The fish cakes, which I made with cod, were an easy preparation.  I poached the fish in some water and milk on the stove with some added bay leaves, lemon and salt until cooked through.  In the meantime, I blended together a cup of bread crumbs, 2 eggs, garlic, a tablespoon of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of mustard with some added kosher salt and pepper.  Once the fish was finished and cooled, I blended all the ingredients with my hands forming the cakes.  I cooked them in some extra virgin olive oil for about 4-5 minutes each side.  Easy peasy!  So try some Zibibbo or any of Sicily’s indigenous white grapes, cook up some fish cakes and let me know what you think.

fish cakes pairing with Sicilian Zibibbo wine from Firriato Favinia
Do you have a favorite Sicilian white grape?

This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group, hosted by Camilla the Culinary Cam, featured indigenous grapes of Italy.  Join the rest of our wine and food bloggers as they feature their particular selections.  


  1. In Valtellina, way up in Northern Italy, they like to say that if laid end to end, their dry stone walls would reach Sicily and back! I first encountered Zibibbo in Valtellina, such a long way from its home! A winemaker there was growing it on the front of his winery and said the berries were delicious and people would pick and eat them as they walked by to church. (Which was why he planted them there.) I love learning more about the wines of this grape!

  2. I'm sure this was a lovely pairing. I, too, was very pleased with the wines I enjoyed from the Finger Lakes region so I'm sure I will love this wine as well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sounds like a lovely wine, I really like both Zibbibo and Grillo so it sounds right up my alley! But also really interesting to learn about the neptune grass (and what a great name for a sea grass).

  4. I am fairly certain that I have never tried a Zibibbo wine. Now I can't wait to get my hands on one. Thanks for joining in this month.

  5. I loved reading these details about the neptune grass that acts as a natural fertilizer and the marine breezes adding to the flavor profile. Will be adding this wine and fish cakes to my future pairings. Thanks!