This week we are turning our attention to Sicily for our World Wine Tour. Sicily isn’t an area that necessarily springs to mind when we think of key wine producing regions around the world, hiding largely in the shadows of its siblings – Chianti, Valpolicella, Barolo, Gavi etc – from the northern part of the country who often fill the limelight. But that is not to say that Sicily should be overlooked, far from it in fact. In our view, anyone with an interest in wine should spend a bit of time getting to know this reserved little region.
When it comes to wine making, the Sicilians clearly know what they are doing. Incredibly the island has been producing wine since 1500BC, planting its roots firmly as one of Europe’s oldest winegrowing regions.
Sicily is steeped in history and tradition, meaning that winemakers are very proud to show off their indigenous grape varieties. Nero d’Avola is a perfect example, producing some very exciting and elegant red wines, full to the brim of rich, decedent red fruit ideally suited to the richer island dishes.
The climate and geography of Sicily go a long way to influencing the range and variety of wine on offer. With hours and hours of sunshine and temperatures often reaching 35-40 °C, it comes as no surprise that the reds from the island are generally pretty weighty and with an alcohol content to match. What’s more, these are ideal conditions for dessert and fortified wines, and the local speciality of Marsala has clearly made a name for itself on the international stage. Add to that the odd volcano in the form of Mount Etna and you will come across some interesting red and white blends born on its fertile rich slopes.
To keep up with the pace of the rest of the country and to mark Sicily as a key contender on the winemaking stage, quite a bit of investment has taken place in its winemaking in recent years. The result of this has fuelled a sense of excitement and discovery in the island’s wines and has seen better quality breaking through, along with the introduction of several international varieties. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in particular take well to the growing conditions, as does Chardonnay.
We’ve been flying the flag for Sicily for a good year or two now and would encourage you to get involved if you haven’t already. We have some great examples of Nero d’Avola, which are well worth a try, and which have been going down a storm at our tastings and with the wine critics. Sticking with the local grapes, why not try a white Grillo or Carjcanti for something a bit different from your usual Pinot Grigio, or if the draw of a more familiar grape variety is too appealing, how about seeing what a Sicilian climate can do for a Syrah.
The choice is yours!